Grand Theft Auto Double Pack - The Xbox Collection Xbox
by Rockstar Games
Developed by Rockstar North/Rockstar Vienna
Released: Out Now
It's difficult to imagine the jewel in a consoles software crown appearing on a rival console. Imagine Halo or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker appearing on PlayStation 2, it just isn't going to happen. For the past couple of years a couple of games, Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City have been working wonders for the PlayStation 2 and it's difficult to put a number on how many PlayStation 2 consoles these game have helped to sell, but I would argue it's a rather large percentage. However now it's time for the Xbox to benefit from these world famous and definitely classic titles. It was rumoured for a long time that these games were going to arrive on Xbox but nothing was officially confirmed until the latter part of 2003. Whether or not these Xbox versions have been worked on for a long time is only really known by Rockstar themselves but judging by the high quality of them I would say that a great deal of time has been spent on bringing the two games to Xbox.
You may recall that not long ago we looked at the PlayStation 2 version of the Grand Theft Auto Double Pack and to save basically rewriting the bulk of that review now you can click here to read what the two games are about. It's worth a mention though that Rockstar Games have been extremely generous in releasing both of these games for the price of a single game. Both of these games alone would have sold plenty as they are highly prized games. If Rockstar had released them separately it's a fair bet that most gamers would have bought both titles. Rockstar haven't been greedy though and have courteously given Xbox gamers the chance to pick them up at the same price that PlayStation 2 owners have been able to do which is great when you consider that they are fairly old games on the PlayStation 2. Publishers are often labelled as greedy so it's well worth a mention when they display their generosity in such a fashion.
If you've played the PlayStation 2 versions of either Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City you'll be familiar with the majority of the games imperfections (all though there are not that many). Grand Theft Auto III saw the series move into full 3D for the first time, the previous two versions had been a top-down affair, and this required the game to have far greater resources to run properly. At times it was evident that the PlayStation 2 did not have sufficient resources to maintain smooth gameplay. Drive around at high speed and you'll notice a degradation in framerate, vehicles disappearing as they travel behind you and certain objects and people simply appearing from nowhere. With the move to Xbox most of these problems have disappeared. The biggest difference are the graphics. The character models are sharper and look more impressive, not wildly but noticeably. Other reviews have commented on the fact that the characters now have fingers on their hands instead of looking like they've got mittens on and this small piece of extra detail highlights the effort that has been put into the Xbox version.
Of course a more noticeable improvement are the cars, which not only look better but also have reflections and a general shiny goodness about them. Driving around also reveals that the framerate has seriously been improved and the experience is as impressive as it is on a high end PC, which is saying a lot. When driving through the streets at high speed in the PC Vice City I was occasionally confronted with a loading message with was a little disappointing. I tried to emulate this on the Xbox version and couldn't. Not once did I receive a loading message or receive a pause or blank screen or anything else which would denote a pause for loading which is simply exceptional. You do still get certain objects that simply appear (although the draw distance has been noticeably improved) and vehicles that pass you can just disappear but overall this doesn't matter and the improvements that have been made make the game a better experience.
If you've played Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City on other platforms, the Xbox controls will seem a little strange at first but it's takes only a little time to get comfortable with them. Thankfully Rockstar Vienna used the triggers to accelerate and decelerate the vehicles and it feels totally natural as a result. The right analogue stick is used to look around and the white button is used to change the camera angle. I've been very happy with the control layout except that in Vice City you have to depress the right analogue stick to fire your weapon whilst driving which is a little awkward. Whilst you're on foot though you can use the right trigger to fire your weapons or use your fists.
Both Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City are deaf gamer friendly, like the versions on the PC and PlayStation 2. When we reviewed the PC and PlayStation 2 versions we said that "The first time you'll load the game the introduction will not be subtitled. What you will have to do is to skip the introduction and enable the subtitles and then start a new game. It's a small thing but enabling the subtitles by default would have prevented this problem." Well Rockstar obviously took note because the Xbox version of Vice City is subtitled by default and the first time you play the game everything is subtitled which is excellent. Thank you Rockstar. The comments that the pedestrians make whilst you're walking the streets aren't subtitled but these are of no relevance. All information and tutorial messages are shown in text and you can even recall all dialogue from the pause menu so you'll have no problems at all in enjoying these two classic games.
So two of the legendary PlayStation 2 games finally arrive on Xbox and it truly was worth the wait. The Xbox versions are the best as while they are essentially the same games they have been polished and tuned to make them that little bit better. We have only mentioned some improvements here. Hearing gamers will also have the benefits of the custom soundtrack feature, surround sound etc. but whilst deaf gamers aren't going to benefit from these details there are plenty of visual improvements to enjoy. We gave the PlayStation 2 double pack a whopping 9.8/10 and this Xbox double pack is equally deserving of such a high score. Without a shadow of a doubt this is an essential purchase for Xbox owners and easily becomes one of the best purchases you could make for the console.
Game Rating: 9.8/10
An outstanding adaptation of two of the finest games on the PlayStation 2. Rockstar deserve high praise for bringing these two classics to the Xbox for such a low price.
No problems at all for deaf gamers. Vice City is now subtitled by default.