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Dec. 15 2006
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
10/11/2006Take TwoTake TwoRockstar Leeds
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Just cruising around the bay.
Sony should be thankful to Rockstar. The support the company has given to the Playstation 2 with their Grand Theft Auto titles has been significant to say the least. Strange then that Sony has let Grand Theft Auto IV appear on the XBox 360 at the same time as the Playstation 3 next October. A monumental stuff up from the top? If rumours are to be believed possibly so. But Sony still have an exclusive title in the series hitting their systems - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the Playstation Portable. We've already seen the very impressive Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories hit the system to much critical and commercial acclaim, but can this second title repeat the success?

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World detail has improved!
Vice City, 1984. 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.

As with other titles in the Grand Theft Auto series this is a third person sandbox styled title. By sandbox we mean that you are placed in a large world and are left to your own devices to explore the city, complete missions or discover numerous locations, items and events. The developers have thrown in some new things to do including swimming in water and flying a helicopter - both missing from Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.

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Drive by shootings are hard to pull off.
Driving again plays a major role in the game and there's little wonder that we can see a large range of vehicles in the game to cruise around the streets in, or, on the water with boats and jetski'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 - in fact it can chew up hours of your game time before you realise it. Unfortunately one aspect of the driving, the drive by shootings, is still awkward to pull of effectively and requires a bit too much fiddling around. I guess this simply due to the lack of second analogue stick on the system.

One area where Rockstar really have concentrated considerable effort is with their multi-player options. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories includes support for 6-player mayhem, with team based mini-games being quite entertaining in their own right. There are quite a few games in offer from Vice City Survivor (Deathmatch), The Hit List (where each player is tagged and all other players have to kill them as quickly as possible, he who survives the longest is the winner), Empire Takedown (plant the bomb in enemy territory to destroy their building first) and VIP R.I.P which see all teams hunting down one team. There's several more too, but those listed above were the ones we ended up playing the most here at Needless to say this is probably among the most fun we've had playing multi-player on Sony's handheld to date.

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Just crossing the street.
While a brilliant game technically, I felt that this title a little lacking. Perhaps we're becoming too accustomed to the Grand Theft Auto sandbox styled gameplay. Or perhaps it's the mission familiarity which is primarily along the lines of go to location X and deliver or pick up a package, kill or escape from some enemies and so on. I would love to see Rockstar take a bit more of a change to expand the game world, 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 PS2 title Bully (or Canis Canem Edit 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 - it seems Rockstar didn't really share too many resources between studios - or perhaps they're putting all their efforts (and apparently over 150 people) into development of Grand Theft Auto IV for next-gen systems.

Graphically Rockstar have done some significant work to the graphics engine in this title. While there's still the odd glitch here and there, and the frame rate does drop on occasion this is a vast improvement over last years title. Draw distance has been bumped up quite a bit while the detail in the world has been increased as well. It's also possible to fly around in aircraft such as helicopters and look down on the game world. This is truly pushing the PSP to the same heights as the PS2 games when it comes to the graphics engine. Impressive.

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Blowing up the chopper.
Audio in Vice City Stories is, as with previous games, very impressive. 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.

If you have liked any of the Grand Theft Auto games of late then Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories should be on your shopping list this Christmas. Technically it's improved from the previous PSP title quite a bit and the storyline and missions are as solid as ever. Another stunning title for Rockstar and the PSP.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSTechnically more polished then last years title, occasional glitches.
SOUNDThe radio stations highlight the audio again, other areas impress too.
GAMEPLAYMore of the same really, little innovation, or progress, with gameplay.
VALUEOne of the longest games you'll play on PSP, with great multiplayer.
OVERALLGTA: Vice City Stories is another great title in a superb series. We felt that the deveopers weren't really pushing too many new ideas with this game which is a shame - but they are pushing the technology that's for sure. If you're not tiring of previous games then you'll do well to pick up Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for your PSP.

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