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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (PlayStation 2)

74
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Big John WV (25282)
Written on  :  Jul 15, 2009
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars

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Summary

A step back in time and a step back for the series.

The Good

Now I have been playing GTA games since the beginning with the first rendition and when they transcended to the 3D realm with GTA III and its sequels Vice City and San Andreas. After these great titles I was a little worn on GTA, but always hoping for the next big hit when lo and behold I came across Vice City Stories. When it was originally released I was a little put off that the asking price was $20 and it was just basically a conversion of the PSP version and I just ignored it. Finally after many of years and countless games later, I was looking for a new game since the weaning days of the PS2 was looming and the PS3 was becoming more prominent and I finally bit the bullet and bought this game.

Well to begin the game gives you a retro feel with the visuals and colors, taking me back to the days I first popped in Vice City and I like how this game starts you on the opposite end of the island this time around. The story isn't anything spectacular but still interesting, telling a tale of a misguided man in the military suckered into a bad situation and ultimately becoming an outcast to everyone around him. Though I do like the story, there are a lot of issues with the presentation which I will get to in a bit.

The many choices of radio stations and the songs blew me away. Initially I thought there would only be a handful of stations and barely any audio tracks, but I was shocked by the plethora of stations including many genres for just about any fan of music, including the classic talk radio stations and the faux '50's propaganda style cereals. Always a good chuckle. As for the voice acting only one thing stood out in my mind and that was none other than the character Phil Cassidy, voiced by the lovable madman Gary Busey. I cracked up years ago with Cassidy and to find him again with Gary Busey behind the voice once more got me giddy, considering how crazy he is now compared to his original appearance, so I couldn't wait to get more involved. Sadly, though, this is where the good ends, which is kinda sad.

The Bad

Well, where do I begin, for one while the graphics do bring back a nostalgic feel there are just not as polished as it's predecessor. It looks awfully muddled with no sharpness to it whatsoever, everything has this soft feel to it which does disappoint me considering I was comparing it to Vice City and San Andreas which graphics are better in comparison. I'm not sure if this had something to do with the fact it was originally a PSP game, but still it could have been worked on more. The animations of the cinemas are off a bit at times too with the lip synching seeming like it has a time catching up or even at times there is no voice coming out of their mouth whatsoever. There was even times someone else's voice was coming from another person's mouth.

Somewhere along the line somebody developing severely messed up on the physics, resulting in some of the most messed up glitches and gameplay I've seen in a while. The cars are so slippery and slick that at times it seems I could skid sideways on the roadway without even trying. This is especially problematic when I'm either chasing someone or running from the cops and I barely tap the brakes and skid for what seems for miles until finally (and thankfully) coming to a rest.

I've also noticed at times where some glitches hindered my ability to even complete or even start a mission. In one instance I was to go into a shop and convince the shopkeeper to pay on a debt. As the cinema began I was seen walking into the shop with a shotgun, but when I appeared inside, I was holding nothing in my hand but it still seems like I was supposed to be holding on to it and when I tried to shoot something, he would act like he was recoiling from the shot, but nothing was there. I finally fixed it by cycling through the weapons, but still shouldn't quality control have picked that up a while back?

And speaking of weapons, the targeting system is way the hell messed up. You think after all these years, Rockstar could have finally had it where the main character would only target enemies instead of targeting every living thing in sight. In some instances I could have five enemies in front of me and instead of targeting them, he would turn around and target a pedestrian. What? Oh come on. At first I thought it might have been a glitch, but no, it keeps happening over and over and over and...well you get the idea.

Some of the missions are fun, but others makes you want to pull your hair out in frustration. In one mission I had to help Cassidy by using a forklift and maneuvering around a burning warehouse to load up a truck full of moonshine and with every successfully load a part of the warehouse would collapse making me find alternate routes. Now at first I liked the idea, but it was quickly becoming a problem since everything was so dark, I basically had to brighten my screen up all the way to see the routes. Another of Phils involved him running from gang members while I was following from behind to distract them from him, but the A.I. was so idiotic it seemed like it was intentionally running into burning cars, deliberately trying to catch fire to end any chance I had to complete the mission. It took me a few tries and I barely made it since the A.I. stopped in the middle of the road and let two burning cars surround it and blow up beside it, limping its way back to the garage hitting everything in site.

And if those two missions weren't enough, one mission involved me picking up hookers and delivering them back to a waiting brothel...sounds easy right?...wrong! To compound problems they were involved in some heavy fire fights with local gangs in which I had to kill the rival gang members, pick up the hooker and try to avoid about a dozen cars that could flip my car on its hood on one shot. Things like this makes me wonder if they developers intentionally wanted to make the player suffer. Oh and not to mention some of the longest saving times I have ever seen, I actually kept track one time and it took it almost three minutes to save my progress. Something like this keeps me from coming back to the game.

One final problem I have and that is the voice acting is horrendous, including the main character Vic Vance. For some reason Vic reminds me of Carl Johnson (of San Andreas) only 20 years older and a softer personality, which doesn't fit the long line of characters from previous and future incarnations. Claude was a bank robber betrayed, Vercetti was a member of the mafia, Johnson was a former gang member brought back in. Vic on the other hand was just a guy caught in a bad situation so it wouldn't make since for him just to ruthlessly kill masses of people for no reason.

While I do like the idea of basically a good guy doing bad things when he doesn't want to in order to survive, it just wasn't pulled off (that is not the case with GTA IV, however). Busey's acting bothered me too, slurred at times, it makes me wonder if he was high or drunk or both when he did the acting which was disappointing. I was hoping to hear the crazy, energetic and enigmatic ramblings of Gary Busey, instead I get the feeling of someone who was basically there only for the money. And I do realize that this was basically a take of Miami in the 80's and that racism was rampant at that time, but come on, every time I turn around and another slur blurts out. I get so tired of hearing "boy" all the time not including other ones including Asian slurs (most specifically towards Koreans).

The Bottom Line

Sadly, this game seems like a step back for the franchise. While this game does work great on a PSP, converting it to a low budget PS2 title basically killed it off. The muddled graphics, lousy voice acting, terrible animation and screwed up physics really off set the overall fun you can have and makes you even wonder if you are actually playing a GTA game. Now I know Rockstar wanted to give GTA fans a retro feel, but still you don't go from something advanced like San Andreas and go back towards this mess. Even for hardcore fans, I would only recommend a rental, but if you have a PS3 or 360, skip this entirely and go for the more advanced titles (like GTA IV or Red Faction: Guerrilla).