Welcome to 1980's Miami. Huge hair, giant sunglasses and girls sprawled over shiny red Lamborghinis. The streets are littered with drug dealers and gun-toting thugs who can only be stopped by the coolest vice squad in TV history. With such an iconic setting, you'll naturally be expecting a glitzy, attitude-packed game.
And you won't be disappointed, at least not straight away. The opening shot of Crocket & Tubbs posing on their Ferrari (backed by an interesting 'reworking' of the theme tune) sets a suitably slick tone for the presentation which carries into the game proper. Although the top-down view makes the urban sprawl appear ant-sized, the various cars and citizens that wander around the built environment are nonetheless well crafted, boasting numerous neat little animations and smart touches (like the exhaust fumes on cars or the chalk outline left when you run over a perp/innocent bystander).
The character list, including the typically cheesy Italian gangsters, is good fun, too, and even the open-plan game structure is undeniably engaging, albeit somewhat familiar to anyone who's played Driv3r or the original Grand Theft Auto.
Cast as Crockett, you have to high-tail it around Miami on foot or in your sports car (or indeed anyone else's car), tracking down evidence and engaging in shoot-outs whilst trying to keep your car in good nick and generally stay alive. The missions themselves are pretty varied (from timed runs between check-points to chasing down gang vehicles) and follow a well-balanced curve, but crucially aren't vital to entertainment - you can chose to ignore the police work and goof around, causing traffic chaos or mowing down pedestrians if you prefer (although do be aware that you'll forfeit hard cash for the latter).
So far, so good-looking then. Unfortunately, after several minutes of actual play it becomes apparent that the glamour here really is about as deep as an average Miami Vice plot line and the experience is riddled with annoying flaws. Flaws like the ridiculously slow walking pace of your character, the lack of sound in-game, the excessively finicky driving controls and the annoying yellow mission indication arrow which is only really of any use from a distance and becomes an annoyance as you home in on the villains.
What makes these flaws even more annoying is that the previously mentioned games, which Miami Vice shamelessly borrows from, have managed to deal with all these issues so much better - if you're going to copy something at least get it right! Whilst none of these is enough to ruin the game completely their own, collectively they make the game much easier to put down and thus render it unlikely that many players will see the game through to the later more engaging missions.
Miami Vice is worth investigating for nostalgic purposes (although arguably more as a homage to Grand Theft Auto than the TV show), but it's unlikely to arrest your attention for too long.
6 / 10