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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Rockstar Games
Rockstar North
GENRE: Adventure
October 31, 2003
Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Genno  on November 20, 2003

Full Review: Double the hits!

How did Microsoft really get two of the biggest PS2 titles for the Xbox, I wonder?? Did they smash away at a Sony employee's car to show they mean business or did they leave a horse's head in the bed of a Rockstar programmer just to prove a point?? Either way both the mega popular Grand Theft Auto III and its big semi-sequel Grand Theft Auto: Vice City are finally here on the Xbox!? Although the game play remains unchanged from their PS2 originals, there are a few new improvements exclusive to the Xbox editions that Playstation2 owners won't see in their Double Pack.? ?So listen up all you's wise guys!?? Here are some of the Xbox improvements for not just one but both games:

  • The graphics have been cleaned up a little so cars have better effects like glare and reflections, character models also have smoother textures and more realistic figures, and finally the colours are also much sharper now as well.
  • Got any custom soundtracks?? You have the option to listen to your very own music (if they are downloaded on your Xbox hard drive) on the game's radio.
  • Faster loading times so you can get to the action even faster.
  • Brand new control set ups to fit the Xbox controller.
Some Xbox fans may remember that we were once going to get Grand Theft Auto III a few years ago since the publishers of the Grand Theft Auto titles (RockStar games) were third party supporters of Microsoft's Xbox.? The plan was already set and Grand Theft Auto III was to come out shortly after it arrived on the Playstation2 during the 2001 holiday season.? ?It didn't happen!?? Although Grand Theft Auto III wasn't very well hyped, the 3D game about a skilled car-jacker looking for revenge became instantly popular by word of mouth and it started to sell like crazy.? Sony knew a good thing when they saw it and they wanted to make the Grand Theft Auto series a console exclusive for the next two years.? The GTA PS2 exclusive worked like wild fire and not only did Grand Theft Auto III go on to sell a whopping 6 million copies, the next year RockStar games would strike gold again with highly successful follow up Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.? Because the two biggest titles of 2001 and 2002 were only on the one system, it sure helped the PS2 to easily out sell the Xbox and GameCube in the respective years.? Thanks to the Sony deal though we Xbox owners got screwed out of not one but two awesome titles.

Well, it's time up for the Sony only contract and now Rockstar games is ready to delivery some GTA action to hungry Xbox owners.? If you're one of the few gamers out there who has not tried these adventures yet then get ready for some of the most violent, most open ended video games in history. Don't forget these games come complete with an impressive radio music system that has yet to be equalled.

Here's a rundown on what these titles are all about:


For many gamers part III was their first Grand Theft Auto video game.? The previous GTA 2D games had all the wild, and therefore very controversial content of the newer titles here but many gamers hated the awkward controls and fixed overhead perspective that went along with it.? I never really played the 2D GTA myself or at least not for very long anyway but with Grand Theft Auto III it's a whole different story.? GTA 3 not only offers an all new 3 dimensional look that really helped to bring the action to life but the game has so many locations, vehicles, and weapons that it actually feels like you'll in a real crime infested city.? GTA III brings a lot to the table and that's why people love it.


The edgy story begins as you see your character fleeing the scene after a successful bank heist.? Just as he is about to make it to the getaway car though, his girlfriend points a gun at your character and says ?Sorry babe but I'm an ambitious girl.? You're just small time!? and then shoots you!? Although you managed to survive the gunshot, you still took the fall for the heist and you have been sentenced to prison for a very long time.? Lucky thing for you though that Liberty City is in chaos at the moment and you were able to get free after a bridge attack on your trip to jail.? You now have the chance to get your revenge.? This scene stays the same as the Playstation2 game and I wish they touched it up even more because it still looks pretty bad but more about the graphics later.

