Michael Mann's recently released movie of the same name is a flashy, cool looking man's film. Being a film about drug trafficking and undercover narcotics officers (I could have stopped at "Being a film"), it was destined to become a video game, but it sadly suffers from the same style over substance issues that hurt the movie. While issues with a movie can be glossed over, as you're pretty much just along for the ride, when you're in direct control it's not such a smooth ride.
It would have been easy for developers Rebellion to focus on the action elements of the movie, and churn out yet another action game, but they've attempted to create a game that offers more varied gameplay. The result is a game with a heavy action slant, but you'll also get to dabble in drug dealing, the odd bit of hacking, informant pay offs and even a little cruising on a boat.
The third-person shooter sections dominate the game, though, and they're handled pretty well considering the problems associated with the PSP's controls. Rather than trying to build in a complex, multiple button control system that lets you move, aim and shoot at the same time, Miami Vice offers a Resident Evil 4-style stop and aim system. The analogue stick handles all player movement, and then by holding down the shoulder button you'll enter aiming mode.
It obviously takes some getting used too, especially for players who traditionally aim using the right analogue stick on a controller, but a handy cover system has been included to give you more of a chance during shoot outs. A single button-press while stood near a wall or other object will put your character's back to the wall, and from here you can pop out to fire a few shots before returning to cover. Enemy AI isn't exactly great, so as long as you use cover where it's available (and it's available pretty much everywhere), the action levels shouldn't prove too tricky.
With that being said, it's still not an ideal way to play a third-person shooter, but it does at least make it playable, which is more than can be said for a lot of action games on the PSP. Strangely, a lock-on system hasn't been included, which would obviously have removed a lot of skill from the game, but allowed for moving and shooting at the same time.
Objectives in each mission aren't that diverse, with the majority of them simply requiring you to kill all the enemies, collect the stashes of drugs and find the FlashRAM. The more drugs you have in your possession, the more you can trade with, which in turn means you have more money to spend on weapons and new outfits for your character. What you wear and how you complete each mission actually has an impact on your respect in the game, and this affects what dealers think of you. It's not some new dawn in the action game genre, but it's something extra to consider while you're playing each mission.
All the drug dealing and weapon purchasing is handled on the night-time overhead map of Miami, and from here you can also hack the FlashRAM to open up weapon upgrades, and pay your informant for information. The FlashRAM hacking seems completely out place and is incredibly difficult. You control a triangle which must be charged up and then used to destroy a number of cubes that move around the screen. At a push you could say it was similar to Every Extend Extra, but that would be giving it a little too much praise. Paying an informant initially seems like a nice touch, but it ends up making the missions far too easy, as you know the location of every pick-up and enemy in each level. However, you can choose not to pay the informant if you want to make the game a little trickier.
With all this action and drug dealing you'd think that there'd be a pretty strong story to tie things together, but there isn't. Perhaps the idea was to mimic the movie's, at times, questionable plot, but seeing as the game has very little in common with the movie other than the name of the main characters, it's unlikely. The characters are pretty emotionless and you don't really get any sense of why you're carrying out each mission.
Even with some problems with the controls and a general lack of cohesion, Miami Vice is an entertaining game to play. It's even more entertaining when you link up with a friend and play cooperatively. A second player can help you fight off the enemies, although that player will need a copy of the game - no UMD game sharing here I'm afraid. The campaign is over very quickly, so the inclusion of co-op play lessens the blow somewhat.
There's very little in the way of movie-like presentation, but that's not to say that the game doesn't look good. Character models aren't brilliant, but the game environments are nicely detailed and pretty diverse. The frame rate also holds up well, but at times you'll struggle to see what's going on due to the dim lighting. A competent soundtrack fits well with the ultra cool vibe that is meant to be portrayed, but some often repeated sayings from enemies become a little too much to take.
Miami Vice The Game is very much what can be described as a rental video game. Its control system isn't perfect, but it's workable and makes for a fun game. Everything is over far too quickly though, and the mini-games and the game's relation to the movie have to be questioned. There are far worse action games available for the PSP, but that doesn't automatically make this one great; however, it is a step above the average third-person shooter available for the PSP.