When Grand Theft Auto 3 hit the video game scene over a decade ago, it caused a pretty big splash with its shift to 3D action as well as the elaborate (for its time) narrative being weaved in Liberty City. However, I think Rockstar really started to hit its stride when it released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Similarly, when GTA3 [$2.99] debuted on iOS last year, we thought it was a pretty good port of the PS2 title with the exception of its touch controls. However, with the release of GTA: Vice City [$2.99], Rockstar has delivered a refined port with improved controls, nuanced improvements to the visuals and gameplay, all with the great story and totally awesome soundtrack that made it popular ten years ago. Other than some lingering control issues, Vice City is well worth checking out for a blast to the past.

If you're one of the few people that have never been exposed to a Grand Theft Auto game, I'd advise you to check out our review of GTA3 for a quick recap in regards to general gameplay rules and overarching story architecture. In regards to Vice City, the same open-world freedom to do whatever you want still exists and translates well to iOS. New features such as an improved auto-save function, the ability to instantly replay a mission if you fail, and iCloud save compatibility make this version a bit more friendly to play in this day and age (and even has a few tricks that GTA3 iOS didn't have when it first came out).

Just as was the case with GTA3, folks playing Vice City will experience a deluge of on-screen virtual buttons. Some buttons are contextual and only appear when they need to (such as the carjacking button), while others (such as the virtual joystick for movement) are always present. While the button schemes look intimidating for the initiative, Rockstar has put a lot of work into trying to make the situation bearable. While some folks averse to virtual buttons will still be turned off, for others it mostly succeeds.

For starters, every button and on-screen element (including the mini-map, tutorial messages, and health bars) can be moved around the screen in any way you wish. In addition, buttons can be resized to various levels, allowing you to make actions that are important to you stand out more. Additional options like left-handed options, auto-aim tap-to-shoot (which will remove one button from your screen) and tap-to-aim round out the control options. Tap-to-aim in particular is an interesting addition, as it replaces the previous toggle aim found in the console version and works well with the innate auto-aim to make taking out bad guys easier.

While the above options will alleviate some of the issues with touch-based controls, the simple truth is that it can't fix everything. Just as is the case with previous ports, there's a certain amount of precise movement and reaction lost with the lack of tactile input. This issue becomes a problem particularly during the heavy action sequences, such as when you have to take on multiple enemies head-on or when you're in a chase mission having to damage or destroy another car. Also, the heavy reliance on auto-aim also shows that the developers recognize that it's simply harder to play these types of games on iOS devices.

Otherwise, Vice City plays like you'd expect for an iOS port. Visuals are improved but not in a drastic manner (there's only so much that can be done with graphics originally conceived a decade ago). In addition, the phenomenal soundtrack remains my most favorite port of the game, with a stellar selection of themed radio stations full of 80s hits everyone should know. As with the console version, you'll get a lot of enjoyment simply driving around Vice City listening to every radio station. It's also important to remember that this is the full version of Vice City in all its glory, with tons of content, hidden items, side missions, and a whole city to explore.

A lot of the appeal from playing ports on iOS is the simple fact that you get to play whatever the game is on your phone regardless of any pratfalls that emerge from the translation process. With GTA: Vice City it also helps that the developers have put a lot of time and effort into attempting to address the issues that have occurred during the porting process. Sure, the controls are still not ideal for an iOS game, but they work and allow you to experience the awesomeness of the game. There's also the simple fact that Vice City is an amazing game in most regards. In this regard, the high points far outweigh the control issues, making Vice City for iOS a no brainer for most gamers.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nikus2k Nuno Lourenço

    chopper 2 is 0.99$ goo for it

  • B3nlok

    Weird, I was under the impression that there was already a Vice City review.
    @Nuno
    What does that have anything to do with the VC review?
    Cheapskate

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikus2k Nuno Lourenço

    I'll buy the vice city when it is $ 0.99

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnnewton29 John Newton

      Our children will have people like you to thank when all the talented devs finally give up chasing the dream of making a profit in the itunes store, and we are left with a barren wasteland of temple run clones and hill climbers.

    • metalcasket

      You sir, are what's wrong with iOS gamers. Thank you for nothing.

      • Daveiszzzzzzz

        Wtf? R* is not gonna go broke over a few people waiting for a price drop. Why do "gamers" not understand that we're all consumers? I try to pay full-price for games when it's viable for me, but otherwise you don't owe the developers anything. Especially when it's friggin' Rockstar!

      • MidianGTX

        Apparently we don't owe developers money in exchange for goods and services anymore. Nobody told me.

        If you think this is just about Rockstar you're kinda missing the bigger picture. Have a chat with some devs on the forum, they'll tell you how messed up the App Store is.

