GTA: Vice City Stories

Grand Theft Auto is back to claim the PSP throne - but is VCS more of the same or a handheld revolution?

One year on and Grand Theft Auto - with all its hundreds of buildings, flowing traffic and bantering pedestrians - is still an incredibly impressive sight running on the PSP. This time around of course, Rockstar's portable follow-up takes place in the 80s era and location of Miami - erm, Vice City, and it's looking even more visually stunning than before.

Most of the reasons Liberty City Stories impressed us are in the pastel-shaded follow-up - it's still hard to believe that there's a fully functioning GTA game running on Sony's handheld, and Vice City Stories certainly doesn't pull any punches - in fact, it's arguably the most impressive looking game on the PSP.

This time around you play as Vic Vance, the soldier brother of unfortunately-named Vice City sidekick, Lance Vance. The action takes place a number of years before the original PS2 game, meaning not everything is as you remembered it in the old Miami-eseque city, a giant ferris wheel among the unfamiliar landmarks you'll find.

GTA's famous 'sandbox' gameplay is in full operation, and you can go anywhere and do anything just as in previous series instalments - only this time there's JetSkis and ATV's to tear around in. But the real meat of VCS is of course the missions, which Rockstar has carefully modified to suit gaming on the go.

A common complaint about Liberty City Stories' missions is that they were too short, but instead of making Vice City's too long and unsuitable for a quick tube stop shoot-up, Rockstar has made them slightly more complex and action-packed, with more vehicle-swapping and shoot-outs going on than in LCS' sometimes simple 'drive from A to B' affairs.

One mission for example, has you carrying out a drug deal by the ocean which predictably goes horribly wrong, and you end up chasing a boat along the waterfront. Thanks to a carefully placed ramp you leap onto the ship, shoot up it's inhabitants and snatch the loot for a job well done - and all of that in less than ten minutes of bite-sized gameplay.

Another great example is a mission that takes you to a mansion packed with bikini-clad henchwomen, and after finishing off a massive hussy fire-fight you're off to the beach for an ATV chase with the big boss. The chase itself is as impressive as GTA action comes - the ATV in front lobbing grenades in your path as his passenger takes pot-shots at our ride. A low-flying chopper eventually adds to the chaos, but thankfully our shooting skills bag the bad guy before we reach a dirty, propeller-fuelled end.

Again, here in ten minutes of gameplay we'd had more gunfights and action than most Lethal Weapon films get through in an hour. The variety of missions at least is certainly more satisfying than anything offered in Liberty City.

But just because the locale is familiar doesn't mean Rockstar hasn't made some big additions to the GTA formula - quite the opposite in fact. The empire-building feature, whilst reminiscent to the business-purchasing shenanigans in the PS2 game, is a significant addition to the series and adds a lot of depth to the gameplay as well.

After taking out rival operations, you have the option of setting up shop and developing one of your own businesses from one of six types, including loan sharking, prostitution and drug running. Businesses are a great way of raking in the cash and also offer optional side-missions, which further bolster the 'sandbox' nature of GTA and potentially add hours of additional gameplay.

Expectedly, our only issues with Vice City Stories remain the same as with the last game - and they're mostly to do with the PSP itself. VCS, for the most part, controls painfully; lock-on combat most of the time has Vic flailing like a mentalist, the analogue-nub is increasingly uncomfortable after extended play and camera controls are equally iffy.

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