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Payback Review

Developer: Apex Designs Publisher: Destination Software
Release Date: October 22, 2004 Also On: None

GTA Advance was a nice try at making a handheld game in the style of GTA 1. It did not really work out, though. The graphics did not look too good but the frame rate was still bad. Also, the way the cars are controlled is now seriously outdated. With Payback, there finally is a working GTA game on the GBA. The fist thing you notice is that the graphics are simply stunning. Everything is rendered in beautiful 3D, even the cars. The game also takes advantage of this and makes you always face up while the landscape rotates around you. This not only looks good, it makes controlling the game a lot more intuitive. If you want to see the most impressive thing the GBA has ever done graphically, try to make something explode. It is really impressive how damn good those explosions look. Another nice graphical feature is that you leave traces in snow and rubber traces when braking; all this with a constantly good frame rate. The only time the frame rate drops is if you are driving an insanely fast car or flying with the helicopter.

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The sound in the game is on a similar level. All the sounds are great and even the music sounds good and adds to the city atmosphere. So the presentation is great but can the gameplay keep up with it? It can. The game is very open ended. You can go everywhere you like, collect weapons, destroy everything. You can also do missions that you get at public telephones. These missions then tell a very basic storyline.

If you mess up a mission, you can’t just start over. You can only play the other missions. The goal in the game is to get a certain number of points. Missions help you to achieve that goal because you get lots of points for them and every successful mission increases your multiplier. However, you can also get the points by simply destroying cars and killing people.

You have a certain number of lives when you begin a game. Every time you die, your multiplier and weapons are taken away but you can still continue to increase your score until you run out of lives. A problem in the game is that you cannot save. You have to complete the level in one go which can take from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the level and your skill. This is not really practical for a handheld game.

There are three large cities with two sets of missions each in the story modes so there are 6 levels to play. Depending on your times, you can unlock further levels for the other gameplay mode, the destruction mode. Here you do not have to worry about missions but can simply wreak havoc. There are another 8 maps that can be unlocked for destruction.

When you are not doing missions, you have to find a balance between destruction and little pauses. With time, your wanted level decreases and the police will get less aggressive again. Also, if you are damaged, your health will slowly increase again. On the other hand, you want to get a good time to unlock other levels but the police makes this difficult. You can adjust the difficulty for each level; on a lower difficulty the police forget about you faster.

There is a lot of stuff to do in Payback. The cities are huge; there are many rooftops and secrets to explore. Special vehicles like the helicopter and the classic tank add to the insanity but the normal vehicles are already very varied. Like in every GTA game it is the open-endedness that makes the game addicting. There is a lot to explore and a lot to destroy and you won’t stop playing until you have lost or completed the level.

The very good handling of the cars and the impressive physics engine that make things fly around add to the fun. The only thing that is not quite perfect is combat on foot because there is no strafing. Other than that the controls are designed pretty well but you can remap every button if you want to. Payback is a game every GBA and DS owner should have because there is no alternative for a good GTA-like game on Nintendo handhelds. It is an impressive achievement.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.6
Written by Ortwin Review Guide