E3 06: Miami Vice: The Game Preshow Hands-On

Drug deals go down as we check out the movie-inspired PSP debut of Crockett and Tubbs.

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At a recent VU Games press event in San Francisco we were afforded our first look at the PlayStation Portable version of Miami Vice: The Game, which is loosely based on the upcoming Miami Vice movie from Michael Mann. Set shortly before the events of the movie, the game will task you with infiltrating and ultimately bringing down the organization of a South American drug lord as either Sonny Crockett or Ricardo Tubbs (or both, if you're playing cooperatively). During our time with Miami Vice: The Game, we were shown a number of its different levels and minigames, and we also had a good time playing through the entire first level alongside the game's associate producer.

Much of your time in Miami Vice: The Game will be spent hunting down criminals on foot in levels where your ability to locate and get into good cover will be as important as your skill with firearms. The game's uncomplicated controls make it incredibly easy to move in and out of cover and to interact with objects in other ways, such as vaulting over a small wall or pulling a statue to the ground so that you can use it for cover. Switching on the fly between whichever two weapons currently make up your arsenal is also very simple, and as you progress through the game, the pistols that you start the game with will be complemented by various automatic weapons, shotguns, and sniper rifles. With the exception of the sniper rifle, all of the weapons that we saw employed a red laser sight, which worked well in single-player and proved extremely useful in co-op mode when we wanted to avoid walking across our partner's line of fire.

Most of the enemies that we encountered in Miami Vice: The Game appeared to be quite intelligent and certainly did a good job of getting into cover when they came under fire. We never saw more than two or three enemies on the screen simultaneously, though, which made playing through the first level alongside another player a walk in the park. We hope the game will get much more challenging later on and that the enemies will be more numerous in cooperative games than they are when playing solo.

The level that we played through took place in and around a large mansion, which unsurprisingly felt very different to the level set in a graffiti-daubed trailer park where we'd watched Crockett blowing up makeshift meth labs earlier in our presentation. One thing that both of the levels had in common was the high quality of their respective visuals, which were good enough that they looked almost as impressive on the large TV that the game was being demoed on as they did on the PSP's own screen. The character models were quite detailed and animated well. In addition to the standard third-person levels that we saw, we were afforded a quick look at one of the game's speedboat levels in which you'll pursue and shoot at enemies on the water. The gameplay looked quite simplistic compared to the rest of the game, but the boat sequences should make for a nice change of pace all the same.

Minigames will be featured quite prominently in Miami Vice: The Game, and a couple examples of these include hacking into flash RAM pickups to get information on drug lords and weapon upgrades and trading drugs with various dealers throughout the city to maintain your cover and raise capital for weapons. When you encounter drug lords, you'll have to complete "interactive cutscene encounters" (ICE) that task you with balancing aggressive and passive behavior in potentially dangerous situations. The two that we saw, for example, included being patted down by gang members and bodyguards and then negotiating a price when attempting to sell a large quantity of weed to a drug lord. The ICE games are all about risk versus reward, which is a recurring theme in the game, since you need to act aggressively to maintain your rep and not blow your cover but not so much that you upset the guy and end up getting shot.

Essentially, Miami Vice: The Game encourages you to act like a badass at every opportunity, so, for example, you'll receive bonus points for shooting through a level using only your pistols when you could quite easily have mowed down some enemies using a machinegun. Another interesting example of the risk-versus-reward mechanic in the game is that you get to choose different outfits (many of which will need to be unlocked) for your chosen character ahead of each level. Outfits are scored on both armor and rep, with full body armor (maximum armor score, but no rep gain) and a flashy white suit (maximum rep score, zero armor) being the polar opposites on the scale.

Another option that you'll have ahead of each level, although we didn't really get to see it in action, is paying off a snitch (with drugs acquired in previous levels and from dealers) for information on the level. For the right price, your snitch will be able to mark the locations of enemies, objectives, and health pickups on your map, or even deactivate all of the security cameras in the area that you're about to shoot your way through. Our VU Games snitch wasn't willing to divulge any more information about Miami Vice: The Game on this occasion, but look for more on the game in the coming months.

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