Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
PSP / PS2 / October 2006
You know the drill - new cast, story and feature set in a familiar city. But now Rockstar Leeds knew it too: Liberty City had taught this Rockstar splinter group much about PSP. Consequently they pushed it far harder, and framerate, draw distance and loading times were much improved. In some ways it even improved on the original Vice City - its expanses of water gained hugely in terms of realism, even if some still preferred the stylized colors and sun-flashed twinkles of the original.
VCS made no concessions to quick-burst, handheld play, with multipart missions often involving all types of transport - including ‘copters - for lengthy challenges. Being able to swim (for a bit) and buy back weapons after being wasted/busted lowered frustration and reloading, but VCS took a patchwork approach to design fixes - the taxi back to the mission start, for instance, was all but redundant. Empire building - where you buy property and run missions - also brought the dreaded random attacks from San Andreas, which soon boil down to a long drive and unwanted cop attention (starting/exiting one of these missions in a suitable vehicle makes it all go away). Still, Empire cash is paid straight into your account. At last, direct debits in GTA! Vice City Stories was ported to PS2 in March 2007.
Hand Theft Auto
Portable GTA has not always turned out well. The original, appearing on GameBoy Color in 1999, looked nice but had horrible controls, empty streets, an inaccurate and woefully incomplete manual, no maps and dreadful sound. It’s not entirely unfair to say that it sucked, but it is hard to say why anyone bothered making a sequel for GBC in 2000 - GTA 2 had more traffic but ran dreadfully as a consequence. Still, that ‘anyone’ was Tarantula Studios rather than originators DMA, so you can’t blame them. Happily, the GameBoy Advance version of 2004 (handled by Digital Eclipse and confusingly also called Grand Theft Auto) was excellent, capturing the original top-down madness in over 300 missions. Arguably, it’s now the 2D version of choice.