If you've never played this '80s-infused entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, then you're in for a treat. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has finally arrived on mobile devices, right in time for its 10th Anniversary, and will have you nodding your head and saying, "Yeah. This is totally rad." Or maybe you'll be saying, "Nah, dude. This is totally bad. And not 'bad' in the 'good' sense."
I remember playing this beautiful game for the first time, about a decade ago, and just being blown away. As much as I loved Grand Theft Auto III, the Miami-inspired setting and the incredible soundtrack replaced any affection I had for the previous iteration while at the same time strengthening my appreciation for the series. Now that the game is available on iOS, complete with shiny new upgrades in terms of graphics, lighting, and touch and accelerometer controls, I'm positively elated.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a tale of revenge, redemption, and riches that take place in the unseen criminal underworld of Vice City. It stars Tommy Vercetti, a member of the Forelli mafia family, who is sent down to the coastal city to oversee a drug deal. Things go wrong and both the money and the drugs slip through Tommy's hands thanks to an ambush from a third party.
After he reports the loss to mafia boss Sonny Forelli, he's warned that the only reason why he's not a marked man is because of their friendship and history. Tommy then makes various contacts within Vice City to track down those who ambushed him, clear his name, and eventually build up his own empire down south.
I can't even find it in myself to tell you too much about the story, because it's such a fantastic love letter to all of the crime dramas in the '80s that you need to experience it for yourself. One of the most obvious references to the decade is the character Lance Vance, who is voiced by Miami Vice's own Philip Michael Thomas and is part of the game's star-studded voice cast.
Other notable actors in the game include Ray Liotta as Tommy, Tom Sizemore as Sonny Forelli, William Fichtner as lawyer Ken Rosenberg, Luis Guzman as Ricardo Diaz, Burt Reynolds as Avery Carrington, Danny Trejo as Umberto Rubina, Miss Cleo as Auntie Poulet (Auntie Chicken?), and the list goes on!
So while the story and much of the audio are the same, including the amazing '80s soundtrack with songs like Toto's "Africa", the biggest overhauls in the port have to do with the graphics and the controls. The game is absolutely gorgeous on a Retina screen, which really showcase the improved character models and lighting. The Floridian sun shimmers off the top of cars during certain times of the day and gives the game an almost renewed flair, even if just slightly. Characters have sharper lines and no longer look like a bunch of jagged polygons stacked on top of each other. I remember thinking that Tommy looked very chunky in the past, but the updated graphics seem to have given him a slimmer physique.
The controls are close to the same as the previous Grand Theft Auto III iOS port; they both feature floating thumbsticks which let you control your character on foot and a two button system for steering cars left and right. This is relatively easy and responsive, but combat controls can make the game tougher because the auto-aim function is a little wonky. Automatic lock-ons serve their purpose, but tapping to shoot doesn't feel tight enough to truly be useful. Still, it's probably the one minor mark against this title. However, driving around feels great. Whether you use the two-button controls or opt for a floating thumbstick, you'll always feel in control. If you feel like tilting your device around to drive, you can turn on the accelerometer mode. This wouldn't be my first choice for navigation, but it can work pretty well if used with the first-person camera. The only downside is using it while riding a motorcycle will probably cause you to hurl.
Overall, this game is an almost flawless port, and is possibly even better than the original game. Sure, they might not be the best, but the touchscreen controls work pretty damn well for what was a huge console game. Your ticket to fun in the virtual sun and sands of Vice City is only $4.99, so jump on it! I've personally got my sleeves rolled up and am primed to watch a few episodes of Miami Vice, just to really immerse myself in the experience. Stay bad, Arcade Sushi readers, because this game is like, totally awesome.