As anyone who has been into gaming for a while will no doubt have noticed, despite being some of the best-selling titles, videogame/movie tie-ins are usually awful.
The news that my first review for GamesXtreme was Miami Vice for the PSP was therefore met with a somewhat pavlovian groan. However, I was pleasantly surprised, once I actually played the game, to find that it isn't actually all that bad.
After the obligatory slow PSP loading times, it's pretty much straight into the game without too much in the way of flashy menus and cut-scenes. The bulk of the gameplay is what's best described as a third-person sneak-em-up, not entirely unlike the Splinter Cell or Metal Gear series', but with more of an emphasis on fire fights rather than pure stealth.
Graphically the game is pretty strong throughout the environments are reasonably detailed and generally feel solid with no evidence of tearing or gaps in models etc.
The sound isn't bad, although the speech samples can be a little grainy in places.
The missions within the game are all generally the same, linear affair. They typically comprise of infiltrating a building, performing a specific task such as collecting something or destroying something and then escaping from the building. Along the way there are some additional distractions such as drugs which can be collected during the missions which can then be sold in-between missions to raise cash for equipment upgrades and to buy information. In an effort to break the monotony, some additional game-play styles have been added including boat stages and hacking mini-games which can unlock equipment upgrades - these generally feel tacked on, however and don't really add anything to the experience.
A co-op multiplayer mode is available, but this doesn't work with game-sharing and hence I was not able to test it.
As is often the way with PSP games, the controls often feel a little awkward, leaving you with the impression that the developer has tried to squash too much functionality on to the limited number of buttons available. When you are taking things slowly the controls generally work quite well, but they never really seem to become intuitive which can often find you pressing the wrong button in the heat of battle. Most combat is performed by switching into first person mode (by holding the right shoulder button) then aiming with the analogue nub. This works quite well, but highlights one of the major limitations of the psp hardware - the nub is really not sensitive enough to allow precision aiming. Other developers have tried to overcome this by adding aiming assistance, but I am not sure that would have been applicable here - as shooting the bad guys is where most of the challenge comes from. It's not a deal breaker, but it does leave you in the familiar scenario of cursing the PSP hardware when you die.
The enemy AI is a bit hit and miss, sometimes it can be quite good, with the enemy sneaking up behind you or running for cover when you are about to fire, but more often than not the enemy will just stay in place and fire at you until you kill them.
Generally the game provides a fair challenge, although some of the game-play ideas are let down a little in the execution, one particularly annoying example is the security cameras. The idea is that you sneak around and take out security cameras before they spot you and send in reinforcements - this sounds good on paper, but in practice they are so small on the PSPs screen, that they are almost impossible to spot and hence you almost always end up setting them off.
Playing Miami Vice on the PSP is generally a fun experience, the missions are very linear but this isn't too much of a problem for a portable game which you will tend to be picking up for short times and putting down again, so its quite nice when it is obvious what you are supposed to be doing. If you have the opportunity to play the game on one of the home-consoles, this may ultimately provide a more enjoyable experience, but if you only have a PSP available, or are set on getting your drug-dealer busting fix out of the house, then you could do worse than pick this up.