Archives by Day

December 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

GBA Review - 'Grand Theft Auto Advance'

by Kris Graft on Jan. 10, 2005 @ 12:32 a.m. PST

The series that took the console world by storm is set to repeat history on handheld this spring! All the action, danger and thrills that Grand Theft Auto is famous for are coming to Game Boy Advance – promising to become the action title to which all other handheld games are compared.

Genre: Action
Developer: Digital Eclipse/Rockstar
Publisher: Rockstar
Release Date: November 16, 2004

Grand Theft Auto wasn’t always the huge phenomenon that it is today. From the beginning, it’s been a controversial series, but it didn’t firmly claim its stake in video game history until the release of the much acclaimed and much berated Grand Theft Auto III. Before GTAIII, the series had a similar premise, but the early versions had a top-down view, with tiny cars and tinier people. Grand Theft Auto Advance goes back to those simpler times of morally questionable, top-down gameplay, but a lame story, shoddy control, and uncooperative camera derail any standards that its brethren have set.

The setting is renowned Liberty City, and you play as a crook named Mike who’s ready to skip town with his partner Vinnie. A car bomb blows Vinnie to smithereens, and Mike ends up staying in the city, looking for clues to find his partner’s killer. Mike plays the hired hand for several bosses during his search. The story strains to connect how, for example, beating a quarterback with a baseball bat or smuggling drugs in platform shoes will uncover any clues. Usually, this connection is explained through the dialog, when the current boss says, “If you do ‘X’ crime, I’ll give you some clues.” The witty, ironic script that is present in GTAIII, Vice City, and San Andreas is absent, and the dialog is generally flat.

The gameplay will be familiar to anyone that has played the PS2 GTA games. You are free to roam the city, causing nearly any havoc amongst the general population of Liberty City that you desire. Carjacking is still a major aspect in this portable version. Distractions such as finding secret packages, putting out fires, playing taxi driver, and vigilante mode are all carried over from the console versions of GTA. Missions that follow the main storyline involve car bombing buildings, transporting contraband, and offing many, many people. With around 300 missions, and three different areas of the city, GTAA will keep you busy for hours.

Although the violent gameplay that you know and love is present, there are a few significant mechanical issues that make playing GTAA a chore. First of all, the camera cannot keep up with the action. With a view that is directly above the action, you have a hard time seeing what is ahead of you. This is especially an issue when driving fast cars, as you will change direction, and the camera doesn’t shift to the optimal vantagepoint quickly enough to make driving obstacles visible. The result is that you will always be running into other vehicles or missing turns. As this is a driving-based game, this is a real problem. Because of the GBA’s small screen, the camera can’t afford to zoom out too much, so this drawback is somewhat inherent to the system. Dialog boxes also have the tendency to crowd the already small viewing area.

Things don’t get much better when you’re on foot, either. Mike can carry a decent array of weapons, from a baseball bat to a rocket launcher. Unfortunately, firing a weapon is restricted to eight directions. You can only aim in 45-degree increments from your position. For example, if an enemy is attacking you from a 50-degree angle, and you try to shoot him, you’re going to miss by 5 degrees. Your attackers have the ability to aim in more than just eight directions, putting you at a disadvantage during a firefight. Considering that many of the missions require you to gun down certain people, this is a major flaw. You do have the ability to strafe, but this doesn’t completely make up for the lack of directional control.

GTAA isn’t the prettiest GBA game around. The buildings are made up of polygons, which adds some depth the to visuals, while the vehicles and characters are sprites. The frame rate is quite choppy, and the 2D sprites have only a few frames of animation. Everything chugs along in a rough manner. Sure, the graphical abilities of the GBA are limited, but there are better looking games than this available for the system.

Vice City and San Andreas wear their licensed soundtracks like badges of honor. Of course, tons of great music can’t be crammed onto the GBA’s cartridge media. So, GTAA gets generic, looping tracks to keep your ears occupied when driving cars. The developer did make the effort to have different vehicles play different music, which adds a subtle touch to the game’s atmosphere. There’s a little bit of speech, but the sound quality is low, and the clips repeat often. Car tires screech convincingly, and gunshots sound decent.

Although the complaints flow freely, GTAA isn’t a total waste, as its short, mission-based gameplay makes it ideal for quick gaming stints. Fans of the pre-GTAIII games may find a bit of nostalgia in the GBA version, and series loyalists may want to see what this is all about. However, while fun at times, the game only amounts to a significantly flawed distraction. It’s not necessary to avoid GTAA like the plague, but only hardcore GTA fans should consider paying full price for this effort.

Score: 6.0/10

blog comments powered by Disqus