The steal of the century.
A few years ago, I went on something of a rampage decrying the nearly impossible task consumers face when choosing a game console. Want Metroid? Then say goodbye to Gran Turismo. No matter which path you take, it seems, you're going to miss out on tons of cool games.
Nowhere was this more poignantly felt than in the hearts of Xbox owners, who for two years now have had to sneak into their friend's house to play either of the legendary next-gen Grand Theft Auto games. GTA has not only broken sales figures like the kneecaps of a stool pigeon, but is also the biggest reason Sony has such a huge lead in the console sales race. The mastermind at Sony who engineered that exclusive deal is probably still laughing in between gulps of a Mai Tai from deep within his private tropical island fortress.
But with the incredible GTA Double Pack now hitting the Xbox, perhaps he'll stop his maniacal laughter. Meh, probably not. At least now Xbox owners can laugh along with him, because this deal is so outrageously good, it's almost funny. Welcome to the steal of a lifetime.
There's a very, very remote possibility that a few of you have been stranded atop Mt. McKinley for the past two years, gnawing on your own fingernails and drinking your own sweat to survive, and have therefore never heard of nor played Grand Theft Auto III or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. First, go down that steep path on your left, then get a blanket and a cup of coffee. Then go read my GTA III and GTA: VC reviews. The reason? The GTA Double Pack contains full versions of both games in their entirety, with absolutely no content changed or removed whatsoever. I have no interest in recapping either story, particularly since I did such a good job the first time(s). Or so I have been told by my mom.
However, a few alterations have been made to better fit these designer pants on their new green and gray body. First and foremost is the graphics, which, unsurprisingly, have been cleaned up significantly. The textures are better, the draw distance (which was occasionally a sore in both PS2 games) is improved and the framerate doesn't skip a beat. The reflections are smoother, the lighting more dynamic, and the models are less blocky. They even fixed up the lip-synching during cut-scenes. Despite all this new makeup, the load times are much quicker. Further, the game now supports HDTV 16x9 480P, which is sweet provided you have a fancy TV. On all fronts, this is the prettiest version of GTA yet.
The other big change is in the customizability of the soundtrack; go ahead and use your own thanks to the Xbox music ripping option. But frankly, the music and radio stations in both games is so superb, this feature was never in very high demand to begin with. The addition of Dolby 5.1 support is nice, though, if you have the hardware for it.
One of the only gripes I had about both games was the aiming, and it's still a bit of an issue. However, the Xbox controller works astoundingly well in GTA. Driving is as accurate, wild and fun as ever, but the running and gunning is made slightly easier due to the tighter Xbox analog sticks. Aiming is a bit less wily than before, although the auto-aim is still not the best around.
Otherwise, there is nothing new to report here. GTA III is as gritty and fun as it was two years ago, while Vice City is probably the better of the two thanks to more complex missions and the ability to buy property. The sense of freedom is unrivaled (well, aside from Morrowind); you can really just burn hours putzing around and acting like a criminal. Despite their age, these games still pack a wallop and retain their action game supremacy.
It goes without saying (though here I am saying it like an idiot) that if you own a PS2 and have both of these games already, don't bother spending the cash on the Double Pack. The new versions are slightly better, but they're exactly the same in terms of gameplay, missions, cut-scenes, story, you name it.
Still, we're all about gaming value here at GR, and there is simply no better deal in the universe right now than the GTA Double Pack. Unlike just about every other game publisher, Rockstar has not just ported each version over to the Xbox and charged full price; they ported both versions, improved tham, and slipped them into the same shiny box. Two epic "A" games for the price of one? That look and sound better? Is this a joke?
Nope, not at all, but like I said, you'll be laughing with delirious glee the minute you lay down 50 bucks and walk out of the store with two of the best console games ever made. Sure, they're older. Sure, they already came out on the PS2 and the PC. Some people prefer GTA III; others (like me) think Vice City is the better game. But what do you care? You get both! Never has a two-for-one carried such firepower, and you can take that to bank - provided you lose the cops first.