Vice Is A Virtue

Grand Theft Auto:
Vice City Stories
Reviewed On
Available For

As we take a look back at some of the hot games of 2006 for potential Games of The Year, "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories" is definitely one that comes to mind in the realm of the Playstation Portable handheld. While some may have had their reservations about the title not raising the bar by leaps and bounds for the GTA series, the fact still remains Vice City Stories is arguably one of the hottest titles to hit the PSP. And if it follows the model of Liberty City Stories, it should soon be on the PSP, not soon enough for some. Here’s a further in-depth look at Rockstar’s latest major crime hit.

Vice City Stories is a gorgeous handheld game with a pretty impressive frame rate. This time round, Rockstar Games takes us back to the 80’s decade setting up house in the scenic locales of Vice City. The land of tall skyscrapers, palm trees, and beautiful sunsets, and more drug action than you can shake a stick at is the perfect setting for this kind of game. The city is teaming with life, people from all walks on every street decked out in all the 80’s fashion, gang members guarding their territories, and rush hour traffic causing a jam at every other major intersection. The layout of the game is quite simply engaging and it really makes you feel like you’ve been sucked back into another time zone every time you pick the game up.

Undoubtedly, the audio of the game is killer and does just as much as the graphics to help sell the tone and tempo of the game. You spend enough time jawing with the natives and you begin to get the feeling that everyone’s sort of in this "revolutionary, free-spirited, love only me, and f-you" state of mind. It’s a bit of a wake up call at first but before you know it, you’ve found a little 80’s swagger of your own and blending in with society doesn’t seem such a task anymore.

Radio is the heart of most GTA games and Vice City is no exception. Several hot musical hits from back in the day and a slew of comically vulgar talk shows flood the radio waves from sun up to sundown. You can tune into several different radio stations including Flash, V-Rock, Fresh FM, and Wave 103 just to name a few. You’ll find hit songs such as "Easy Lover" by Phillip Bailey, "Holy Diver" by Dio, "Never, Never" by the Assembly and other select 80’s hits to help make your riding easier.

One of my initial best musical moments I recall was being chased down the highway in my old-school Ford truck with an angry group of rival gang members right on my tail firing automatic weapons out the windows at and me and trying to run me off the road while a friendly contact of mine was throwing moonshine fire cocktails off the back exploding everything in sight while listening to Foreigner’s, "I Want To Know What Love Is" mega hit classic blaring on Emotion 98.3 thinking, "Man, I love the 80’s!"

The feature story evolves around a Private Vic Vance who only just recently joined the military. Trying to place his feet on solid ground after being raised in a dysfunctional family, Vic is hoping that the military will help him change his stars. Ironically, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for".cause you just might get it.

First day, on the job Vic reports to his superior officer, Sgt. Martinez. It’s pretty clear to Vic after just chatting a few minutes with the serge that this guy is clearly one of those shady type characters. Betting on the fact that he knows Vic is hard up for some real cash to fix things up back at home, Martinez convinces Vic, after some pretty good coercing, to slip a small package to a friend of his off base for some easy cash. Reluctantly, Vic takes the deal, and in doing so unleashes a Pandora of events which ultimately leave him framed and dishonorably discharged from the military, courtesy of Sgt. Martinez himself. Now with his career washed down the tubes and no serious Plan B, Vic has but two choices: Give up and go back home to a slew of uncertainties or seize the moment for what it is, take advantage of any prosperous opportunities and shape destiny for his self.

Fortunately for Vic, all of those dirty errands he ran for Martinez weren’t all for naught. Vic establishes a place of residence with one of Martinez’s old contacts and from there starts a new chapter in his life. A chapter filled with new job opportunities, fast cars, pretty girls, loads of cash, and, oh yeah, lots and lots of crime.

From here on out, it’s all about getting the business. In order to get business you’ve got to know people. Knowing people gets your business. Handling your business brings you money and reputation. Having money and reputation creates opportunities. Opportunities usually mean establishing contact with new people who usually bring in new business and the cycle starts over again. Anyone or anything that stands in the way of the flow of this cycle must be dealt with in the proper business way: with a bullet or grenade. In a nutshell, that’s crime in the big city.

In the beginning Vic, is sort of forced in a role of doing a bunch of miscellaneous side missions, mostly personal, for little cash. Some jobs you like the person you work for. Some jobs you don’t. The one good thing though is that no matter who you work for the money always stays green. A lot of the jobs will range from picking up or delivering packages to stealing, public shootings or rescue missions. As you complete the missions however the stakes get higher and the money greener. You also get a chance to learn everyone’s story. Everyone has a tale to tell and most of the time their tale leads to other business adventures.

There are a ton of cool vehicles to steal and get you around from one job to the next. The game features sports cars, convertibles, muscle cars, trucks, pick-ups, even motorcycles, mopeds, and dirt bikes. Each vehicle has their own style of physics and speed so it’s up to you to steal every one of them and find out the ride that best suits your taste. If you find something you seriously like, you can take it back to HQ, stow it in your garage and it should be there every time you load up a saved point. Helicopters make a return to this version of the game as well and prove to be fairly easy to handle, extremely advantageous to travel, and are actually a lot of fun to pilot.

Of course, you should never take on a dangerous mission without the proper weapons arsenal. You got your choice of melee weapons, sub machine guns, grenades and classic shotguns. The shotgun and sub machine gun prove to be the dominant weapons though. The shotgun can take down an oncoming enemy with one shot when the sight is locked on. The submachine gun is great for spraying a group of enemies positioned within close proximity of one another and it’s also great for shooting while driving.

The coolest feature about Vice City Stories would probably be the "empire" aspect of the game. Once you completed enough missions and in the process taken out a few key people, you can take over things and establish yourself as a big time crime boss. You’ll need to get out there and do some recruiting first. You can travel around different parts of the city looking for hired thugs to recruit into your gang. When you’re established, then you can target private properties being held down by other rival city gangs. These properties range a number of illegal businesses including prostitution, loan sharking, smuggling, and even drug dealing.

The key to taking over one these establishments is walking up and picking a fight with nearby gang members. After you’ve taken out the opposition, simply walk inside and smash the place up. Once that’s done, you can buy and take over the place yourself as well as establish any type of illegal business of your own. Illegal businesses begin generating daily revenue which goes straight into your deep pockets. You can use this money to maintain, upgrade, or establish new illegal businesses around town. Within little time at all you can establish a vast and lucrative empire and eventually hold Vice City within the palm of your hand.

The bottom line is that Vice City Stories is solid game overall and a fairly big improvement over its predecessor, "Liberty City Stories," also on the PSP handheld. All of your familiar GTA game play mechanics are still in place, which is certainly not a bad thing and a few extras have been put in to spice things up. The game looks fantastic boasting a beautiful, broad, and wide-open city to explore and the chronicle of storylines within the game are fairly compelling. The audio of the game is phenomenal and really helps put this title over the top. It looks like Rockstar Games has done it again, as this one rakes in a healthy 4 1/2 GiN gems.

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