|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar Leeds, Rockstar North||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 5, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
It seems as if gamers can't get enough of Grand Theft Auto. Since GTA III's release years ago, we've seen two new GTAs as well as numerous copycat games and two PSP prequels. The latest of the PSP prequels, entitled simply Vice City Stories, has recently received a port to the PlayStation 2 despite Rockstar's claims that they weren't ever going to do so. GTA fans rejoiced when they heard the news that, despite Rockstar's announcements to the contrary, Vice City Stories was coming to the PS2. How does the port fare on the PlayStation 2 as opposed to the PSP? Much like its predecessor, Liberty City Stories, VCS provides an entertaining side story but doesn't quite feel like a full GTA game.
Vice City Stories is set two years before the events in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and places the player in the shoes of Vic Vance, the older, tougher brother of Lance Vance from GTA:VC. Vic has the dubious distinction of being one of the more moral protagonists from any GTA game, although it doesn't stop him from committing crimes just as liberally as Tommy Vercetti or CJ. Vic begins the game in the military running shady errands for his commanding officer, and through a quick turn of events, finds himself ousted from the army and lacking direction. In true GTA fashion, he quickly begins taking on assorted missions from various criminal employers to establish his place in Vice City.
Storywise, Vice City Stories feel somewhat lacking. Vic claims a morality system that is lacking in most GTA protagonists, and yet he winds up behaving like them without much explanation. For the most part he simply mutters some words of reluctance before proceeding on his missions. This character discrepancy adds a strange feeling to the storyline, as Vic claims his only motivation is trying to gather money for his ill brother. Unlike other GTA characters, Vic doesn't start the game as a criminal, but he doesn't resist the criminal lifestyle at all. His fall into the criminal underworld feels forced and not well thought out at all. However, beyond Vic's out of character actions, Vice City Stories does a pretty good job of allowing the player to explore Vice City before the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Familiar characters make appearances and are referenced, and the game feels familiar, with just enough new elements to feel fresh.
Not much has changed in the gameplay department. While Vice City Stories improves on some deficiencies from Liberty City Stories, such as a slightly better targeting system, longer missions, and more detailed environments and characters, it still doesn't make any major improvements for the GTA formula overall. It feels extremely dated, especially post-Saints Row and only slightly pre-GTA IV.
The one and only gameplay addition to Vice City Stories that hasn't been seen before in GTA is the inclusion of the ability to actually control your businesses, an expansion of the business element introduced in the original Vice City. Now the player can increase the returns that they can get on their businesses by investing in the business and upgrading it. The player can also take on Empire missions that will help improve the business. There are quite a few businesses in the town with six different types, ranging from prostitution to loan sharking to drug dealing. The missions for these illegal activities can become repetitive, but provide another distraction to the gameplay.
Visually, Vice City Stories is largely unchanged from any GTA before it. The graphics are very dated, and GTA's visuals have shown their age years ago, so don't expect to be awed by anything in Vice City Stories. While the game does an excellent job of recreating Vice City and creating an 80s atmosphere, the game's visuals are ugly and bland.
As always, the audio and voice acting are top notch. All of the voice actors do an excellent job, whether they're reprising their Vice City roles or taking on entirely new characters. The soundtrack is also great, with some of the best picks from the 80s to add to the feeling of the era.
The port of Vice City Stories suffers from the same lack of multiplayer as the PS2 port of Liberty City Stories did before it. This is a surprising but not unexpected choice on the part of Rockstar. By leaving out the multiplayer, Vice City Stories is less of a game on the PlayStation 2 than it was on the PSP.
Ultimately, Vice City Stories is a fun distraction for fans of GTA and a decent game to tide players over until Grand Theft Auto IV. Although the game feels like GTA Lite in many respects, it still is a GTA game, with GTA humor and gameplay infused into it and it's hard to beat the $20 price tag. Just don't pick up Vice City Stories expecting anything new.
CCC Freelance Writer