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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  :  lasttoblame (393)
Written on  :  Sep 24, 2007
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars2.29 Stars

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Summary

Perfect for Misogynist

The Good

Budweiser is the “King of Beers”; however, an unscientific poll of anyone who has had the pleasure of the company of said royalty and have imbibed alcohol in a place other than the local sports bar down the street will tell you Budweiser is crap beer. This disparity always confuses me. How can something so popular be so bad? Nothing clears this up; when you ask a Budweiser fan you may be given an answer of, “Because I just like it,” or “Why don’t you shut up!”

Well, liking something will prove to be the end of you. That chick you liked back in high school that let you feel her up on your birthday will eventually be the woman you marry who will destroy your will to live. That friend you trust so much now with the news you felt up a chick on your birthday will be that guy in the future who will pull you back down to his miserable level and not let you go onwards to do all the things you wanted to do. Those gloomy Goths and sour Brits may be on to something: if you don’t like anything you will never be disappointed. (and you may even get into Buddhism)

No, it doesn’t pay to be a fan because if you believe in something, it must be good… it has to be. It’s your belief. If that first bottle of Budweiser tastes good, well that fifth bottle must be good as the first one. Well, this fifth game in the current Grand Theft Auto III series isn’t fit for any kegger because it’s trying to please it’s loyal fanbase. Folks, never give people what they want: you do and you’re Liberace, you’re the Beegees, you’re an Italian guy with a red hat and a big moustache jumping over barrels. Give people what you need to give them. The problem with any GTA game from now on is that it’s a GTA game.

It’s not all bad. This mod is a great opportunity to go back and re-experience the real star of any Grand Theft Auto game: the city. No matter how much you can dress up the protagonist of any GTA game or lines to speak the real reason you love the game is because of the world you are given to explore and conquer. Every Grand Theft Auto game is at its core an adventure game because the city is what captures your imagination. One muses: “I wonder if there are any hidden packages behind this row of houses,” “this would be a cool place to have a race, I hope the game will take me there,” “I want to know if I can get on top of that, there must be a way,” or waxing nostalgic like “I remember this was the place I first carjacked a tank” or “I had so many six star fights with the cops here,” and so on. Adventure games don’t necessarily need puzzles.

One thing that both Vice City games have captured very well is the feel of the time period. I have no qualms in admitting I’ll play this game for the soundtrack alone. Though the first game did it bigger and better, Vice City Stories still has a good soundtrack that will have you do that thing in the shower (I mean sing). However, do you remember that song you slowed danced to with that girl? You know, that song which was all slow and mellow in the beginning and then when the radd-est drum fill ever came in you started drumming on her back? You know, “In the Air Tonight”? That song will lose its coolness.

The Bad

This could have been a very good game; it’s already halfway there, with the city already designed and a legacy of game play that has proven to be so popular. It’s this fact that makes it so frustrating and sad that a company with a reputation for breaking the status quo with games like State of Emergency (“riot sim”) and Manhunt (“murder sim”) should now uphold it so ruthlessly. Every release can’t be a guaranteed euphoric adrenaline rush giggle but with this game and the similarly released Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Rockstar has jumped the shark to be satisfied with being the rich, fat cat. “IV” doesn’t look so good anymore; maybe yet another delay may do it good.

There have been well made mods released before: Half-Life: Opposing Force and Starcraft: Brood War come to mind. Those mods were very successful because they built upon the success of the original game. They don’t just give you more of the same; they take the familiar you have to come to know about the game and have challenge your expectations. What GTA: Vice City Stories does is just more of the same, just different. There are some differences, granted, like having you start out at the west island on the army base. However, everyone and their accountant has played the first game; why not play the whole game as a black ops army goon? How about being a soccer mom who cracks under the pressure and starts taking illicit jobs? What about a Haitian who has come up from the old country and has something to prove?

Releasing a GTA game that is in fact a GTA-clone just proves that Rockstar has no guts. Both “City Stories” take place before each of its own game storyline, providing unnecessary back story and thus not having any effect upon the game universe whatsoever. Why not provide a game that tells me what happened after I played the last game? I didn’t get 100% completion on that last game to find out events that have little to do with anything. If Rockstar had “real balls” (as this game keeps telling me) they would make a game where the point of the game is to kill the hero of the last game. “Tommy Vercetti took over Vice City… and now you’re going to take him out.”

