Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation Portable
Release date:
October 30, 2006
Rockstar Games
Rockstar Leeds
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Has Rockstar unleashed a system seller?

Review by Richard Grisham (Email)
November 27th 2006

Ever since the minute I started playing Grand Theft Auto III, I've been an unabashed fanboy. Sure, I realize that the series is responsible for the downfall of youth and the destruction of a generation, but it's freakin' fun. There is simply something wonderful about dropping into a world where you can do whatever you want – good, bad, or downright murderous – with no real repercussions other than a rollickingly spectacular chase by the police (and, if you've been particularly devious, the army). From the "original" seminal smash of GTA III, through the vastly expanded Vice City, into the wildly ambitious San Andreas, I've played through each of them unapologetically with a huge smile on my face.

When the PSP title Liberty City Stories hit store shelves, I was brought back to the gritty modern streets of the naked city, reminded yet again of the sheer genius of the series. Sure, there are gobs of holes in the game – aiming is difficult, driving controls are touchy, and newcomers can and will feel overwhelmed by the vastness – but even with these issues, it was easily the best game I'd ever played on Sony's handheld. I felt strongly about that statement until a few weeks ago, when the sequel Vice City Stories showed up at my doorstep. Just as the PS2 original trumped its forerunner a few years ago, VCS is another tremendous leap forward in the series and as close to a system-seller as the PSP is going to get. Is it perfect? Of course not. Most of the problems in Liberty City Stories are resident here as well. But within its imperfections lies the singular characteristic that makes the real Grand Theft Auto games so much better than any of their multitudes of copycats – pure style.

Taken for what it is – another unashamed romp through a crime-filled world – Vice City Stories is the best game that I've ever played on the PSP.

If you're keeping score at home, VCS is actually the first of any of the GTA games released to date. That is, the timeline takes place before that of the PS2 Vice City by a couple of years, and all-time antihero of the masses Tommy Vercetti is nowhere to be found – but make no mistake, the drug-addled, bad-clothes-and-hair ‘80's vibe is still in full effect. This time around, our protagonist is the inimitable Vic Vance (brother of Lance, who has a starring role in the original Vice City), a guy who wants no part of organized crime but is unwittingly dragged into the muck when his army boss forces him down a path that almost immediately becomes a road to ruin.

We won't give away any spoilers, but rest assured that plenty of the scumbags you knew and loved (or loathed) in Vice City make their not-so-triumphant return here. As always, there is virtually unlimited gameplay available. While I've technically "beaten" most of the GTA titles, I never even came close to accomplishing 100% completion (nor known any real human beings who have). The sheer vastness of things to do in town that have nothing to do with the main story arc – rescues, vigilantes, races, gang wars, package collection, et al – boggles the mind. Best of all, they're almost all universally entertaining and for the most part will help you out cash-wise. Raise your hand if you couldn't use more money for guns, vehicles, properties, and so on? Didn't think so.

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