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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City revisited

Rockstar's legendary PS2 game is worth exploring all over again on iPad, says Neil Long

Greying, decade-old memories of Vice City become full colour again with this iOS re-release. This is Grand Theft Auto on holiday, all garish red sunsets and top-down convertibles. GTA III's everyday streets felt drab when I first encountered Vice City's airy open spaces; its palette is hot pink and aquamarine, while its predecessor's was grey-brown. In swapping grit for glorious decadence, Rockstar made Vice City one of the most-loved places in videogames.

It certainly doesn't feel ten years old. A decade ago, Vice City's sunny streets were notable for their detail and character, and that feeling hasn't faded. Its vibrant looks are all the more piercing on iPad - the televisions of ten years ago couldn't display colours this bright and angles so well-defined. Ten years of technological advances shine a harsher light on the game's character models, however, which sometimes look straight-up bizarre. Occasionally, textures in Vice City's cut scenes are comically blurry, too.

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Vice City's most impressive technical feat is arguably its audio, as the voice acting smooths over some of the cracks in cut scenes. Somehow, I'd completely forgotten that Ray Liotta voices our lead character - he brings true charisma to the role, despite being given an iffy line or two. And man, that soundtrack. Vice City's radio stations make it feel more real than high definition visuals or state-of-the-art motion capture ever will.

Modern games are littered with checkpointing and nannying. There's none of that here, and you will have to get used to failure. You'll tut as you fail a mission, restart and have to drive from A to B once again. Sometimes, it is fist-chewingly infuriating. That's why it has always been better to play Vice City at your own pace, taking on missions in between exploring its streets and discovering its secrets. Besides, if you really want to let off some steam, you can indulge in a car-jacking, cop-killing rampage across town.

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Nostalgia can't hide the fact that the combat is woolly, especially where gunplay is concerned. The touchscreen controls are fine in-car, but on foot they present some awkward moments. Rockstar makes ambitious, detailed worlds, but sometimes the actual mechanics have a little catching up to do.

As the world feverishly awaits the next Grand Theft Auto game in 2013, it is well worth revisiting Vice City on iPad. It is an important reminder of Rockstar's talent for creating truly evocative videogame people, places and things.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 10th Anniversary Edition is available on the App Store for £2.99 here.

For more of the best games on iPad, check out the relaunch issue of iGamer, which is free for a limited time here.

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