Comparisons between this and GTA were always going to be made, that much was inventible. And it's hardly surprising given the impeccable similarities between the two. Now that GTA is available on GBA anyway, few people seem to be giving Payback much attention whatsoever, should they be though?
The basic premise of the game needs no introduction for anyone that has every touched a GTA game in their life, which we have reason to believe is probably quite a few people. You begin the game with nothing but your rather lifeless looking character wandering the streets in a seemingly quite bored fashion. From here you must answer payphones to be given mission objectives from an unknown caller; doing so will reward you with much needed cash and weapons. Missions come in a variety of forms, ranging from basic assassinations to timed speed races, checkpoints included, and much more besides. Once you complete a mission you will be rewarded depending on how well you did and if you met all the necessary criteria, if you picked up any weapons on your way then you also get to keep them to help you progress. Once you have earned a certain amount of 'dough' you unlock access to another, fairly decently sized city; to explore and run riot in.
As with GTA, missions are not the only way to obtain money, weapons and or vehicles. Sometimes in fact it's a whole lot more fun to terrorize the streets of your own accord, gunning down a pedestrian here, nicking a car there, and generally being a right old pain in the cops backside. Although not quite in the same league as the latest GTA titles, there is a good deal of freedom considering you're playing on a GBA. The problem with being so very similar to GTA in every way is that comparisons like this are always going to be made, and although Payback does well in many aspects, in reality it is just an imitator that doesn't quite live up to the original. Our advice however is not to let that put you off, the GTA games are some the highest praised games in history, so just because this isn't quite as good, doesn't mean its bad by a long shot.
Something you will notice straight away is that the visuals are in 3D, not 2D sprites like the original GTA games. Now in some way this is a good thing as it allows for a good variety of special effects and the like which wouldn't have been possible before. On the other hand though due to the limited power of the GBA you will find yourself confronted by a whole lot of slowdown when more than a couple of things are going on at the same time. What developers seem to have done here is include features from GTA3 onwards (the 3D versions) such as improved car physics and the like, while keeping in touch with the gameplay of the golden oldies. Unfortunately this doesn't always have the best results; you will often find the game slowing down to almost unplayable levels when you're merely driving down a road full of other vehicles, even if you're not colliding with them.
It's a shame because the game does have a whole bunch of lovely touches tucked away, that perhaps won't be as appreciated as much as they could have been. The weather changes at certain points in the game and this allowed for some nice effects to be implemented such as footprints in the snow, and visible breath coming from peoples mouths (not that you can see any body parts due to the size limitations), but still it shows that developers have put a good amount of effort into the game to make it more than just another title trying to get in on GTA's fame. The same goes for sound effects, with a wide variety of explosion, skids, shootings and other atmosphere increasing bits and pieces. Unfortunately the background music doesn't quite have the same appeal, especially when compared to GTA's wide variety of Radio stations to suit any player's tastes; the choices on offer here seem somewhat unimpressive.
One of those strongest points from the GTA series is that of the immense amount of replay value. Even once you had completed all the set missions, there was always something there to bring you back for a quick rampage now and again, you know just for fun. Payback developers have clearly taken this under consideration, even with the slightly limited size of available cities two important features have been included to make up for the loss. First up is the random mission generator for those that like to have a few set rules and regulations to their otherwise ramshackle goings on but have run out of official missions, this will surely cater for their needs. On the other hand for those players that like a bit of over the top explosions and violence there is a tasty multiplayer deatmatch mode available via link-up for up to four players as well.
The differences between physics when driving the different vehicles in the game is impressive and helps add variety to proceedings, but is once again let down by a poor frame rate and slowdown issues.
Technically the game is very impressive, with fully realised 3D environments and sweet special effects to boot. Unfortunately it is all let down by some uninspiring slowdown which affects not only the visuals but the gameplay as well at times.
The easiest way to describe the audio department of the game is to compare it to the graphical side of things. The effects are nice but the overall feel of the game is let down by the lack of variety of background music, just like the nice graphical effects are often ruined by slow frame rates.
Although the size of environments isn't quite as impressive as in GTA titles, replay value is dramatically helped by the inclusion of random mission generation as well as up to 4 player death matches.
What is sad is the way in which people will automatically dismiss this as the poor mans GTA, although this is true to an extent, its not quite as clear cut as people think. The biggest concern is the dodgy frame rate issues which often can't be overlooked. Give the game a try though as it does have a host of interesting features, and clearly a lot of effort has been put into making this worth your time.>