Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review
Rockstar and GTA brings the Eighties to your iOS and Android device thanks to this anniversary edition of Vice City
Arguably the most memorable game within the GTA franchise for the brilliant soundtrack, cool central characters and intricate cityscape, the launch of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on to mobile devices was always going to come with some fanfare. This was the game that managed to take the series a step up after the reinvention of open-world sandbox gaming that took place in GTA III, which is already available on iOS and Android devices.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the original release (yes, it really was that long ago) Rockstar has given its own take on the Eighties a polish and presented it back to the fans otherwise unchanged. All the main story missions are there, as well as the Rampage and Vigilante side missions, so you’re never short of ways to make cash or just create some good old-fashioned carnage.
Much like GTA III, Rockstar has chosen not to tinker too much for what worked so well on console, so don’t expect to see an array of mobile-only features, although there is a nice touch where you can upload music from your device’s iTunes into the game and play it through the in-car radio, by selecting the Tape Deck option. Vice City also comes with iCloud saving, so if you start playing on your iPhone on the way home you can pick it up later on your iPad from the same spot. These are nice touches to help make for a better mobile experience, but are hardly central to your enjoyment of the game. That of course comes from the way it plays, and after some issues with the way GTA III handled there was hope that Rockstar would be able to make a better go of the touch controls this time around.
Sadly though this isn’t quite the case, with the crude driving controls still a major issue, especially when it comes to having to try and avoid police tyre spikes because you’re trying to flee the scene of a ‘disagreement’ with a gang member.
The trouble is that the steering controls are comprised of two buttons, left and right, and this feels really rudimentary when you’re trying to dodge traffic and the cops. In fact, it’s even noticeable and annoying when you’re simply cruising the streets. This is in stark contrast to being on foot, where the left side of the screen supports a floating joystick, while swipes on the right-hand side can toy with the angle of the camera. This in itself is not without issue, with the game often jumping back to an automatic camera angle when you try to pinch-zoom or adjust to see what’s behind you. On more than one occasion you might find yourself almost firing behind the camera, which is not great when trying to deal with the riot van-load of VCPD who have just shown up. It is worth noting that you can change the driving controls in the Settings section of the menu and have the same set-up as on foot, but be warned that there are still kinks to work through. Your next problem will be trying to target the right enemy once you’ve got your hands on some firepower. The game has an auto aiming system, which automatically locks-on to and fires at the nearest thing once you tap the fire button. This is okay in a police shoot-out on a deserted street, but should all hell break loose in the Malibu club you might find yourself shooting at civilians more than you are at the police or bad guys. This is an altered set-up to what we saw in GTA III where you had to hold down the shoot icon to trigger the targeting system. It’s more automatic this time, but as we’ve just discussed, this isn’t entirely a good thing.
There are still issues then to playing GTA on mobile devices, but even though you’ll be frustrated by the turning circle of vehicles and the deserted nature of the streets when searching for interaction (people to beat-up and steal money from), there is still a lot to be excited about. The novelty of having Vice City in your pocket won’t wear off for some time, and the Retina display polish that has been applied really does make a difference to the visual enjoyment of the game, even for the little impurities that were present in the original console title. That’s part of the reason we love GTA – beyond the expansive world and mindless violence – the rough-around-the-edges character builds and entertaining voice acting. It’s all still here, and now with that fantastic Eighties soundtrack to go with it.
Still carrying issues, but it’s also still GTA, on your smartphone or tablet – and that is worth celebrating.
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