      • Daveiszzzzzzz

        $0.99 is still an exchange for a good/service. Again, as a consumer its pretty fair/smart to wait for a price-drop unless you're some raging fanboy/just have to play it right away.

        I'm aware that other great devs struggle to make a buck on the app store, but this specifically is about a Rockstar game, and thus kind of the wrong place to bring that up. Man, a Grand Theft Auto game of all things to complain about not purchasing at full price...do you really think Rockstar struggles to sell these games?

        p.s. i paid and played for polara hahahaha

      • Daveiszzzzzzz

        woops, double post

      • Smigit

        Developers created the 'race to the floor' pricing scheme through setting their own prices low, having $0.99 sales which created expectations that games could be had for that price and through adopting other business models such as freemium or ad driven revenue models.

        Consumers never set the $0.99 price point, the developers did. Consumers may have the expectation it is sustainable, but that was only after developers pushed it first.

      • airwa1k

        So what your saying is that I should feel bad that I didn't buy a game at full price? It must be nice to live in your mansion and drive your moms expensive car.

  • godofodd

    GTA: VC is fantastic on iOS. It's especially good if you have an iPad or an iPad mini, as the added screen real estate gets your fingers out of the way. Challenging missions like the RC helicopter are totally doable. I highly recommend this game.

  • Jeff432

    I'm a huge GTA fan, but this port isn't very fun, mostly because it doesn't really feel like it was designed for iOS.

    My favorite GTA game for iOS, which is also my favorite iOS game in general, is Gameloft's Gangstar Rio game. That game is over a year old, but it's still a really fun game that's better than GTA VC in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/hunterfdavis Hunter

    Just bought this app and it's definitely worth it. Feels a lot smoother than GTA3 for iOS, too. (Maybe it's the fact that one is optimized for iPhone 5 and the other isn't.) Either way, great game.

  • androidislame

    Goodness douches get over it...$5 is a great price for a game.... Wait for it to come on sale or not... Who cares lol.... But honestly there is a reason why vita games and ps3 games cost more.... They are also much bigger games... Quit bitching.... The games have come a long way and honestly need to be rewarded so they make profit because other developers will come into get their piece of the pie... Competition = better and better games... And then maybe gameloft will get some damn actual customer support.... But quit being douches on these sites... U dont like it get a droid and get ignored by all developers

  • ImJPaul

    A really great port and opens up realms of possibilities. If we can run games like this then we should be able to get other very epic ports. Love Rockstar for all the great work they've done for all of the iOS gamers out there.

  • dönerkatz

    Loved to play through this game again. The port is done extremely well and really leaves no wishes open. Correction, one wish left open: game center integration. How awesome would it be to have a global leaderboard for race times? Or criminal rating? Or boats destroyed? I mean all the statistics are there anyway, why not use them? That little extra effort would have made it perfect for me. Still almost perfect as it is.

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash BulkSlash

    This is a fantastic port of Vice City, and for the first time I've actually gone to the trouble of finding all the hidden packages, jumps, rampages, etc to get 100%. I even found some stuff I had no idea was in there, like the different events at the Hymen Memorial Stadium or the rapid reload unlocked at the firing range.

    I would actually go so far as to say the controls are better than the PS2 version as the touch screen gives me much better accuracy and sensitivity when using the virtual joystick compared to the massive dead zones on the PS2's analogue sticks.

    The only thing trickier on the iOS version are the helicopters as you really need an extra thumb to control the rotation, which was more easily accessed via shoulder buttons on the PS2 version, but it's not a huge impediment.

    It's great to have iCloud saving too as it let me jump between my iPad 3 and iPad mini. It would have been nice to include my iPhone 5 in that list but for some reason it steadfastly refuses to see my iPad cloud saves. I don't think that's Rockstar's fault though as my iPhone also won't sync Pages/Numbers/Keynote either.

  • leezypeezy

    Well worth the trip down memory lane;)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    See that Square? $4.99. For a full port of a game with BETTER GRAPHICS AND MORE CONTENT.

  • BigDaddyMJones

    Amazing game!!! Quit bitching about it being $4.99... Dear God. When the hell did 5 bucks become expensive for anything??

  • theSCOOB

    The pop up sucks. I don't remember this game 10 years ago having cars pop up out of the blue. I swear there is like a 8 car length draw distance. Horrible .

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesse.flannery.98 Jesse Flannery

    i have noticed some content has been taken out

    like the hotring racer and the deluxo and a few more items

    • Raidriar

      I'm not sure that's true, this is a direct port, and upon finishing the Sunshine Auto events, the Hotring racer, the Deluxo, the Sandking, the Sabre [Turbo I believe], and all the others began spawning there.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5