Are you really just a mere small time crook like your ex-girlfriend said or are you the man who is going to get so powerful in the underground world that you will run Liberty City?? You have to work yourself up from rock bottom first and the more missions you complete then the more access you get to different parts of the town.? Just like the name implies you can steal any car on the road if you need to and the all it takes is a simple button press to get in whether or not somebody is already in the driver's seat.? The beauty of GTA III is the type of vehicles you can pick from: Taxi's, Trucks, Cop cars, a Mr. Whoopie Ice Cream truck, and you can even jack a giant tank to complete your various missions.? Your ?jobs' start off easy enough so you learn the basics but as the game progress each mission gets tougher and more complex.? These assignments usually mean you have to wrack somebody and then make a quick escape while avoiding the very aggressive cops.? You are also freely able to run over (innocent or not) people here too which is something that isn't seen in too many console video games because of the risk of being banned.? Other games like Crazy Taxi 3 have the bystanders run away just in time nick of time, but not here.

The game still looks great thanks to the huge scale of Liberty City but why wasn't the animation improved as well for the Xbox??? Just look what happens when your character goes for a simple thing like a jump, it still looks very jerky.? There are other games like the crime drama the Getaway and Protect Gotham Racing 2 that have superior graphics but at least Rockstar focused more on the game's interactive environment rather then on its looks.? That's not to say that Grand Theft Auto III is ugly though.? Rockstar really went out of their way to create their own virtual city because the game is filled all sorts of gritty alley-ways, cleverly named stores, and high rise buildings.


Sure, driving and running over morons that get in the way is a lot of fun but what about the music, uh?? Why not jam up the radio after a successful car jack?? Xbox GTA III gets no less then 10 different Radio stations to pick from and there are stations that feature everything like classical and specially made retro tracks, to cool rock and reggae stations too.? GTA III also has an odd K-Chat station where fictional callers call in only to talk about the dumbest things I've ever heard!? For example: ?Guns don't kill people, death kills people!?? The extra station Xbox players get is the access to your own Custom soundtracks, which is a nice surprise.

Grand Theft Auto III may seem like just another driving game to the untrained eye but there is so much more you can do other than just that driving around that it blows the mind.? Heck, you can even pick up hookers on the side of the street if you want to regain some lost health while the car is bouncing away.? I'm not kidding!? These two games are rated ?M' (Mature) for a very good reason so keep the kids far away.? This was also the first time the series was done in true 3D and believe it or not the game was actually easier to control now too which is usually the opposite when a game makes the leap to the third dimension.? Grand Theft Auto III lets you make big money, explore a seemingly real virtual city, collect over 70 unique vehicles, and of course get even with that rotten ex-girlfriend of yours.? It may be for mature audiences only but that didn't stop it from being one of the biggest games of 2001.


Before I start this part of the review, I just saw a ?Do not make illegal copies of this disc' statement on the game disc here.? I thought Rockstar games would encourage more illegal copies in the spirit of Grand Theft, eh?? ?Oh well, on with the review!?

Grand Theft Auto III was not only thee biggest game of the 2001
Holiday season but it even continued to sell well in 2002!? GTA III even out sold other big names like Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and even the Xbox's acclaimed Halo, now that's impressive, eh?? GTA III has even sold over 6 million copies and it hasn't even seen the light of day in Japan. The company behind the madness, Rockstar games, did something new with their follow up title.? Instead of making a full-blown GTA 4, they created a semi-sequel that used the same game engine but had a completely different theme.? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City gives us more of what we loved about last year's big game but now we are back in the 80's! "Yes!? The 1980's, the greatest decade of all Time is back!!"? The game has an all new look, new radio music, and of course all new weapons and means of transportation to steal away to get your various jobs done.? So is this game a dream come true for those GTA fans or is it just another wimpy rehash of a popular game?


The world of Vice City is in a fictional area of Florida (does anybody remember the old TV show Miami Vice?) and you play the role of gangster Tommy Vercetti (no more nameless anti-hero this time).? Tommy has had a hard life so far and it's about to get worse for the guy.? Tommy just got out of prison after serving a long 15-year sentence and his newest 'job' is to score up some white gold (cocaine) in a trade for big cash at Vice City. Things go horribly wrong when Tommy gets set up during the big trade which leaves him penniless, drugless, and in big trouble with the Forelli Crime Family who originally gave him the assignment to begin with.? Tommy must do whatever it takes to get any info, get his money back, and get some revenge on the people who screwed him in the huge Vice City.? Sure, it's a Video Game but make no mistake it's not for kids and it deserves that big 'M' rating, so you parents shouldn't be quick to buy it even though it may be the hottest Xbox collection of the season (I can remember when some stupid parents would take their kids to see the Blair Witch Project a few years ago).


