|GTA: Vice City Stories (2007)
Available for: PlayStation 2
Overkill. It’s the term that best describes what Rockstar has done with its “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. By now, other developers have had a slice of the open sandbox pie, and even the originators have had some problems releasing themselves from the ever-popular grip the series has had. After all, it’s not every day that you can mine unlimited gold from a game that started out as a rather boring top-down mayhem maker. But now it’s all been done, and done way past its burning point. Of course, we’ll all just have to wait and see how “revolutionary” “Grand Theft Auto IV” is going to be on the next-gen systems. For now, well, here’s another port of a PSP GTA game.
Like its brother “Liberty City Stories,” which was also a PSP port, “Vice City Stories” finds the player revisiting familiar territory. It’s probably only a short time before “San Andreas Stories” becomes a reality. For now, you can once again revel in the music and pop culture of the ‘80s as you cruise around Vice City doing your GTA thang. However, this time Vice City isn’t half as colorful or detailed as it was in the original game because this is a port, so things are scaled down quite a bit. So much so, in fact, that you begin to wonder just how greedy Rockstar is for wanting to squeeze every last dime out of the franchise. It just doesn’t look like a very good PS2 game in the graphics department.
As far as the gaming goes, we’ve been down this road before. It’s more of the same, just with a different name. This time around players are behind the controls of Vic Vance, a soldier who wants to do the right thing and be able to take care of his family. His superior has other plans for him and winds up getting Vic kicked out of the military, leaving him to fend for himself the only way one can in these games: through a life of crime and hedonistic shenanigans. That’s right – shenanigans.
But you’ve played it all before. If you haven’t, pick up any of the other GTA games that were originally created for the PS2. What’s here in “Vice City Stories” is so stripped down that it feels more like a slightly broken demo than a satisfactory game. There’s the aforementioned lackluster graphics, plagued every now and then by crappy resolution and the occasional pop-in. And then there are things like the sloppy combat system with targeting mechanics that seem like an afterthought. Some thugs will be chasing you and you’ll want to hone in on the guy closest to you, but you wind up firing past him at someone in the background who isn’t even in range. Terrific.
If anything, “Vice City Stories” feels even more tired than its predecessors thanks to its predictable missions. Yep, it’s more picking up whores and driving them across town. More scoring drugs for cash. More killing for hire. Blah, blah, blah. If it didn’t feel as if the game was on a pair of training wheels, it might be OK, but the whole thing looks and feels so bare minimum that it’s hard to get worked up about it. Perhaps these budget ports look and play better on the PSP, but on the PS2 they seem a bit pointless.
Still, there is one shining light. It comes in the form of Gary Busey playing the role of Phil, an alcoholic veteran from ‘Nam. Phil’s dialogue is riddled with burps, belches, near-puking and other alcoholic atrocities. If Busey wasn’t actually sauced when he recorded his lines, then he deserves some sort of big award for the best role of his career. It’s funny to see the quality of celebs go down when one of these peripheral GTA games is created. Of course, Phil Collins is also in the game, but there you go.
Needless to say “Vice City Stories” isn’t anywhere near a must-own game in the GTA universe. If you’ve played the others and just have to experience it for yourself, you may find the tried and true hoo-ha welcoming. However, this and “Liberty City Stories” aren’t the places to start if you’re completely new to the series. The overall depth and quality of the main titles just aren’t there. While this may be completely untrue for the actual PSP versions, these games end up feeling like nothing more than a poor GTA “clone” that isn’t even half as good as some of the GTA clones out there (that weren’t created by Rockstar). Go figure.