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Grand Theft Auto III was arguably the most influential game of the early ‘00s, ushering in a new age of huge open worlds and criminal anti-heroes, and its release on iOS earlier this year was a pretty significant achievement for mobile gaming. Where GTAIII pioneered, however, its sequels refined and perfected — and just as it did 10 years ago, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City improves on its trailblazing predecessor in nearly every imaginable way.
Set in a Miami-inspired, neon-drenched metropolis, Vice City delivers a bigger focus on story, with an actual fleshed-out protagonist — Mafia outcast Tommy Vercetti, voiced by Ray Liotta — who claws his way up through an ‘80s underworld that’s equal parts Scarface and Miami Vice. The city is bigger and more colorful than GTAIII’s, and therefore more fun to explore — something you can do by driving around at high speeds, piloting boats through its waterways, or running around on foot, terrorizing pedestrians with a chainsaw. The vehicle physics feel more realistic, the in-game radio stations sport an impressive selection of licensed ‘80s hits, and there’s also more to do than there was in GTAIII, whether it’s jumping over buildings on motorcycles, buying up properties (some of which come with their own sets of story missions), or — eventually — freely flying planes and helicopters high above the city’s rooftops.
Some of the game’s luster has worn off in the decade since it was introduced — the in-game characters in particular haven’t aged well, and the iOS version occasionally has weird audio glitches and visual stuttering — but Vice City is still surprisingly fun and playable. The somewhat clunky touchscreen controls take some getting used to, and some features, like aiming firearms by tapping on targets, are easy to miss. However, the atmospheric city, involving story, and sheer amount of content on offer make learning the controls worth the effort. The iOS version also comes with a few welcome additions, like cloud saving (which lets players effortlessly transfer their progress between iOS devices) and the ability to instantly restart failed missions instead of having to backtrack to the mission marker. Assuming you don’t mind a little (OK, a lot of) bloody violence and amoral criminality in your games, Vice City remains a must-play.
The bottom line. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is still an impressively huge, detailed game, and in spite of a few minor issues, it’s just as violent, stylish, and fun on iOS as it was when it debuted.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 1.0
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later (optimized for iPhone 5)
Near-perfect port of one of the greatest open-world games ever made. Fantastic ‘80s soundtrack is fully intact. Cloud saving means you won’t have to pick between devices.
Awkward controls, with no support for gamepads. Some audiovisual hiccups. Visuals haven’t aged particularly well.