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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PlayStation 2) artwork

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PlayStation 2) review

"It's the game that let us release the evil hoodlum inside us. And now we have the 5th available for the Playsation 2. And like the 4th, it's a port of a PSP game. We go back to the year 1984, and we revisit Vice City, a place I know all too well from playing the original game so many times that I can memorize the cutscenes word for word. Seriously! Vice City was my personal favourite, so of course I had high expectations for it's "prequel". And how does it fare? Not too shabby. "

It's the game that let us release the evil hoodlum inside us. And now we have the 5th available for the Playsation 2. And like the 4th, it's a port of a PSP game. We go back to the year 1984, and we revisit Vice City, a place I know all too well from playing the original game so many times that I can memorize the cutscenes word for word. Seriously! Vice City was my personal favourite, so of course I had high expectations for it's "prequel". And how does it fare? Not too shabby.

Taking place 2 years before the events of the original Vice City, gamers will take control of Victor Vance, a man in the army who's looking to make some green so that he can pay for his sick dying brother. We don't know what he's dying of, but suffice to say, Vic needs A LOT of cash to save him. So like any desperate person would do he turns to a life of crime by helping out gangsters, rednecks, transvestites, and anyone else who will help Vic reach his goal. That's literally the story in a nutshell. The whole plot is mostly a way to get to know more about the characters that we established in the first game, including Vic's brother, Lance, who Vice City gamers will know all too well.

The game has a decent amount of returning characters and all are voice by their original voice actors so we have talent from guys like Gary Busey, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman, and Philip Michael Thomas of Miami Vice fame reprising his role as Lance. If you don't know any of the 4 I just mentioned, that's cause you need to watch more movies and TV. Seriously get on your butts and stop working out more. No Ray Liotta and no Tommy Vercetti because he's technically in prison at this point of the story. Oh well. One thing I found interesting about the story in this game was that Phil Collins was actually a character you do missions for. The singer! Celebrity in a GTA game?! Works for me!

Vice City Stories sticks with the traditional GTA gameplay that everyone should know all too well. And if you don't, here's a quick summary. You have a big open Vice City to drive around in (well, the left island at first, the rest later). You can carjack any car you see. You can beat up anyone on the streets. You can earn money by doing sidemissions like being a taxi driver, a police officer, and even an ambulance driver too. In order to progress the story you drive to mission markers which are always usually given a cutscene to justify what you're doing, and then you might assassinate someone, or maybe you'll be in a race, or just maybe you might be performing stunts for a film crew! The variety of mission types are endless, and you never feel bored doing them. This is the gameplay that has remained true for every GTA game and if it ain't broke why fix it? Well there are a few changes here and there and that's what I'm going to be reviewing since most gamers reading this would want to know why they'd wanna try this game when they have the already superior Vice City. And yes I'm stating right now, Vice City Stories is NOT better than Vice City.

Well one thing that stands out is that now your character can finally swim in the ocean. Now GTA: San Andreas started this but it never carried over to Liberty City Stories which I thought was pretty dumb and odd. But our boy Vic? He loves to swim! And they even added a new vehicle which hasn't been in any GTA game yet, and that's the jet ski. Yes you can actually play around in the ocean like it's Wave Race 64 or something, and that puts a smile to my face. Still waiting on the climbing feature of San Andreas though. Seems Vic can't get over any obstacles that are waist high. For shame. Nevertheless Vic is as tough as any other main character to come before him. He can shoot with handguns, shotguns, rocket launchers and rail guns just like the previous characters. And the fighting system has actually been improved. In the previous games you just locked on a guy and then mashed the circle button until they died. In this game they added a grab feature and so now you can actually grab a guy and punch or kick him to death. You can even grab them when they're on the ground and beat their faces in. Animation wise it does look a little clunky and weird, but it's nice that they upgraded the combat.

