Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories Review (PS2)

“Lance Vance’s last dance!” Not so Mr Vercetti, at least not for another two years, as Rockstar plunges back into their special blend of the 1980’s.

There have been mixed feelings about the smaller ‘stories’ series of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Some seem to think they’re quick-buck makers, but I prefer to think of them as little Rockstar tasters of what the future has in store for this gigantic intellectual property.

No “socks blown off” visuals here
Buy and build an empire

Much like Liberty City Stories was ported over from the PSP to the PS2, the same has been done for Vice City Stories. I think this is partly due to the fact not everyone has been enticed by the PSP platform, but the PS2 is guaranteed to make a game reach bigger audiences of gamers worldwide.

Visually there have been improvements from LCS, though only so much can be accomplished using the same tools and only having enough time to tune up some things. Still it carries the GTA feel and that is what matters at the end of the day, graphics sure do show their age though on the PS2, the PSP version was able to mask this better.

Of course the sound is pure gold, as is to be expected from Rockstar Games these days. The voice acting is superb and the radio stations just as, if not more hilarious than any previous title to date. Of course for any fan of the series, yes the infamous Lazlow is in; he serves as the V-Rock intern under Cousin Ed. I don’t think any other developer can come close to Rockstar’s passion for the urban audio experience. They have a god-like ability to make you laugh at even the smallest, seemingly insignificant quick one liners; genius. Listen to the “Time Ranger” adventures, “Bait and Switch” and “Morehead Rides again” from the radio on VCPR and you’ll be in hysterics.

VCS is set of course in Vice City, except where as the original was during 1986, we are taken back two years to 1984. Much is the same but there are differences that fans will note, Sun Shine Autos being relocated, a fair ground where Avery Carrington’s construction site is to be etc.

You play the role of Vic Vance, a soldier who faces a discharge soon enough and gets dragged into the criminal underworld, pity that. Soon enough you’ll be seeing a familiar face, thanks to the incredible voice talent of Gary Busey – yes he is as funny and outrageous as ever.

Some crazy-ass missions, we love you Rockstar
Plenty of nostalgia for fans of Vice City

But this isn’t a simple “let’s chuck in some new missions with some new characters” affair. Yeah okay some of it is, obviously, but there are some new things for gamers to chew on. For instance the shear nightmare of “R3” missions has been addressed; Rockstar has seen it fit to grant us mortals some reprieve. While you now need to reach level 15 for most, you reach checkpoints every five levels so you can come back to them later. This should help release some of that frustration when you accidentally run over the very last patient you’re supposed to have saved – having now doomed you’re entire efforts of the last half hour or so.

You cash is given to you! Yes, finally there is no longer a need to drive all over the place to pickup your earnings. Instead your Empire earnings are given to you directly at 4:00 pm every game day. While it may seem a small change, this is a big step for the series – previously it proved a tedium having to get the cash yourself.

Empire sites now litter Vice City; these buildings come in a variety of six flavours. You have six different types of ‘business’ to choose from when taking over a site, protection racket, loan sharking, prostitution, drug trafficking, smuggling and robbery. Each has their own set of missions or “R3” like activities to undertaken, which is well worth the effort as your reputation in the corresponding ‘industry’ increases you’ll get higher earnings.

There are also sprinklings of entirely new activities like the fire chopper, air ambulance, and coast guard. LCS was rather bland in missions and not very adventurous but VCS blows that out of the window. Objectives and the format of missions are a lot more varied and uniquely tailored. Rockstar have injected that tense feeling you can get again when in a mission, coupled with new crazy characters and you have a typical winning formula.

What’s important for followers, or GTA Acolytes, is that VCS offers to answer some questions on how things came to be as they are in Vice City. Much like LCS did for GTA3, but make no mistake these smaller bite titles are enjoyable by all - except probably by ‘fans’ of a certain Mr J. Thompson.

If you own the game on the PSP format then there’s not really any reason to get the PS2 version, unless like me your concerned one too many mission ‘mishaps’ could lead to the destruction of said former platform.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is a great addition to the crime-riddled IP family. No it’s not a ground breaking experience and no visually your socks will most definitely not be blown off, in fact they may fuse to your feet, but VCS delivers the tried and true GTA flavour with some added goodness.

A much more tense experience than LCS
Some familiar, loveable, backstabbing characters

Will a San Andreas Stories pop up on the horizon? Well that thought aside, I’m now off to Burger Shot for a tasty Heart Stopper burger, and a cool refreshing Diet-Sprunk.

Top Game Moment:
Listening to VCPR, honestly it has never been funnier – I was almost crying with laughter. No, seriously – crying.