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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories Review
by Generalissimo Furioso
And I could feel it coming in the air tonight... A port!
There is something to be said about a series that has become synonymous with video games (in a good way). Besides Mario and Halo, Grand Theft Auto is probably the most recognizable game series on the face of the Earth and for good reason; the games are fun. With GTA IV coming out later this year, it would be easy to pass up on this title without giving it a second thought, but if you like good games, GTA: VCS is a good (and cost effective) addition to anyone's game library.
Jetskis + Helicopters = Fun
Taking place in 1984 (two years before the original Vice City), the player is thrust into the role of Victor "Vic" Vance, a down on his luck army recruit who's looking to help pay for his brother's medical bills. Unfortunately for Vic, he gets dragged into the drug trade by his corrupt commanding officer Jerry Martinez and promptly finds himself dishonorably discharged (you can't spell dishonorable without honorable!) and broke in a city where there's only one way to get rich (it rhymes with 'hugs'). In terms of story, VCS is noticeably darker in tone than other entries of GTA. Featuring spousal abuse, deadbeat mothers and rampant drug use, it's certainly earns its M-rating. Also adding to this depressing tone is the fact that those of us who have played Vice City know that Vic dies in the beginning of the game, so all throughout this game you know what Vic's actions are leading up to, yet you're unable to alter his course (it's disturbing on a level just below I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream). Various reviewers have complained about the fact that Vic complains about constantly being dragged into the drug trade and yet doing nothing about it, but I think the whole Sociological Theory of Labeling is too complex to paraphrase in a review of a game, so I'll be blunt... It's SUPPOSED TO BE TRAGIC, YOU NIMRODS!
Like nobody expected the Black man to carjack somebody.
Vic's adventures vary from sensible (stealing drugs from cartels to sell) to batshit stupid (starring as a stuntman for a Z-list zombie movie), but they're all fun in their own way, especially once Phil Colllins gets involved (yes, there is a big scene where "In the Air Tonight" plays, and yes, it's cool). That being said, the gameplay is a little wonky in some aspects, yet performs admirably in other areas. Fist fighting, for example, plays out like The Warriors simplified (meaning you can grab and throw enemies around; I like chucking them in front of speeding buses), but shooting feels like San Andreas with really annoying free aim (you have to click the Analog stick). Driving vehicles on the other hand, is as fun as always, especially with all of the new types of vehicles in the game (GYROCOPTERS! JETSKIS! PLANES THAT DON'T NEED WATER TO TAKE OFF FROM!). But perhaps the biggest change to the formula is the introduction of the Empire System, which is basically a vastly improved version of the businesses from the original Vice City. Instead of just buying an existing business and doing missions for them, you find property that you want, kill the gang that owns it, then buy the property and develop it while increasing the amount of cash you receive every day at 4:00pm (16:00 for all of you army douches).
I'm gettin' mah G.E.D!
The soundtrack is damn good. It's not as good as the original Vice City's (then again, I doubt that any licensed soundtrack can ever top it), but its worthy entries include Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight", "Here I Am (Rock you like a Hurricane!) by the Scorpions, and "Mary Jane" by Rick James (BITCHES!). The DJ banter is also top-notch and almost always hilarious (see the conversations between Cousin Ed and Lazlow; REAGAN!) though the Public Radio station only features one dialogue with Maurice Sanchez' Pressing the Issue (Which was, hands down, the single most hilarious thing in any Free-Roaming Action game ever; "Oh my God! There's blood and pubic hair all over the studio!") and instead pads itself down with tepid material like "40's era" radio shows being broadcast.
It's like White Noise 2, only with bright pink arrows and assault rifles!
The game isn't perfect though; being designed for the PSP has left it lacking in a number of areas. The frame rate changes erratically during periods where lots of things are going on at once (which is basically every mission after the first five) and that makes the already wonky aiming even wonkier. Also annoying: the graphics are pretty crappy, causing annoying things to happen, like the water clipping through the ground or invisible fires killing you when you least expect it.
Cue country chase music... now!
Despite its issues, the game is only $20 and provides plenty of entertainment for a budget game (more so than any other budget game to ever be forged in the development fires of hell), so you better buy it or else Phil Collins himself will hunt you down and beat you to death with a wiffle ball bat wrapped in barbed wire and doused with gasoline.
How many needles of black tar heroin to make this game good?: None, but a doing a few rails of Cocaine will help you to relive the 80's