What makes this Grand Theft Auto so different then part III is not only the new mostly sunny location filled with huge palm trees and urban hotels, but also the time period has changed as well. Vice City is set in the year 1986 and Rockstar games did an excellent job in recreating the era I once lived though.? The cell phones are gigantic, everyone looks peppy, and the radio stations even play all 80's music (more on that later).? You'll see Tommy and others dressed in 80's fashions like expensive suits and you'll also see the streets laced with shiny corvettes and girls in bikinis.? The game even loads up like a Commodore64 game in one of the opening intermissions!? "Gotta love that, uh?!" What hasn't changed in this GTA game is the fact that Tommy is good at the 'art of Car Jacking'.? If you see something you like then you can just take it with a simple ?Y' press, and if somebody is driving it just throw them out of the car or whatever to get your new wheels (you may want to stay away from the cop cars though)!?

You can even steal scooters and motorcycles this time by simply knocking out the rider(s) at a stop sign. I highly recommend this because it's funny to see them get knocked off their bikes and it's even better when you get thrown off yourself after going 50 miles per hour.? There are nearly a 100 different vehicles here alone and there's bound to be something here for everyone because you can 'borrow' anything from a Golf Cart to a super quick Helicopter in the game.? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City isn't all about stealing cars, Tommy can just as easily walk around to get where he's going like in other 3D games like Super Mario Sunshine and Metal Gear Solid 2, it's just going to take a lot longer to run around the city of course.? Sometimes it's cool to look around any back alley where your cars can't go to see if you can find any secret stuff like weapons, body armour, and a 100 special packages lying around all over the place.? Everything helps!


Tommy can even do odd jobs to help get some extra cash.? Drive Taxis to collect fares, Deliver Pizzas, Drag Race, even help cops by beating up other wanted criminals (other than yourself of course) on the run.? Believe me you're going to need all the cash you can get!? If things don't go so well for Tommy and you get wasted or busted by the cops then you still get to continue your game but you will lose your weapons and some of your cash too. Money can be used to buy things like weapons from Ammu-nation, paint jobs can be used to confuse the coppers, and certain real estate areas too like the Pole Position (a cleverly named strip club).? You can easily get several cool weapons like a screwdriver, guns, and even a chainsaw just by searching around.? If you're in hurry or something then just head to a store and see what they got but it will cost ya of course.


Like in any 3D universe, the controls do take some getting use to. The whole controller is used for various actions like jumping and jacking and the controls are changed while driving and flying of course but once learned the game becomes second nature.? I would advise learning the complete set up before you go on a tougher mission or you may be lost on how to do things like drive bys and lock ons.? "I didn't go to Law school for this!"


Before I talk about the graphics here; PLEASE! Turn off the blur motion effect by pressing start and changing the display before you start your game.? This will increase the frame rate and make the game easier to see.? Other than then that Vice City runs on the same engine as part III did and that means a lot of the problems of the past game's like pop up in the distance and the animation can look a little sloppy at times, those issues are still here. The action also slowdowns a little if there is too much on screen but it's nothing too heavy. There are several great things about the looks here like the character models are now much better looking and the facial expressions are quite impressive in the cinemas. The in game textures are not only realistic but they're also very colourful, which really helped to bring out this crazy decade.? Many of the buildings are filled with cool neon signs that glow pink at night.? You'll also notice lots of great little touches, such as the glint of sunshine off the windows of nearby cars. Vice City excels in style because part III really had no real theme to it.


Vice City was one of the best sounding games for the Playstation2 and now it's easily one of the best sounding Xbox games too!? Although a lot of video games out there use text to bring the story to life, this game is all voice acted like in the last game and even the main guy (Tommy) talks this time.? Tommy Vercetti has tons more personality then the other guy in GTA III and he is even played by famous actor Ray Liotta.? Tommy's not only well acted but he's not afraid to mouth off to the many crazy citizens here.? If you're not too sure who Ray Liotta is then maybe you may recognize some of these big names like: Burt Reynolds (Cannon Ball Run, Strip Tease, Evening Shade), Dennis Hopper (Super Mario Bros the movie), Jenna Jameson who plays as Candy Suxxx (a famous porn star in real life), and many more actors!? Vice City easily has one of the biggest lists of stars in any video game to date!? The game is also filled with realistic sound effects like the scraping of a car next to a concrete wall, or gunfire, and they're outstanding. The cars even sound different in the distance.


