I’ll be outright honest from the beginning. I’ve never seen the Miami Vice TV series, nor have I gone to the theater to see the movie. Yet, after having played Miami Vice: The Game, I feel that Sierra owes an apology to the makers of both, especially the TV series.
The story is supposed to be a prequel to the movie, which came out just a month ago and was based on the TV Series. Yes, this is a game based on a movie which is based on a TV Series. No, my expectations weren’t that high to begin with. Anyways, the story is that you are trying to build up reputation on the streets so that you may take out a South American drug lord using unconventional police tactics. You’ll get those “Reputation” points at the end of a round based on how thoroughly you completed a mission, what clothes you were wearing, and whether you used weak guns like a pistol or good ones like the assault rifle. These will unlock better drug dealers to sell the drugs you find throughout missions. The story itself is really shallow and isn’t developed very well over the course of the game, meaning you’ll rarely be thinking about the story as you trudge through the monotonous tasks which the game is composed of.
You can play through the game as Crockett or Tubbs, the two heroes from the TV series, but don’t get too excited. The only difference between the two is the player model throughout the game. After that, you’ll be launched into the first of many extremely linear missions which consist of entering a room, killing 3 to 4 enemies, and exiting the room through the one exit possible. This will lead into another room where you will repeat the process. Continue through 10 or so rooms and you’ll finish a level. Continue through 10 levels, and you’ll finish the game.
OK, that’s not fair. There are some other remedial tasks which you can participate in between levels. At the end of each level you’ll be presented with a map of Miami, with locations of the various places which you may want to use to help you in beating the game. The Police Station gives you a place to store your drugs which you confiscate during missions, but there really is no point to this since you can sell it to the drug dealers for large sums of cash. You may also hack into “Flashroms” which you find during missions. Successfully hacking them will result in upgrades for your guns or give locations of drug barons which will give you a lot of cash for the drug which they are a baron of. The hacking itself is a mini game in which you must break apart a firewall (A square surrounding a circle) and collect the data packets inside. You break them apart by detonating an explosion around your triangle. But some of the firewalls shoot “Spikes” which will steal data from you. Do this a bunch of times for a bunch of rounds and you’ll hack the file. Sound completely unrelated to the game? It is. It is also extremely difficult and the upgrades really aren’t needed to beat the game at all.
In addition to the Police Station and drug dealers, you’ll have access to your snitch you can pay with drugs in order to give you a code to turn off security cameras, or give locations of all enemies, health, or drugs on a mission. This wasn’t terribly useful either until later on when there were larger maps with more enemies to look for. You can also visit a Tailor, which will outfit you with upgradeable armor or a suit which gives you extra “Reputation” at the end of a mission. And, as is standard in most games of this nature, there is an arms dealer who will supply you with all of the guns in the game: Pistol, SMG, Carbine, Assault Rifle, Shotgun and a Sniper. In reality, the Carbine, SMG, and Assault rifle all fire the same and just do different levels of damage. So realistically there are only 4 weapons in the game.
Normally, the list of options and amount of missions wouldn’t be half bad for a handheld game, but it is the gameplay which truly makes this game a disappointment. The game is presented in 3rd person, over the right shoulder. You can take cover on almost anything in the game, and will find yourself needing to do just that throughout your time playing it. You can crouch so that enemies won’t hear you, but since they are spastically patrolling all of the time it is highly likely they will see you anyways. A typical encounter in the game will go as follows: You crouch against a wall, slowly walking to the edge. You peek out at the enemies, lining up a shot, within moments the enemy yells and everyone in the room spins around and starts firing at the corner. The whole group will shout obscenities at you endlessly, never changing their line. There will be just 2 different sets of clothes on the enemies throughout the level, and only about 5 sets of clothing for enemies throughout the game.
The third-person camera presents its own set of problems. Often times you’ll find that your head will block the reticule (which is simply a laser dot, which is hard to see even when it ISN’T blocked by your head), and having to move your body in order to move the camera makes fighting while NOT in cover almost impossible. Due to using the analog stick to move, you’ll also have to stand in place when you want to shoot, which further makes fighting on the move impossible. All you can do is sit on a corner, watch them all run around spastically as if they were on fire, and take potshots at them from the comfort of your wall.
Graphics weren’t too bad, some of the environment actually looked quite good for a handheld, but the character models were very poor and explosions resulting from the very few explosive objects in the game were disappointing. The soundtrack was decent, but felt extremely off at times as far as capturing the mood is concerned. Sometimes I’d have cleared a room and still had the “intense” music playing for 2 minutes after everyone was dead, only to mellow out as I entered the next room and started firing. The enemy’s battle cries were really stupid and grew old after having heard them just once, yet I had to hear all of them 20 times or more over the course of the game.
Miami Vice: The Game was only 5 hours long, which normally would be a bad point, but sadly, is the best selling point this game has to offer. I’d normally recommend this to only fans of the TV series, but I fear that they would be more disappointed than I was.
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