Rockstar had already worked their magic on the PSP before, to good effect. It was much like a mission pack of sorts to GTA III. Vice City Stories, on the other hand, has a lot of great new features that keeps it from feeling like a mission pack, such as the ability to swim, which is the second time in the series where that was possible.
You play as Victor Vance, who’s fate is already sealed at the beginning of Vice City; by which I mean he dies. This is the first GTA protagonist you play as who has already died in another game. Don’t worry, he’s no zombie (though that would be cool), as this game is set 2 years before Vice City. Vic has joined the army, and is making the most of it, when his commanding officer, Jerry Martinez, has him do a lot of illegal things for him, threatening him of the consequences if he denies. One thing leads to another, and Vic is kicked out. He, along with his brother, Lance Vance (yes, that Lance Vance), must move on up in the world and take out Martinez, all while dealing with sibling drug kingpins, helping out an abused trailer wife, and escorting a…. certain respected musician.
The gameplay is basically identical to it’s PS2 predecessor, except for the fact that you can now swim, making missions near water a lot easier. There are a lot more rail shooting missions than previous titles, but still not very many; since those are some of my favorite parts of the series; as well as other “gimmick” missions such as using a forklift to take crates of moonshine out of a burning building (the forklift control is a lot more refined from San Andreas). You can also fly helicopters again, a feature which was conspicuously absent from Liberty City Stories, although the cool remote controlled-drone stealth missions from said game do not return.
As well as the best, this is also one of the hardest. The aiming control may take a while for some to get used to, since you can’t free-aim, sometimes making it hard to get a lock on an enemy without getting in their line of fire, usually only so when going up stairs in a cramped building. (The PS2 port gives the ability to free-aim, as well as 3D camera control), though there is a cool new feature where the targeting prioritizes threat over innocent a lot better than in previous games, so the aiming is actually quite good. At least the blow is cushioned by the inclusion of trip skips (if you’ve already done it, you can skip the drive at the beginning of a mission, and the fact that a taxi appears at the hospital to take you back to the mission start (though only when you die during a mission, and it’s only there for a limited time); as well as a marker next to where you spawn which, if you have enough money, will let you have all the weapons you had on you when you died, making this the only game of the III era that has this anti-frustration feature (the IV titles let you respawn with your weapons every time).
You can now build empires, which is a cross between the properties of Vice City, and the gang wars of San Andreas, but a bit harder than both, unless you bring the right equipment. You must initiate a gang war by attacking on the site of a gang clubhouse, and after a couple of waves, storm the inside of the building and take the remaining enemies out. You can make a lot of money with these, so be sure not to skip them.
Easily one of the best parts of the game is V-Rock, the radio station run by Couzin Ed and a young Lazlow. These two are hilarious, and easily one of the highlights of the game’s extensive soundtrack. The soundtrack is my favorite of the entire series, with tons of great songs, my favorites being Divine Intervention, Family Man, Mary Jane, Freaks Come Out at Night, We Belong, Holy Diver, In The Air Tonight, Play at Your Own Risk, Sexual Healing, Everybody Loves the Sunshine, Gloria, The Warrior, and Fantasy.
What makes this game so great is the characterization. Lance is better than ever, and even more hilarious than in Vice City; and Vic is a very moral man, who is very against drugs, prostitution, and the such, and only joined the army to make money for his sick brother. By the end of the game, Vic will have gone through so much emotional trauma, that you won’t be able to help but feel sympathy for his plight; and for such, he is easily the most 3-dimensional (by which I mean only) protagonist of the III era.
This game is also the most dramatic in tone of the III era, which would later become the series standard; dealing with abuse, rape, suicide, and depression. With great writing, voice-acting, true tearjerking moments; and with a large wide-open world, with tons to do; Rockstar has managed to create a non-compromising open-world game on a handheld. It is, without doubt, the greatest PSP game ever made.
- $9.99 (via PSN; both PS2 and PSP versions)
My tastes in games breach all genres, though my fortes are platformers and first-person shooters. My favorite game series is probably Super Mario, specifically the 3D games. I also love Rayman, Hitman, Bioshock, Half-Life/Portal, Uncharted, and Grand Theft Auto. As for my favorite game, it's hard to say: I love Portal 2, Shadow of the Colossus, Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Rayman Legends, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Grand Theft Auto IV, L.A. Noire, Fallout 3, Journey, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence all so damn much.
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