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Grand Theft Auto Advance Package Art
  Digital Eclipse
  Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto Advance

While the rest of the world is hard at work on the latest incarnation of the Grand Theft Auto series on the PS2, we're more than happy to give a sharp eye to Grand Theft Auto Advance. As the latest portable rendition of the popular franchise, you may have been reading great things and bad things. Viewpoints seem to have been mixed regarding the handheld mischief maker. Granted, the game has its problems, much like the original 2D top-down titles for the PC, PSX, and Dreamcast. However, with Digital Eclipse's masterful experience on the Game Boy Advance hardware, they've picked apart the original titles and brought to life possibly what could have been those long years ago. Is it better, or even as good, as its home console counterparts? Not even close. Is it better than the originals? Yes. Is it the best portable take on the series? Does a polar bear crap in the woods?


Digital Eclipse has flexed their GBA muscle a lot during the development of Grand Theft Auto Advance. If you weren't expecting the top-down, two dimensional setting on the Game Boy Advance, you must not know that the handheld isn't very 3D friendly. However, the developers used this to their advantage, pulling a few tricks here and there using 2D sprite-based techniques to bring a more solid sense of three dimensions. Some of the taller buildings were even developed in 3D to give a deeper sense to the streets of Liberty City. Although the game features some great artwork, there are some frame-rate issues that act up with increased activity. However, the frame-rate never drops to a level where it's rendered unplayable.


There are a lot of impressive audio effects in GTA Advance. We haven't heard this many vocal samples in a game on the GBA in quite some time. Even some of the music has lyrics, albeit repetitive lyrics. Of course, you can't blame the game for not giving a larger variety of voice work. Even the police dispatcher can be heard, giving details on the car you're driving and where you're headed. Sound effects are nicely put together and blend into the action almost perfectly. The overall quality of the music itself is great, matching the style to whichever car you happen to be driving around in. This is easily one of the few games released this year that will make you not want to turn down your volume.


Grand Theft Auto Advance has been in the pipelines since 2001, but who really knows how much development time has been put into it? That's a rhetorical question, if anything. The point is, the game has been worked on faithfully and the end result is a very fun action game with open-ended play mechanics and plenty of stuff to blow up. Lest we not forget, it's one of the very few GBA titles to receive an "M" rating. Sure, there's plenty of blood, gore and strong language, but the real fun is found in its open-ended gameplay.

The missions found in the game are numerous with 300 missions in all. Most of them are based solely on driving rather than run-and-gun. That doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of weaponry to be scavenged, however. You can use several different weapons found in the "big brother" console incarnations like pistols, shotguns, SMGs, assault rifles, grenades, and even flamethrowers. The missions are very basic and you won't see anything that you haven't already seen in the console series. You’ll be asked to drive from point X to point Y, kill person X and return to point X most of the time. There are delivery missions and racing missions, but that's generally all there is to it.

If you find yourself bored of the general story-based missions, there are plenty of "side-quests" as it were. Taking a card from Grand Theft Auto III, there are plenty of extra missions to keep you occupied. Taxi, Vigilante, Firefighter, and Paramedic missions get you more cash and expand upon the game overall. There's also some street racing available, but it's hardly a "race". Like in the story missions, you'll drive from checkpoint to checkpoint fending off other cars that try to crash into your ride. They aren't necessarily trying to win over your superior driving skills, but just crash into you. Why? For spite, I suppose.

Controlling your character through Liberty City isn't necessarily a chore, but it does take a bit to get used to each specific vehicle. Some are faster and lighter than others whereas others are slower and heavier than the sports cars. Different physics apply for different cars. While the Banshee and Diablo can handle corners like a madman, the Monster Truck will flip if it catches a nickel in the street. Yep, cars flip over in this game and explode if left for too long. Fearful of getting out of your car? Not surprising, seeing as how the dude was a completely poindexter in the 2D originals. Digital Eclipse has worked out the controls where your character can actually handle his own in a fire-fight. While he can't necessarily lock onto anyone, he can strafe around while shooting, which is still very useful in a heated situation.

As with any Grand Theft Auto title, there are some negative issues. Yes, yes, heaven forbid. However, there are definitely many more problems with this title than with the console versions. These range from the annoying to unforgivable. Cars will latch onto the sides of buildings if you drive into them at a certain angle. Some taxi passengers will only be accessible in areas that you can't get to inside of a taxi. Also, there's no real reason to root for the bad guy in this incarnation. Even though the main character has lines, he's still as emotionless as the silent anti-hero in GTA 3.




I'm very thankful to Rockstar for not allowing Destination Software to bring this title out. If anyone but Digital Eclipse had worked on this title, it could have ended in disaster. It was definitely worth the three-year wait to get a quality Grand Theft Auto title on a Nintendo handheld. We just hope we can see more of it. If you need some GTA on the go, you should definitely pick up Grand Theft Auto Advance. If you're on the fence, you may want to check around first before you make a purchase. It isn't the best game on the GBA, but it is definitely one of the most technically impressive.

final score 8.2/10

Staff Avatar Austin Starr
Staff Profile | Email
"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"

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