Thanks to the controversy and popularity of the franchise, “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” has been getting a tremendous amount of attention since its release late in October. Yet the launch of Rockstar Games’s latest masterpiece for Playstation 2 has overshadowed another “Grand Theft Auto” game released on the same day. “Grand Theft Auto Advance,” Rockstar’s newest portable incarnation of the GTA series, lacks the hype of “San Andreas” and is certainly riding the coattails of it. And while “Grand Theft Auto Advance” marks a vast improvement over the two disastrous GTA titles that appeared on Game Boy Color a few years ago, it simply can’t compete with the benchmarks Rockstar created on next-generation consoles.

The game’s story takes place in Liberty City, the staple location within the GTA universe. Players take control of a hood named Mike, who out’s to avenge the death of his friend Vinnie. The Game Boy Advance lacks the power to provide real-time cinematic sequences, so the story is told through comic-esque character portraits and text bubbles. The dialogue, while written neatly, lacks the same zing, humor and grittiness gamers have come to expect on the console versions of GTA.

What makes “Grand Theft Auto Advance” an interesting gaming experience is how it integrates elements from the original three games. GTA’s original overhead perspective is re-visited, but gamers more familiar with the Playstation 2 games will probably feel more at home with the concepts that GTA III introduced, such as hidden packages and vigilante missions.

Unfortunately though, the game’s poor controls ruin much of the fun. While it is easy to move Mike on foot, taking control of vehicles is another story. Moving a vehicle around Liberty City is a very sloppy process, as the controls are way too loose. Making sharp turns is a frustrating process as well, and the game’s viewing perspective is way too close making it hard at times to find the path you need to travel on.

When it comes to the game’s presentation, the music and sound effects are decent, but don’t really stand out and are rather generic. The game’s graphics feature plenty of bold colors, but lack specific details. Much of the game’s failures should be placed upon Digital Eclipse, who developed the game. Rockstar merely published it, which is a crime in itself since it should have had the resources to take full creative control.

Ultimately, “Grand Theft Auto Advance” is an admirable effort in that it is able to capture some of the spirit of the more recent console versions of the franchise, but overall the game is not particularly engrossing. Hopefully when Sony’s portable PSP system arrives next year, a worthy portable version of GTA won’t be far behind.


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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