Rockstar games is offering their iconic hit Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to iOS and Android users to celebrate the games 10th anniversary, and all in all it’s a great game, however there are a few flaws which put a minor dampener on the game, but these flaws don’t take away from the playability too much.
The storyline remains the same as its big brother, set in America’s electronic 80’s you control mafia man Tommy Vercetti, whose charming boss decides to offload the protagonist to Vice City to oversee a drug deal that goes wrong, the game follows the ensuing problems you face for losing Mr. Forelli’s drugs and money.
The storyline is easy to follow despite the downsizing and whilst there are some hitches in the gameplay that hinders certain missions it is still easy enough go through the missions on your iPad, I’m not sure how easy it would be on the smaller format of an iPhone though. It is the minigames that I have found lend itself to the portable version rather well however, vigilante missions in emergency vehicles and ‘Rampage’ pick ups are particularly enjoyable and give the game that pick up and playability that a lot of mobile gamers crave.
In terms of visuals Vice City performs incredibly well, there might even be a claim that the graphics are better on iOS than on PS2, this leads to the game seeming identical to its big brother. I’ve only came across a few visual glitches and frame rate issues, which is impressive, and these issues are minor, they pass quickly and are almost unnoticeable.
Audio was something that gained the original game a lot of praise, with its cool soundtrack blasting through the radios of (normally) hijacked cars epitomising the best of the 80’s music scene and it is something the developers have transferred to the portable version well. All the classic songs are there, along with the hilarious DJs and their array of guests and waky advertisements. Environmental sounds have also clearly been given a lot of work and they run like a treat as well.
Okay I know I should have mentioned controls by now and you caught me, I was stalling, as unfortunately this is where the first small cracks start to show. The relative complexity of controlling Tommy with a Playstation pad has been swapped to a number of buttons around the screen, a floating control stick on the left moves your character and a number of icons on the right act as action buttons, all the basics like sprint/jump, get in and out of vehicles and shoot/ punch are there.
These controls are slightly better than the previous GTA III port due to the option of resizing them. This still doesn’t mean controlling Tommy is a walk in the park, it takes a while to get used to the controls, and even after a week of playing the game I still put a foot wrong here and there as I slightly misplace my thumb and turn right instead of left.
Aiming and shooting is an issue that was apparent in GTA III and it hasn’t been addressed for Vice City, auto aiming helps, but there is still too little control of which enemy (or unsuspecting civillian) the gun is aiming at and you can’t be sure who you’re going to hit until you start shooting and auto aim takes over. Missions in which a number of adversaries come at you this problem is heightened, as you must dispatch with enemies more in an order the game decides, rather than who poses you the most threat.
A second issue I had with controls comes when in vehicles, sometimes controlling speeding vehicles is fine and weaving through traffic is easy and enjoyable, however cornering and braking often result in the vehicle facing the wrong way, a minor annoyance when free roaming, somewhat more irritating when you’re in a car chase. The controls have been the cause of my death in the game a number of times, which is frustrating.
The other issue is with performance, however my word might not be the strongest to go on, I own an old iPad and the app has kicked me out a number of times, I’ve seen other people talking about the game and saying there was no issue on their iPad 3. The rebooting is something that happened with me on GTA III last year however, and that was still when my iPad was relatively new, so it might be a specific problem, however the game autosaves often so even you do experience the same problem it is simple to resume the game and there is little lost, so for me this isn’t really a deal breaker.
Summary: A must have for any fanatic of the franchise who can’t wait for GTA V to hit consoles. A complete bargain at £2.99 for a great game that manages to balance the large open ended format of the GTA series with the need to be able to jump in and play for mobile gamers. There are a few issues that stop this game being perfect, but really they’re to be expected on a game of this scale plus they don’t really interrupt gameplay too much.