reviews\ Nov 7, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories - PSP - Review

When it came to pushing the Sony PSP hardware to the limit, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories did just that when it brought its free-roaming action game to a portable medium. Yes, the same impressive game design Rockstar brought to its now legendary Grand Theft Auto III title was shrunk down to a portable package that made one of the PSP’s biggest blockbusters. Just like the first portable outing was set in GTA III’s Liberty City, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is set in the PS2 sequel’s Miami-like Vice City setting. It’s time to revisit our old stomping grounds in a sequel that is sure to be a fan’s new favorite on the PSP.


The game revolves around Vic Vance (brother of GTA: Vice City’s Lance Vance) who happens to be a soldier stationed in the military base in a pre-Tommy Vercetti owned Vice City during the mid 1980s. As fate would have it, Vic is convinced by his crazy CO, Jerry Martinez, to break a few rules for cash including smuggling drugs into the barracks. Unfortunately, the drugs are discovered and Vic Vance is dishonorably discharged from the military and thus forcing him to work for the criminal underground in the city. We follow Vic as he climbs the crime ladder, making allies and enemies along the way.



While Liberty City Stories was impressive in its attempt to cram in all the series usual elements and does so successfully, Vice City Stories slightly improves upon them. For example, moving Vic around feels a bit more like the console games this time around without having to really wrestle with the camera. This makes fighting a tad better, although the targeting reticule can still be a bit funky when it comes to targeting the nearest threat. Driving is still somewhat awkward, making some vehicles seem a bit clunky at times. Yet then again all it takes is a lot of practice and you’ll be use to the driving controls in no time. Even when you finally get to climb into a helicopter you’ll find the flying can get fun the more you take to the skies.


The Vice City we remember so fondly in the console game is all there, although you start the game in the airport district where you’ll find Little Havana, the Downtown area and the port. Like the majority of GTA games, each major area is closed off until you complete the story missions. You will, for example, perform tasks for one character and get a page to perform a few other tasks for another character. The missions themselves will give you a lot to do and they’re actually quite fun. Whether you’re chasing a Latino gang out of a neighborhood or attempting to complete a very difficult delivery. GTA: Vice City introduced business fronts the main character can purchase that actually generates money when you complete a few front missions and Vice City Stories does the same with its Empire Building feature. There are Empire missions that aren’t as fun as the main missions but they do prove to be good distractions. The game also takes a page out of San Andreas, allowing you to recruit gangs to aid you in a mission or take over a rival gang’s territory. This also means that rival gangs can attack your territory, forcing you to defend the territory.



Multiplayer was also a nice addition to the series and I’m happy to report that it makes a return in this game. With ten multiplayer modes played through an Ad Hoc connection, up to six players in total can join in some wireless multiplayer fun. There is the fun deathmatch mode Vice City Survivor as well as a game that has you attempting to destroy the other team’s vehicle (called Protection Racket). Some games have you attempting to take control of a vehicle such as a tank (Tanks for the Memories) or helicopter (the new Might of the Hunter mode). The multiplayer mode runs smoothly and each mode is downright fun.


Vice City Stories also looks a lot better than Liberty City Stories … but then again, not by very much. That’s not to say the first PSP GTA game was not lovely to look at because it was definitely a visually impressive game but this one offers more detail and better effects. Head to the beach and you’ll be impressed by the water effects, for instance, and the grocery stores in the city are just filled with detailed items. The character models are a slight improvement as well, especially when it comes to the cut scenes throughout the game. As I mentioned above, this is the Vice City we remember fondly and it still looks good. Unfortunately there are some graphical glitches mainly due to the hardware’s limitations. Cars appear out of thin air and disappear … as do entire buildings!




The game’s soundtrack is pure 80s gold and you’ll find a number of familiar tunes that make the radio stations such a joy to listen to while driving around the city. Many of Vice City’s radio stations are present and the disc jockeys and commercials add some truly hilarious moments throughout so expect the same witty banter the series is known for in this game. The voice acting is also handled beautifully, mainly because this time many of the familiar characters are voiced by the same voice actors from the console game. You’ll find Gary Busey reprising his role as Phil Cassidy as well as Luis Guzman as Ricardo Diaz and Phillip Michael Hall as Lance Vance. Even the pedestrian comments are done right.


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories doesn’t do anything completely new for the franchise but it is one of the most addictive PSP games you will want to buy right away. Still just as impressive as the series first attempt on Sony’s handheld, this game will keep you entertained with its great story, fun missions and awesome open-world environments. Hopefully next time the series will be just as deep as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas but until then this one will keep you very busy. 


Review Scoring Details for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories


Gameplay: 8.9
The game’s targeting feature can be a bit of a pain but aside from that the controls work wonderfully throughout the game. Both the on-foot and driving mechanics feel right and Vic can actually swim. The missions are familiar GTA fare but they are actually pretty fun. Finally, we get to pilot helicopters.


Graphics: 9.0
Vice City Stories is also a major improvement visually over Liberty City Stories in many respects. Aside from some great character models, the Miami-inspired city just looks amazing. While pedestrians do disappear if you turn around, the city does look alive.


Sound: 9.2
GTA: Vice City introduced a soundtrack packed with familiar tunes from the 80s and Vice City Stories just does the same. The soundtrack offers up an impressive dose of rock tunes from the likes of Quiet Riot, rap from Run D.M.C. and Latin jazz from the likes of Tito Puente. The sound effects are stellar but it’s the great voice acting that stands out.


Difficulty: Medium
Like most Grand Theft Auto games, some missions are easy to complete while others will offer up quite a challenge. Those familiar with the series know that the missions with multiple objectives can be completed through trial-and-error so don’t expect any mission to really stump you.


Concept: 9.0
It’s great to be back to a familiar stomping ground especially since the locale itself contains enough areas to explore and revisit. Vic Vance is a great character and watching him try to make a name for himself is a real treat. For a PSP game, there is certainly a lot to see and do in this game and the multiplayer mode just adds more replay value to a game that will keep you very busy for a long time.


Multiplayer: 9.5
The multiplayer modes introduced in Liberty City Stories are present here but there are some new game modes that make this an even better multiplayer experience. Again there’s no online multiplayer through Infrastructure mode but the Ad Hoc multiplayer runs at a very steady framerate and there’s very little to complain about when modes like Empire Takedown or The Hit List are just way too fun.


Overall: 9.2
If Liberty City Stories was the reason you should buy a PSP, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is the reason you need a PSP. Sure it’s not a major step in a new direction for the series but just like Vice City on the PS2, it raises the bar just a little and does not fail to show us a fun time in a world worth visiting. Come for the entertaining missions and open world but stay for the colorful characters and dozens of things to do.





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