Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Get ready for another hard-hitting dose of the 80’s as the latest Grand Theft Auto game to grace the PSP brings you back to Vice City, complete with neon lights and palm trees lining the streets.

Set a few years before the events of the console version of Vice City, you take the role of Vic Vance - the brother of Vice City’s Lance Vance – who has enrolled in the army to earn money for his sick brother and family. The army base, which fans of the original Vice City may remember being located above the airport on the western island, is where you start out running small errands for the army sergeant, Jerry, and quickly learn of his drug addiction and arrogant ways. Vic’s higher moral standards and apparent dislike of illegal activities going on around him provides the base on which the character is formed, and instantly presents a conflict which the early game can revolve around.

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After a few easy introductory missions you return to the base to find that the brash sergeant has placed drugs under your bed. You are thrown out of the army and into the world of Vice City, where you begin to take on jobs from weapons ‘expert’ Phil Cassidy, a recurring character from the GTA universe. You’ll quickly become entangled in a fast-evolving storyline that involves gangs, trailer trash and Vic’s family.

Aside from the main storyline missions, one of the more interesting things to do in your spare time is to build up your empire. Similar to the businesses you could run in previous games, the empire buildings can be bought as you progress through the game, or if a rival gang owns one, you can set off an attack to take out the current tenants and buy it yourself. Once you own the building, you are able to do numerous small missions to raise your street credit. You are also able to develop the empire, via choosing the type of business you want the building to delve into, and the scale of this business. Each day you’ll receive a nice wad of money depending on the size of your personal empire. With 30 buildings in the game available to add to your empire, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

Once you’ve had enough rampaging by yourself, you can jump into the multiplayer modes, which you unlock as you progress through the game. Once you connect up to your mates’ PSP's using the WLAN you are able to choose from a multitude of game modes. These include Vice City Survivor, a deathmatch type environment; Taken for a Ride, which is similar to capture the flag, but with vehicles; and many other multiplayer modes which will provide plenty of hours of carnage.

If you’ve played Liberty City Stories on PSP you’ll already know how this one will handle. The controls have been well ported from the PlayStation 2 version, considering the loss of the L2 and R2 buttons, along with the right analog stick on the PSP. The game feels very responsive and is easy enough to pick up and play at any time, as a game on a portable system should be.

Driving and on-foot movements are handled with the analog stick, although this can be changed through the menu options. This leaves the d-pad available while driving for radio station cycling (left and right), and activating special missions (taxi driver, vigilante, etc) with the up button. Holding down the left trigger will enable you to change the camera view with the analog stick. This works well in most cases, but is next to useless when needing to turn a corner while looking somewhere other than forward.

The hand-to-hand combat has been revamped to feel more like the fighting system from San Andreas. After locking onto a victim with the right trigger, you are able to use triangle, circle and x buttons for attacking, and square for blocking. Using a combination of these buttons will help you, although it still does seem a lot harder to dodge all incoming attacks this time around, and you’re almost always guaranteed to have a few punches thrown against you find their mark. Because of this reason, you may want to forget about pulling out a gun in the middle of a fist-fight, as it proves to be very difficult to get a shot in.

While you can swim this time around, an interesting approach has been taken, as a stamina meter will deplete as you swim. Once this is empty you’ll be as good as fish food. Unfortunately the stamina meter doesn’t refill over time, meaning you can only swim for about 50 metres before you’ll need to find land.

While the game is visually appealing, especially for a PSP game, you’ll still randomly encounter a fair bit of pop-up. This usually consists of textures not loading before you reach them, commonly found when driving at high speed. You may occasionally experience objects appearing out of nowhere (usually after you hit them), but this is very rare and only occurred for us once every few hours of gameplay time. These anomalies shouldn’t put you off in any way though, as you’ll constantly be amazed at the nice, crisp-looking effects that have been used to highlight the natural light in Vice City as well as the pastel-neon look. The game builds on Liberty City Stories’ graphics engine, looking a fair bit more vibrant and atmospheric as well as sporting a solid frame rate even while blowing up stacks of vehicles.

In true Grand Theft Auto fashion, we’re graced yet again with a stellar line-up of music to enhance the whole 80’s experience. Sporting radio stations like V-Rock feature Judas Priest, Motley Crue and Kiss. The audio experience is one which will turn heads as you take your PSP on the next bus into town. If you're not into any of the available music, custom soundtracks are back, but this is offset with the fact that they prove to be too difficult for the casual player to set up and use.

The sheer amount of content packed into one UMD, providing hours upon hours of gameplay, should clinch your decision to pick up this game. With an in-depth storyline, side-missions and general havoc to cause, you’ll be playing this one for a long time to come.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
"You’ll be playing this one for a long time."
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Follow Own it? Rating: R18   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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