Along the way Vic starts to build his own little empire of crime. And that's where the new property/business system comes in. Basically the whole of Vice City is littered with 3 different gangs. The Cholos, the biker gang, and that third one I never bothered to remember because they're barely seen or mentioned. At first the businesses are theirs and theirs alone. That's where you come in. You find a business on the map, you go to it, you kill all the gang members there, ruin their merchandise, and then clean'em out for good. At that point it's just empty property. But that's where your checkbook comes into play. You can build your own business out of the businesses you take over, and you can even decide if the business is loan sharking, robbery, drugs, or my personal favourite, prostitution. Vic can be a pimp! You need money to upgrade these business to their highest potential, and then you just wait and every now and then the businesses will make money, which goes directly to you. You don't actually have to show up to the places to collect that money either, you just get a message from your beeper about a pay day, then voila, you're (insert how much money here) richer. You can also accept mini-missions from each business to increase your reputation and make the payday a little bit fatter.

The problem about businesses is that the gangs will fight back. After you start gaining more and more rackets, the gangs will start to attack your places and the only way to stop them is to drive over and kill them all. Realistic? Maybe, except for the fact that they attack way too frequently. There are times when I just wanna advance through the story missions and I don't wanna be babysitting my businesses. But literally it's like every 2 or 3 minutes a business is getting attacked. You choose to ignore it? Then the business gets shut down until you repair it (with money) and it doesn't go toward your pay day until it is. I expressed much frustration over the ridiculous amount of times you come under attack. Literally at one point of the game, 10 seconds after I saved one, another was attacked. It's ridiculously annoying and I wish either they didn't fight back at all, or if they really were limited to one a day. A big pet peeve that even owning all of the businesses doesn't fix.

By clearing the various missions Vic will even get a change of clothes at times as well. He'll get a few storehouses (save point locations really) where he can change into a few new duds. So if you want Vic to look like trailer trash, or a pimp, or even a yuppie, you can do it. It's not fully customizable like San Andreas was, but it's nice to change your look now and then. I was a fan of the Pastel suit personally. The missions themselves were very diversified and I never felt any real frustration with any of them. I would die at times yes, but it never made me angry when I did. So the game is fun and I appreciate that. Plus like I said earlier, you accept missions from Phil Collins. Sussudio anyone? I love that song.

Which brings me to the audio of the game which unlike Liberty City Stories, throws a great selection of 80s and 70s hits at you with tunes like "Relax" from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, all the way to "Rock you like a Hurricane". The 80s has a whole selection of music that I am fond of, and Vice City Stories did not drop the ball. You get pop, new wave, latin music, good ol' rock and roll and much more. I love 80s music, so naturally I dug the soundtrack. The radio stations and their personalities are all intact as well. Anyone whose been a big fan of GTA will remember DJs like Lazlow, Hernando Martinez, and many more. I'm a GTA nerd. Sue me! The conversations and whatnot on these radio stations are hilarious as well.

Visually the game looks like it was ported from the PSP.....probably cause it was. It doesn't look better than it's 2002 made original, but it isn't terrible by any means. The cutscenes look good, Vice City looks just as you'd remember it (aside from added trailer parks and whatnot), and the cars still look shiny and give you an incentive to steal them. The one problem about the visuals is the horrible, horrible, pop-up. You could be driving around somewhere and smash into thin air, and 3 seconds after you do, a wall will just pop up out of nowhere. This doesn't happen too much to be a terrible problem, but it is still pretty lame that it's there. You'd swear Vice City was part of a stealth experiment for the government or something. But I digress, it's nowhere as ugly or as choppy as the Liberty City Stories port was, so it's better in that respect.

And that's the game in a nutshell. Is it better than Vice City? Of course not. That still remains my favourite GTA game and it just does everything better. It has a better soundtrack, funnier dialogue, more celebrity power, and it just features classic gameplay. Vice City stories adds improvements but doesn't really break the bar or anything. Plus it suffers the problem that will turn a lot of people off from this game. That being that the game takes place in Vice City. It might as well be an expansion pack because the environment is exactly the same as it's "sequel", which pretty much everyone probably bought, so why waste money on what's essentially a game with new missions but lower quality? Nevertheless I still think it's at least rental worthy, because I enjoy the characters and the greatness that is the 80's.

Vice City Stories is an expansion pack to a much better game. But it's presentation, soundtrack, gameplay, and lasting power are all still top quality. So I say you at least give it a rental to check it out. And if you really enjoyed it, then buy the damn thing! Vice City Stories is a winner in my book.

ClementJ64's avatar
Community review by ClementJ64 (September 30, 2007)

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