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March 20, 2007
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
9/3/20072K GamesRockstar Leeds1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Graphics are improved over the PSP.
Before we get started I should point out that quite a bit of this review has been copied from the PSP review which we did up in December 2006 (and which you can read here). Why you ask? Well the reason is simple - this is essentially a port of the PSP game with a couple of enhancements, but also some omissions. These will be pointed out throughout the review. While the release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories was widely rumoured for quite some time, Rockstar didn't announce the game until only weeks before release. But the game is here now and we've taken a look at this port.

The game is set in Vice City during 1984 and is a prequel to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Opportunity abounds in a city emerging from the swamps, its growth fueled by the violent power struggle in a lucrative drugs trade. Construction is everywhere as a shining metropolis rises from foundations of crime and betrayal. As a soldier, Vic Vance (the brother of Lance Vance) has always protected his dysfunctional family, his country, himself. One bad decision later and that job is about to get much harder. Kicked out onto the streets of a city torn between glamour and gluttony, Vic is faced with a stark choice - build an empire or be crushed.

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Nice building...
As with other titles in the Grand Theft Auto series this is a third person sandbox styled game. By sandbox we mean an open-ended world that you are placed in and are left to your own devices to explore the city, complete missions or discover numerous locations, items and events. You can literally spend hours just walking or driving around enjoying the sights and not progress a single minute in the main storyline - but that's your choice. Since the last game in the series, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories the development team has added in some new abilities for the main character including swimming in water and flying a helicopter - both sorely missing from the last game.

Driving plays a major role in the game yet again and as expected we can see a large range of vehicles in the game to cruise around the streets in, or, on the water with boats and jet ski's on offer as well. If you've played past games in the series you know just how enjoyable it can be cruising around the streets or trying to find some massive jumps to launch yourself off. Fortunately the PS2 Dual Shock controller makes drive by shootings easier to pull off then on the PSP so there's one immediate benefit to the game being this system. In fact the developers have added in some additional car jumps in the game, and also some additional rampage moments for added value.

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One of the many cut-scenes.
My main gripes with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories are primarily the same as those leveled at the PSP version. While a brilliant game technically, I felt that the game was lacking that something special. Perhaps we've become too accustomed to the Grand Theft Auto sandbox styled gameplay and missions. I would love to see Rockstar take a bit more of a chance to expand the mission variety, add in some mini-games or throw in some more surprises. The characters, be they main ones or even those with small bit parts, are varied, but all too often fit into generic stereotypical roles. Rockstar's recent, and brilliant, PS2 title Bully (or Canis Canem Edit as it is know in PAL territories) demonstrated that even similar looking characters can be vastly different in terms of their roles and personality. Speaking of Bully (and also The Warriors for that matter) the close quarter combat (ie fist fighting) in those games was much better then this title.

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Cruising around on the motorbike.
Sadly, all the multi-player mini-games have been stripped out in the port. Obviously there is no Wi-Fi connectivity with the PS2 however I do wish that Rockstar Leeds had spent some time developing the mini-games into online games. Perhaps it was uneconomical, or they don't have the resources given the massive (rumoured to be over 150 staff) development taking place for Grand Theft Auto 4.

While I've listed problems with this game I do want to emphasize that Rockstar have still created a title better then the vast majority of other PS2 games. My criticisms are often due to comparisons with the series' bigger brothers on the PS2 (that being Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) - this is a smaller title on a smaller budget, but also for half the retail price. In that regard this is well worth picking up as the above gripes are really nitpicking.

Graphically Rockstar have done some significant work to the graphics engine in this title. The PSP version was improved significantly over the last title, and this PS2 version benefits as a result, while Rockstar have even added more effects to the PS2 game. While there is still the odd glitch here and there, and the frame rate does drop on occasion it is quite a joy to look at. World detail has been increased overall with some bloom effects now eviden, while viewing the game on a large TV has been helped with a better draw distance. As with the PSP version it is now possible to fly around in aircraft such as helicopters and look down on the world below.

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The city at dusk.
Audio in Vice City Stories is, as far as we can tell, a straight port of the PSP title. On that system we were pretty impressed with the audio, and while the PS2 has produced better it's nothing to complain about. While the game has some great special effects and the voice acting (and scripting) is very good with Dorian Missick (The Manchurian Candidate, Six Degrees) providing the voiceover for Vic Vance it's the radio stations that, yet again, provide the bulk of the audio in the title. With over 100 music tracks from artists such as Sister Sledge, Run DMC, Blondie, Barry White, Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, Foreigner, Judas Priest, INXS, Phil Collins and The Pretenders to name a few, the variety is superb. We were ever so slightly disappointed that there weren't more "smash hits" in the game, but we can't complain too much. Topping the music though is the wonderful banter from the radio DJ's. The highlight though are the radio stations which feature DJ's talking about a variety of topics - these are just as well scripted as we've ever heard. General dialogue and voice acting is superb with While there is some swearing (mainly from the radio stations!) it never becomes excessive and isn't too dissimilar to levels in previous games in the series.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a very solid release on the PS2 and while it isn't the full blown title that we've seen with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas it is still a wonderful gap-filler until the release of Grand Theft Auto 4 on next-generation systems this October. At a discounted price of only $AU49.95 (and cheaper if you shop around) this title is well worth a purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSCertainly not the PS2's best but the game holds its own and has been improved over the already impressive PSP version.
SOUNDA direct port of the PSP title which was pretty solid in all areas.
GAMEPLAYWhile not a full blown story there are plenty of GTA styled missions to keep you entertained.
VALUEAt only $49.95, and cheaper if you shop around, this is great value.
OVERALLGTA: Vice City Stories was a great game on the PSP and is equally enjoyable on the PS2. While we have lost the multi-player modes the PS2 benefits from improved graphics and better controls. Definitely worth consideration.

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