Consoles might be overflowing with Grand Theft Auto clones, but on the PSP, the original is still king. And while imitators like The Godfather and Scarface have been reduced to lame exercises in turn-based strategy, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories reasserts the series' dominance with another sprawling, open-world crime spree.
Set in 1984 (two years before GTA: Vice City), Vice City Stories stars Victor Vance, a career soldier who's set up for a fall by his commanding officer and kicked out of the army. Vic's a decent guy, but when circumstances (and his idiot brother Lance) force him into a life of crime, he gradually goes from upstanding citizen to reluctant kingpin.
His story is as compelling and well-written as any other GTA plotline, but what's more interesting is the game around it. Unlike last year's Liberty City Stories, VCS isn't some pared-down shadow of the console GTAs. The city is much bigger, the missions are longer (and much, much harder), there's a lot more to do and the game delivers nearly everything you'd expect from a full-sized Grand Theft Auto. We're talking freely accessible helicopters and boats, recruitable gang members. carjacking, big guns and more ultraviolent mayhem and insane police chases than you can shake a dead hooker at.
At the same time, VCS introduces new gameplay elements, including one apparently ganked from its competition: "Empire Building," which enables you to attack, take over and manage illegal rackets run by rival gangs. It feels less involved than buying up businesses in the PS2 GTA s, but it drives home the idea that you're a mid-level crime boss instead of just a hired thug.