Growing up, Vice City was my favourite Grand Theft Auto instalment and one of my favourite games at the time. It might not have had that gritty underworld feeling that Grand Theft Auto III brought to the table, but Vice City's 80s aura and colourful characters was a significant increase in personality and a welcome breath of fresh air. Don't get me wrong, Grand Theft Auto III was brilliant but in my opinion took itself a bit too seriously.
It's a bit odd to think it's been ten years since we were first introduced to the 1980s styled crime haven that is Vice City. Back in 2002 we were satisfied with taking control of Tommy Vercetti on our consoles and now thanks to powerful portable devices and Rockstar's dedication to porting its classics, we can now revisit Vice City on the go on iOS and Android. Being able to explore the beach-skirted sprawl of Vice City--a recreation of 80s Miami--jam packed with even more distractions and side missions than its predecessor. Purchasing nightclubs, performing stunt runs, engaging in high speed chases in golf carts...it was nothing if not eccentric and I loved every minute of it.
While the voices are the same as the original, you’ll likely notice that Vice City has gotten a little makeover since your last visit. While the graphics stil fall short of some of mobile’s benchmarks, the world is sharper and characters have more detail than the 2002 release on the Playstation 2. The glaring orange hues of the Vice City sunset seem more vibrant than ever on a portable screen, showing us just how far we’ve come in a decade.
Playing this version of Vice City is a little different: there’s no controller anymore. Vice City embraces the touch screen, opting to abandon gamepad support with full touch and tap controls. Thanks to some improvements from the controls first put in place by the Grand Theft Auto 3 iOS port, Vice City controls quite well. Wherever you place your thumb on the left side of the screen, you’ll create a virtual joystick to control movement. Buttons on the right side allow you to run, jump, attack, and get into a vehicle. Some of the buttons are too small by default, especially the one that allows you to activate taxi or ambulance missions. Things like your horn and camera angle, likely deemed to be unimportant, have very small, almost unnoticeable buttons. You can customize the size and location of all the controls in the settings to fit your personal preferences.
While the controls work well and respond well, the combat still isn't as good as it should be, especially as a port ten years later. An auto-lock feature while firing your gun is a welcome addition but melee combat is bad. I found myself missing melee attacks, hitting the wrong person entirely...there just really isn't an excuse for this.
You'll definitely die a lot during this experience--make sure to remember that this is in fact an older Grand Theft Auto title, and any Grand Theft Auto IV styled expectations should be thrown out the window, or face disappointment. You'll be arrested as much as you die, but the police in Vice City have always been surprisingly lenient, as long as you don't tap their car with yours.
It's worth battling through those initial tricky moments with the controls because, as a game, Vice City is still enormously entertaining. Great characters and great stage-setting never lose their lustre and, even ten years on, this is still Grand Theft Auto at its mischievous best.