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Miami Vice

Platform(s): PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Rebellion


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PSP Review - 'Miami Vice'

by Andrew Hayward on Aug. 22, 2006 @ 1:36 a.m. PDT

Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Rebellion
Release Date: July 18, 2006

Put on a Jan Hammer record, dig out your pastel suit, and don't you dare shave – Miami Vice is back! The Michael Mann-produced series ran from 1984 to 1989 and redefined the way Americans perceived police dramas. Music and fashion played much bigger roles, and a larger emphasis was placed on cinematography. Children growing up in the 1980s tend to have very fond memories of the series; unfortunately, I was just five years old when the series concluded. My sense of the series largely comes from reflections in current popular culture, along with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The game borrowed heavily from the television series and the era that supported it, creating an amusing and immersive experience topped only by its follow-up, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Hold up, though: Miami Vice has changed. Michael Mann has resurrected the franchise as a gritty, realistic film in the vein of 2004's Collateral. Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas are out; Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are in. Also out are pastel colors, cheesy synthesizers, and a general sense of quality (film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes categorizes just 48% of the reviews as being positive). Though the film may not have found the critical or commercial success intended for it, there was definitely intent – and as we know, films expected to do well are made into video games. Perhaps the warning signs came early, as the release of Miami Vice – The Game was limited strictly to the PlayStation Portable.

Miami Vice comes to us from Rebellion, who last developed the underappreciated gem Rogue Trooper for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. Their last PSP title, Dead to Rights: Reckoning, was a straightforward action title that failed to generate much interest, despite being one of the only games of its type on the handheld at that time. Miami Vice is not a huge step forward, though the circumstances are different: better options are now available. Vice meanders through a dozen levels of shooting action, on foot and on boat, and then is quickly over before you've had a chance to find anything particularly remarkable. Between-mission filler does little to beef up the experience, making Miami Vice something of a poor investment for gamers.

The majority of Miami Vice takes place on foot, playing as Sonny Crockett or Ricardo Tubbs, undercover drug officers attempting to take down a series of cartels. It largely feels like other third-person action/shooters, but with a significant difference: You cannot fire your weapon unless you stand still and hold down the right shoulder button. Luckily, cover is made available in most environments, though you will probably be shot several times while making your way to a decent firing position. Having to set up every time you want to make a shot is a bit frustrating, though a laser sight on each weapon makes taking down enemies a simple feat. The sight is typically red, but will change to white while fixed upon an enemy. Squeeze off a few shots, aim elsewhere, repeat.

The stop-and-start nature of this scheme can become annoying, but it's not something you can avoid. More obnoxious is the fact that the enemies will move around quite a bit. On several occasions, I would set up to fire, and an enemy would run out of my view and fire at me from my immediate left or right. The gameplay definitely has some clear issues, but it works. Miami Vice does not bother with boss fights or climactic situations – at least, not ones you can play through. Typically, your goal is to get from point A to point B, where you will be greeted with some type of in-game cinema. The already paper-thin narrative is largely deemed ineffective due to this brand of non-interactive storytelling. It also makes for a terribly anti-climactic experience; the complete lack of a final boss or major event lets the game end with a whimper.

A couple of boating missions break up the tedium of the on-foot adventures, but are incredibly easy and simplistic. Hold the X button to accelerate, and tap the right trigger to fire an SMG with an endless supply of ammo – that's the whole experience. Do that for a few minutes, and you'll be back to your regularly scheduled on-foot tedium. The SMG is also available in the standard missions, along with a handful of other weapons. Two weapons can be held at any time, and you can swap those with ones found on fallen foes. Since most of your firing will be done from long range (you'll be shot up otherwise), I recommend sticking with the pistol and assault rifle. Both can hold a significant amount of ammo (when upgraded) and essentially do the same thing.

Also found during the missions are first aid kits and drugs. Yes, drugs. Not only can you pick up the drugs, but you can buy and sell them between missions. Certainly, drugs have a place in the world of Miami Vice, but their use in the game feels so tacked-on. While exploring a room, you might notice something resembling a floating, spinning bale of hay. Walk over it, and you will have picked up "20x Weed." Okay, so I've got 20 weed – but 20 what of weed? Grams, dollars, bags, buckets, barrels – at least use a (preferably) proper term. Based on the size of the pick-up, I would suspect pounds, but that seems highly unlikely. Also found are MDMA, meth, PCP, LDS, and cocaine. Upon completing your mission, you can sell these drugs for money to upgrade your weapons or armor, or even use them to bribe an informant.

Buying and selling drugs was intended to be a big part of the game, as there is a stock market of sorts in which the value of the drugs changes from day to day. Buy low and sell high, they say, but the benefits in Miami Vice are so slim that it really is not worth the hassle. After upgrading the armor and a couple of weapons, you are set for the rest of the game. I had almost 200,000 dollars remaining at the end of the game, reflecting both time and effort wasted. Also included is a "hacking" mini-game that resembles a poor man's Geometry Wars. In it, you guide a tiny arrow that releases charges in an effort to take down floating cubes. Collect enough of their remains (units of information), and you will have successfully hacked the information from the Flash RAM. It is as much like real hacking as picking up a floating, spinning bale of "weed" is like the real drug trade.

The one high point of Miami Vice is in its visual presentation, which is mostly solid all-around. The menu screens use a red and blue dynamic lighting system to give the game some "cop-like" personality, but the in-game graphics are even more notable. Crockett and Tubbs may look nothing like their real-life counterparts, but they are decently rendered and detailed. The environments are populated with vehicles and interactive items, and the game featured zero slowdown during my time with it. My only complaint is that some of the levels were a bit too dark, but it was luckily not a widespread issue. The sound effects are crisp and loud, though I find it peculiar (and ridiculous) that nearly every enemy had the same thing to say to me: "I'm gonna f--- you up!" Unoriginal and repetitive – my favorite!

Miami Vice has drugs, violence, hacking, and cussing, but in the end, it feels like the game is trying too hard to be, well, hard. It is not particularly bad, though definitely not very good. Instead, the game suffers a much worse fate: It is entirely forgettable. With roughly four hours of total gameplay, Miami Vice comes up terribly short in the value department. Sure, playing co-op wirelessly with a friend is probably neat, but who do you know that also owns this game? Good luck with that. Those looking for an action/shooting fix on the go should look towards Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror for a much better (and longer) experience.

Score: 6.0/10

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