Whenever Rockstar announces a game, or being more specific, an announcement of a new Grand Theft Auto title, there is a big crowd of gamers that get off the game they were currently playing to go check it out. With the Grand Theft Auto franchise making such a significant impact on the Playstation 2, it’s no wonder that there is still a market for Rockstar to make further games on the platform. However since Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas a few years back, we have only seen PSP ports, games that were made for the PSP and ported to the Playstation 2, which happened last year with Liberty City Stories. Today we are checking out a PSP to PS2 conversion in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the Playstation 2. The big question is can this game manage to take the necessary steps forward to make this a great console experience? Read our full review to find out!
To me the concept of taking a handheld game that has a such a small screen and bringing it into the console market just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The last time Rockstar tried this idea was in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which was just a great hand held game on the PSP, and quite frankly one of the better titles for the platform. But when you compared it to the likes of San Andreas and Vice City on the consoles, you couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed. I didn’t review Vice City Stories for the PSP, however having played a bit of it, I should say that it to was a great game on the PSP. The question now is that can it do better on the PS2?
First things first, the game opens up with you in something that looks like an army camp, where you’re talking to a superior officer who wants you to get involved in some "outside" activities. Your character is a bit hesitant to get involved but because he is need of the cash he decides to get into anyways. So there the story unfolds and continues to keep you involved in what seems to me to be a pretty standard GTA story. The game doesn’t throw a lot at you in terms of story, which is something I have always thought the GTA series needed more of. You’re doing all of this killing, stealing, and drug dealing, and I think it would help just a tad to get more information on why your actually doing things you are. That’s just the gripe I had with the story, so let’s move forward with the review.
If you have played any GTA style game before, the sandbox style of Vice City Stories is going to be extremely familiar to you. The game uses the exact same of mechanics we have seen in these style games for years, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However the game has definitely started to show its age. The missions in the game range from escort missions, to murder missions, to about everything in between. The missions, however being that this was a portable game are a bit on the short side, are more for short bursts, and not long winded like on a normal console game. This is all fine and dandy and doesn’t do to much damage to the experience, but is something that takes some time to get used to.
Of course, outside of the storyline you can always wander around Vice City causing havoc wherever you feel necessary, and jacking cars like they are all yours. This still remains to me anyways the most important and impressive part of the GTA sandbox experience. In the end, Vice City Stories does not bring anything new to the Playstation 2 that we haven’t already seen, and in many cases done better on previous GTA titles. This game definitely has it’s moments, but the story seems thin and the missions nowhere near as engaging as some of the previous game either.
I believe there are two core areas that a developer would need to look at when porting a game from the handheld to the console. First is the controls and secondly the visuals, which would have to be upscaled when making the transition to the Playstation 2. The visuals from this transition in Vice City Stories looks to have been overlooked, as the game feels dated and at times just downright ugly. The character models aren’t bad, but they definitely could have used a bit more work on details, which seems much too blocky in comparison to what we have become accustomed to. Also the environments are missing a lot of touches of detail, which make the game feel much more bland than the normal GTA experience.
Vice City Stories is still a Grand Theft Auto title, and with that comes a few things, but most importantly is the great sandbox action. Even though we have seen most of the gameplay before in this game, it doesn’t necessarily make the game a less enjoyable experience. Quite the opposite actually, as I still found a ton of fun in taking out the locals, stealing cars, and above all else causing havoc in Vice City. The story I believe is one of the weakest links in the game, and one of the weakest the series has seen in quite some time. And even with the fun that you get out of this game, there is still a lot to be desired.
The final product of GTA: Vice City Stories on the PS2 feels to me to much like a port than a solid console title. Also when you have the original Vice City and San Andreas offering up more elaborate sandbox experiences, it makes this game a bit tougher to sell. But if you have not played the handheld version, this title can be a decent choice to complete your GTA library.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.