A strong narrative has been important in Grand Theft Auto games previously, but not this game. The ending for this game’s protagonist, Vic Vance, has already been written: he dies at the beginning of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City; it’s the premise that set that game up. I’ve never wondered who Lance Vance’s brother is like, and it appears his life can’t be that interesting if it ends so mundanely (well, for a video game..). Just as troubling to the story is his position as a reluctant hero; from the beginning Vic Vance is portrayed as an unwilling participant in a life of crime, but all his actions refute that. The game tries to tell us that he hates dealing drugs, yet he has a day job as a drug overlord. Well, it’s a living; I suppose it all makes since once you see the “You don’t have to be crazy to work here… but it helps” sign on his desk next to the mirror and razor blades.

There is one built-in problem with the game design: places have been designed with a purpose already in mind. Alleys are designed to hide the rampages and unique packages of the first game. Your safe houses in the first game have no use here. Roads and buildings were set up for the specific placement of unique jumps. This has been dealt with but in a summary fashion; c’mon, challenge us! You’re bigger game geeks than us… if this is the same city I spent 160 hours in the first time (yep, most of it doing Vigilante in “Brown Thunder”… level 201, thank you kindly), I would like to come back here to rediscover it all over again. Tommy Vercetti’s first safe house on Ocean beach is now a 5 level enemy dungeon. Ken Rosenberg law office is run by his even more neurotic cousin Larry… as a brothel. As an ode to Hard Boiled, the last boss fight is out of a hospital. Your home base is the police station because you are the cop assigned to take down Tommy Vercelli… a bad cop. You know, if I can pull these ideas out of my ass a thousand monkeys down at Rockstar HQ are bound to hit videogame premise paydirt. What this also could mean is that yet another Vice City Story could be released if this was successfully done; that’s right, a second game based on the original. However, this lack of creativity and flogging of the dead horse ensures a) a quick buck and b) no Vice City Stories II: SimCity Gangsta!

Now might be a good time to mention that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is completely misogynistic. This game does everything except mention “stupid bitch” somewhere in the dialogue. GTA games have always up to this point done a good job at parody; however this game crosses that line. Good parody will take overrated subjects and knock them down a peg: this is as in the first Vice City game the “me” generation was criticized for its selfishness and self-importance, just as were overzealous swampland entrepreneurs, golden age videogames, Reagan-nomics, tree hugging leftists and nudists. On the other hand in Vice City Stories each amusing bit becomes the same “women are stupid and inferior” theme and really takes the fun out of everything. I have no idea why more folks don’t mention these things in games.

Something must be said about the game play: after seven years and five games of driving from one halo or corona to another, it really gets boring. Save for the sublime “Domo arigato Mister Domestibot” every mission has a tired been there, done that feeling—even the last mission. The new mini-games don’t enhance the game any. “Lifeguard” is no different than “Paramedic” but in a boat. New additions like snapping one’s neck from behind serve no purpose, and even distract you from the story (said my brother of said snapping: “that’s not nice”). The next GTA game has to be different, next gen or otherwise.

Still one more thing: what’s up with this 80’s cameo? On the game radio you keep hearing this one singer pop up and you think: “He wasn’t that popular, was he?” and then you discover he’s in it! NO!! Rockstar, you are now adult contemporary music! How unhip!! I can’t believe this same guy now officially exists in the same world as the Truth and Candy Suxx; a mission and subsequent unlockable has you watch some bad mo-cap of his concert. For shame, Rockstar. I thought a better rock star cameo would be the Police (all three of them, Andy is free these days).

The Bottom Line

Bad story that doesn’t make sense, retread old material, stale game play, unrefreshing take on the series, unhip on the side of comb-overs… man, it sucks to be a fan.

Yah yah, I know it was first a PSP release. Everyone was amazed at what you can stuff on one of those things. Sure, yah yah, science triumphs over art… but that’s all it is. With some creative thinking you could have had a nifty little number that would pump life into this old lady.