Review: GTA Vice City Stories (PSP)

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Good: Impressive amount of content for a portable system, soundtrack

Bad: Still no significant gameplay changes, incompetent A.I., clumsy controls

Please: Let this once revolutionary series evolve

Rockstar is apparently content with milking the GTA cash cow, as Vice City Stories is the same damn game we've played so many times before.

For those that have played the series (I'd assume this includes the large majority of the gaming audience), there's nothing new to see here. Vice City is the same obvious Miami setting from before, and gameplay is almost identical. Oh wait:you can swim now. Innovation!

In this installment, you play as the brother of Lance Vance, the important Vice City character. It's slightly different this time around, as he is painted as a somewhat moral, likable character (rather than the greedy and violent wannabe mobsters from GTAs in the past). This makes it even more confusing when you're constantly murdering people and stealing cars.

Your radar will indicate several different story missions, depending on who you're working for at the present time. You will drive to the designated point, receive your instructions, and be on his way to kill some gang members, destroy rival vehicles, or win a race. This should be business as usual for anyone who has played GTA.

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The terrible AI from before is back in full swing, and is one of the most inexcusable aspects of the title. Escorting friendly characters can be unbelievably frustrating, as they'll run straight into walls, into firefights, and won't even be able to climb over 1-2 foot walls.

Visually, Vice City Stories looks almost exactly like the original GTA: VC. The only difference I've noticed is that the city feels a little more empty this time around. Sidewalks and roads are oftentimes sparsely populated. Even on the brightest settings, Vice City can sometimes seem much too dark.

Sound effects sound decent coming out of the PSP speakers, but they feel like recycled gunshots, engines, etc from every other GTA. One thing that always impressed me about this series is the quality level of the soundtracks. Vice City Stories is no different, and features many 80s staples (yes:it has Easy Lover).

Controls are virtually identical to the console versions, but are hindered by the fact that the PSP features less buttons than a Dual Shock. Looking to the left, right, and behind while in-vehicle is much harder, and forces you to hold the L trigger while pressing different analog directions. Drive-by shootings are obviously much harder because of this change. The ability to look behind you by pressing R3 is gone, as is the ability to quickly choose between targets and weapons with the PS2's shoulder buttons. These functions are now the responsibility of the D-pad, which is far more unwieldy.

It's absolutely nothing new, but I'm sure it'll still sell tons of copies thanks to the hordes of GTA fans. It's hard to believe that there is still a hardcore crowd for this, as it's seriously the same thing we've seen so many times before. Here's hoping for a new direction for the series on PS3 and 360.

Graphics: 8.0

Sound: 8.5

First Play: 7.5

Replay Value: 8.0

Gameplay: 7.5

Overall: 8.1

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