The camera swoops, the sun flares and, unexpectedly, we're face-to-face with Vic Vance - the star of GTA: Vice City Stories - a 28-year-old ex-soldier and brother of Lance, your wisecracking, backstabbing, partner from GTA: Vice City. We're looking at the PSP version for the first time, but as Vic carjacks an open top Stinger and roars down Ocean Drive to the opening chords of New Order's Blue Monday (Not confirmed for the soundtrack, but...) the same feel-good, neck-hair prickling, vibes come rushing back.
While GTA3 was more focused, moody and groundbreaking; GTA: San Andreas more technically accomplished, epic and diverse, Vice City's still our favourite GTA game. It's the vibe - the sheer trashy, pastel, sun-licked decadence of it all. GTA: VCS is set two years before the PS2 game, with a more industrial edge, but the chintzy, escapist feel remains.
THE VICE IS RIGHT
After seeing two full missions - see 'Say Cheese' below- we're optimistic about Vice City Stories. Technically, it's a big leap over GTA: LCS, with diverse pedestrians (LCS suffered from 'clumping' - groups of identical characters), relatively impressive draw-distances (for PSP) and vibrant hues. The loading times between sections, like when crossing the bridge, are even faster than PS2. GTA: VCS might be an elegant retread of old turf - but it's no less welcome a holiday.
A graphical leap over GTA: LCS, with a new story and the promise of new game modes - déjà vu is the only cloud on Vice City Stories' horizon.