Reviewed by Jimmy | 11.18.06
Following the success of Liberty City Stories from last year, Grand Theft Auto is revisiting another one of their popular franchises in portable form. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a total new adventure set in the 1980s Miami, or in Rockstar terms Vice City. With wreckless intent we get ready for another perfect GTA experience.
Vice City Stories tales place in the same location as the Grand Theft Auto Vice City game from 2002. The city might be the same, but Vice City Stories fallows a different lead character set two years ahead of the Vice City timeline. The star of VCS (Vice City Stories) is Victor Vance, who is brother to Lance Vance from the original Vice City game. Victor like all the Grand Theft Auto characters falls on bad times, from having family issues, to being thrown off the army base in after the first few missions in the game. Lance and Victor reunite and head out to claim Vice City as their town, and get out the blues.
The gameplay in VCS is identical to Liberty City Stories, and Vice City . If you have played a Grand Theft Auto game in the past, it's a no brainier. The controls are responsive from every aspect either running, gunning, or driving. VCS is on top of its game and proves that the PSP a powerful piece of hardware which can be compared to its big brother, the PS2. Like all the other GTA experiences VCS operates in the same non-linear open environment system as before. Play the game, or just cause havoc that's really up to you. It's on your time which makes it perfect for the pick up and go market.
The side missions are all included with a new addition called "Beach Patrol". Beach Patrol has Victor dealing with bikers on the beach or saving the lives of drowning swimmers. It's good to see Rockstar Leeds added some content even if it's just one side mission. As any GTA gamer knows these side missions like the Taxi cab driver or Vigilante missions can be as enjoyable as the main game. Grand Theft Auto has always been on of the most rewarding well rounded game experiences and Vice City Stories is no exception.
Some other adjustments to the portable version of Vice City is a tweaked targeting system which seemed to work out alright, although other games still do this a little better. Hand to Hand combat has also been improved in targeting and by giving the ability to perform grappling moves. Even more groundbreaking and a new feature to the franchise as a whole is the ability to bribe hospital staff and policemen. This is done when you're wasted, or busted, and you want to keep your weapons that would normally been lost. This is a connivance and nice little touch and will save me a few reloads.
Keeping rolling on the new features to Vice City Stories is the San Andreas or Scarface inspired Empire Building. Like those games and a few others that have come out since you can take over areas on the map and set them up for business. You'll have to fight gangs to gain control and stick around when the territories are threatened. The business you can set up come in six different categories of illegal, Loan Shark, Prostitution, Protection Racket, Drugs, Robbery and Smuggling. Robbery will gain you the most cash going down to the simple muscle of a Protection Racket. This new Empire feature is exactly what Grand Theft Auto needs to keep building upon and its nice to see these ideas thrown out to the PSP community.
What else is different from the console is multiplayer. Like Liberty City Stories which offered the first GTA online experience, Vice City Stories continues with a host of new moods that can be played over your PSP Wi-Fi connection. All the modes are fun and vary from Capture the Flag type deals in 'Taken for a Ride' to 'Tanks for the Memories' which has two teams fighting to stay in a tank the longest. If you have friends with a PSP, I would highly consider this to be on the top of your PSP multiplayer experiences.
If you're wondering if Vice City Stories has any drawbacks, the answer is yes. The drawbacks come in the form of a few control layout problems that can't really be fixed because we don't have a full controller. Also, Vice Cities Stories is the same deal you've played over and over again, so if you're growing a little bored with the standard GTA formula, the isn't much new this time around. Although, Grand Theft Auto always seems to gradually ramp up and for the handheld market this is a good showing.
Visually Vice City Stories seems to be optimized better then the last portable Grand Theft Auto reinvention, Liberty City Stories. The streets seem a little busier, the draw distance is improved, and the game loads a little quicker. The sights are really more of the same without too many differences and this goes along with the audio. There are over a hundred tracks on VCS with all your favorite radio stations, VROCK, Flash FM, Fresh FM and more. So if your tastes are more Run DMC then Pat Benatar or Dokken, you have options, prepare to rock out. Grand Theft Auto is at the top of their game, and there isn't really much more they can do on the PSP, it's already pretty damn amazing they fit all this content onto the disc.
Vice City Stores is perfect for the Grand Theft Auto fan waiting from the new console game. Like all the Grand Theft Auto experiences, Vice City Stories offers fun gameplay, an excellent story with hours of enjoyment wrapped up on a little UMD. Really, any action gamer should look at Vice City Stories because its one of the best action games released for the system, only rivaled by Rockstar's prior release, Liberty City Stories. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is highly recommended, Rockstar did it again, you have to check out the latest and greatest from Rockstar.