Despite a few GTA advancements in gameplay, Vice City Stories forever remains in the shadow of its more successful predecessor.
To be fair to Vice City Stories, they made several improvements over the original. GTA players can now swim with Victor Vance, which they were unable to do with Tommy Vercetti (inexplicably, given most of Vice City is water). The combat system now has more depth and detail, such as targeting features against enemies.
However, Vice City Stories doesn't get everything right. The overall gameplay is better, yet the storyline and characters are not. Vice City is not as depressing an experience as its successor. Rather, GTA players can enjoy their time in the sun. Vice City Stories was good, but it wasn't as great as the original.
5 times GTA Vice City did something better than Vice City Stories
#5 - The characters were more colorful
Vice City is only as colorful as the cast, whom Tommy Vercetti gets to personally interact with. There are several memorable characters: these include the neurotic lawyer Ken Rosenberg, the laughably evil Ricardo Diaz, ruthless businessman Avery Carington, and the sex-driven/drug-addled band Love Fist.
Victor Vance isn't so lucky with his interactions. Most of his forgetable villains are downright unlikeable, and not in a love-to-hate kind of way. Jerry Martinez provides no memorable dialog and is rather annoying to deal with.
Victor's friends aren't much better. Most of the storyline involves his interactions with his brother Lance. Somehow, he is even more insufferable in this game. At the very least, redneck moonshiner Phil Cassidy makes an appearance here.
#4 - The story was not as depressing
One would think a sympathetic anti-hero like Victor Vance would star in a lighter story than the ax-crazy psychopath Tommy Vercetti. GTA players would be wrong in this assumption. Despite the vibrant color scheme of Vice City Stories, it's much darker in tone than its predecessor.
GTA has always dealt with uncomfortable subject matter, but it can be a distraction in this game. One example is the apparent brutal rape of a love interest for Victor Vance. The storyline is relentlessly bleak, as GTA players already know everything Victor does is for nothing - he dies at the end of Vice City (rather anticlimactically).
By comparison, Tommy Vercetti has a more enjoyable time. After everything he's been through, Tommy gets a happy ending. With all his enemies dead, he runs the entire criminal empire in Vice City. GTA players don't like it when their hard work amounts to jack didly squat, which is exactly what happens in Vice City Stories.
#3 - The soundtrack is unbeatable
According to a sizable chunk of the fanbase, Vice City is the undisputed ruler of GTA soundtracks. The critically-acclaimed music features legendary artists from the 80's such as Michael Jackson. Original tracks include "Billie Jean," "Sunglasses at Night," "Summer Madness," and "Video Killed the Radio Star."
That's not to say Vice City Stories doesn't have memorable songs, since it includes "Gloria" and "Rock You Like a Hurricane." However, given Vice City was released years prior, they had a head start on the greatest hits of the mid-80's. Sadly, Vice City Stories never stood a chance in the music department.
#2 - Lance Vance wasn’t as annoying
At first glance, Lance Vance in Vice City has a cool aura about him (at least for the first few missions). His coolness factor completely wore down in the second half for Vice City. However, he never had it to begin with in Vice City Stories. Rockstar Games made him into an even more petulant manchild with no regard to others.
Lance is a constant load to his brother Victor. His impulsive actions resulted in several losses for the GTA player, such as dumping cocaine shipments on a beach. Not only did Lance get Victor's girlfriend addicted to the supply, he also showed no remorse over her eventual death. Talk about being ungrateful.
#1 - Vice City didn’t have empire building
Empire building in Vice City Stories can be hit-or-miss, depending on the GTA players themselves. It combines Vice City properties and San Andreas gang wars, which means players have to protect their territory from their rivals. While a good concept on paper, it can be a major nuisance at times of free exploration.
More often than not, GTA players will mind their own business before one of their organizations is under attack. If they don't drive over there immediately and defend themselves, they will lose influence in that area. Sometimes attacks take place one after another in an endless cycle. It wastes the player's time and money.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.