Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories PS2 Review
WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS VICE CITY SPOILERS!!
Things may not be quite as fun as they once were, but each addition to the Grand Theft Auto series still manages to sustain our interest. As the series has been recycling many of its missions since the release of the original game way back in 1997, it’s certainly bordering on the stale side a little. In spite of this, its personality has been left intact and, as remarkable as it may be, it’s still somehow enjoyable.
It’s certainly good to be back in the Miami inspired Vice City, where the sun beats down, the blue waves lap at the shore side and where there’s enough guns, cars and unsavoury characters to make it a holiday destination to remember. Sadly the game is set before Tommy Vercetti’s arrival in Vice City, and in our clever estimations, in 1984, he was still locked up in a jail cell, so we’ll just have to settle for the more subtle (read: boring) Victor Vance instead. Yes, the Vance surname isn’t a coincidence, Vic is indeed a relative (brother) of the double crossing Lance Vance of Vice City fame (we all know what happened to him). Victor isn’t quite the psychopath that Vercetti was and is actually a family figurehead, beginning the game as a Soldier, he is soon kicked out of the army courtesy of his corrupt drug snorting commanding officer. Obviously he then ends up getting swept into a wave of crime, which certainly isn’t helped by Lance’s arrival. Victor and Lance‘s relationship is entertaining throughout, and the plot is still as smartly scripted and as amusing as ever.
Before we continue onto the new stuff, we’ve got to say that it’s rather difficult to fathom how the GTA series is still suffering from some of the same flaws as the aging third game. The targeting system is often unreliable, getting you into trouble as it aims at an innocent in the background whilst six burly bikers are waving guns in your face. Also the lack of any checkpoints during missions can lead to frustration, but tasks rarely take that long to complete, so to complain about this too much would be rather grumpy.
Enough about the negatives for a moment, new here is the empire building system which is actually a bit of a double-edged sword in itself. It may be fun taking the monopoly of Vice City, although the missions that can be undertaken to increase your respect (which earns you more financial rewards on pay day in turn) are repetitive and bordering on pointless with how little you’ll need the cash (yes, you may feel like a virtual lottery winner, although with few choices to actually spend the winnings on!). Taking over businesses is as simple as blowing up a vehicle outside it, wiping out the surrounding gang, and then smashing things up inside. Following all the latter you can then become the proud owner of the business by waving your cash around as if it were a simple game of Monopoly.
Empire building may be the most impacting new feature, although it‘s not the only one, as the series does receive its refinements, even though they are not always in the places where they are really required. Being able to be reequipped with your weapons after being wasted or banged up in a jail cell for being naughty is a welcome feature, as it saves you having to reload your game all over again (lets face it we have all cheated like this since GTA3). It does cost you, although $2000 seems like mere pocket money as your finances begin to balloon, although your armour unfortunately isn’t amongst your returned weaponry, which means that another journey to Ammu-nation (or a reload) is still necessary for the more difficult of on foot missions.
Graphically the series is now looking badly aged and it’s even worse when you take a game from the PSP and increase the screen size, as has been demonstrated here. Whilst moving to the subject of sound, another selection of period 80s tunes are in there, and of course it’s not without its witty radio chatter (and Lazlow).
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is another sequel in the series that has recycled much from the previous games, and depending on whom you may be this is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Somehow, we’re still very much enjoying the series, although perhaps a reinvention is overdue, and we certainly hope to see some of the key gameplay mechanics tidied up in the not so distant future. GTA IV?