That awesome radio service from GTA III is back in Vice City, for whatever you're driving!? To go with the game's theme, every station now has an 80's feel to it. There is an amazing set of 9 stations to pick from and each has nearly an hour worth of music or chat for your listening pleasure!? Vice City uses real music too which is worth the price of the game alone.? You'll hear tracks from such big names like Michael Jackson's Billie Jean on Flash FM, Run DMC's Rock Box on Wild Style, Foreigner's Waiting for a girl like you on Emotion 98.3, and so many more.? Just get a load of all the big groups and singers here like Blondie, Bryan Adams, Ozzy Osborne, Loverboy, just to name a few.? There is something here for everybody!? The '80s music found on the stations really helps set the feel for the game.? Vice City radio also comes with two fictional talk radio stations if you want a good laugh.? K-Chat returns with it's over the top local celebrity interviews hosted by a clueless chick.? The new VCPR Pressing Issues is the city's way to talk about their many problems but the guests are totally nuts with many radical ideas and the host is a former circus clown.? The effort alone for sound deserves a ten and it gets even better now that you use your own music too!


Sure, I liked Grand Theft Auto III but Vice City here is even better.? I absolutely loved going back into the 80's again in this cool game to see just how different life was back then.? It doesn't hurt that Vice City gives you so much freedom to do almost whatever you want either and that's been the GTA series greatest feature, (even if the first two games sucked big time) eh?? Sure, Vice City is a huge 3D game like GTA III with very similar graphics but it's still no rehash of the previous game like all those lame brain Street Fighter II games where, Vice City was entirely filled with new experiences so don't be afraid to play even if you already have mastered part III.? It's not perfect though, I hate that you can't Save during certain missions so you don't have to go through something boring or too easy all over again only to be killed off by something harder later on.? You also can't visit cool areas like the Airport right away because the bridges are off limits and you have to wait and spend to get access to a lot of the game's cooler places.? Another annoying thing is the constant traffic and cops just getting in the way all the time during an intense chase scene or something.? Those are only minor issues though and this game is perfect for Super Mario 64 type gamers looking for something more serious and the 80's idea are absolutely brilliant.? Vice City is a complete package of stylish graphics, hip music, and edgy game play for the adult gamers out there.

Both games come with complete city maps like their PS2 counterparts did and believe me you're going to need them because both games are absolutely huge.? Although it seems the Xbox versions would be superior to the wimpy 300 mega hertz wonder in every possible way, I did see one thing missing however from the earlier translations.? The thing that really seemed cool to me in the Playstation2 games was that you had the option to use either the Digital pad or the Analog stick to move around if you like.? Sadly the Digital pad isn't even used for moving your characters for some reason.? I missed having that option personally but others may care less about this issue because the games still control fine with the Analog regardless.

Bottom Line
The big question is should you buy a couple of old PS2 titles with only a few minor touch ups? That all depends on what type of gamer you are. If you're one of those people that has already played these two games to death, if so you may want to rent this package first just to see all the few improvements here and there because in all honesty, there just isn't enough new here to justify a full purchase again (maybe you're one of those lucky gamers who owns both systems). There are no special ?behind the scenes' or ?the making of' features, no bonus missions, and no other cool extras you would expect from a special DVD re-release. However if you are one of those gamers that viewed the two games from a far but never managed to buy the two, simply put Grand Theft Auto Double Pack is an incredible value for the Xbox owner especially if you never ever played these great titles before! These are two of the biggest video games of 2001 and 2002 and now they are complete in one set. It doesn't get any better then this! These two GTA games are also the current kings of the crime action trend, no doubt about it. You'll be hard pressed to find anything better in the category. If you haven't played either one yet then this complete package set is now the best place to start!

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