Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Ten Year Anniversary
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What a strange thing it is to find ourselves reminiscing about a game that ten years ago was the ultimate nostalgia experience for gamers who grew up in the 80s, honing their gaming skills on primitive hardware to the soundtrack of a Billboard chart that was eclectic to say the least. At the time of Vice City's original release in 2002, this ambitious game felt like a salute to the early bedroom warriors, and a glorious celebration for developers and gamers alike to say "Look how far we've come".
This Ten Year Anniversary edition of the game follows on from last year's port of Grand Theft Auto 3, another game that marked the passing of a decade in games development. The first bit of good news for this latest release is that where GTA 3 frustrated with its controls, Vice City's have been tightened up considerably, with customizable layouts for the size and placement of every element on the screen, and for every gameplay occasion whether on wheel or foot.
While the automatic targeting system takes much of the pain out of firing weapons, the melee combat system is still very fiddly, although you can't say its not faithful to the original release in that regard. The much-maligned RC missions provide perhaps the fairest barometer for the state of the controls here, and in a single attempt we were able to comfortably shave more than a minute off the seven minute timer attached to the first of these missions.
It's not just the controls that are for the most part improved either as Vice City has never looked this crisp, pristine and smooth. The three-island backdrop to Tommy Vercetti's rise to power and criminal domination glows with brighter neon hues, more fluid character models and animations, and a complete absence of the traveling blur effect that marred the original PlayStation 2 release. For a direct comparison, watch the unoptimized intro cinematic to realize the progress that's been made.
As well as what is arguably the series' finest soundtrack, with its mix of New Wave, rock, Cuban funk and chatter, this re-release reminds us that GTA's satire used to have a sharper edge to it too. The humor lavished upon the game's public radio and chat-show stations veers between ridiculous and sublime, but is always crucially subtler than in later games. Whether highlighting the insincere sincerity of politicians, or the man who loves his zoo animals just a little too much, the end result is razor-sharp.
If Rockstar continues to follow the pattern of re-releasing these PlayStation 2 masterpieces in anniversary editions, then we can expect to get our hands on the series' most expansive sequel, San Andreas, in 2014. While the progress made to the mobile GTA experience doesn't quite yet represent perfection, it is nevertheless significant, and this wonderful port will keep you entertained for much of the wait between now and CJ's next trip home.
The Android version of the game has been removed from Google Play due to a critical validation error. We'll add a download link to this article as soon as it becomes available again.
What's Hot: An outstanding port of the much-loved PlayStation 2 classic, with slicker visuals, improved controls, and one of videogaming's finest soundtracks.
What's Not: While a great deal of progress has been made to the controls, busy melee encounters still have the power to frustrate.