A hard habit to break.
It made international headlines. It made Joseph
Lieberman have a cow. It made the world stand up and stare at the video game
industry like it had just farted in class. But more than anything, it made me
forget to shave, shower and show up for work. My couch is still trying to get
rid of my ass imprint.
It was Grand Theft Auto 3, and it rocked
our collective world thanks to its insane violence, incredible sense of freedom,
enormous scope and simply fun gameplay. It was the easiest ‘A’ I’ve ever given.
to be honest, none of us thought the follow-up would fare quite as well. We
tend to be tough on sequels, particularly those that follow revolutionary ‘A’
games. Could Rockstar and DMA top one of the best console games ever released?
Yep. Say good-bye to your family and friends and say hello to Grand Theft
Auto: Vice City.
You take on the role of Tommy Vercetti, a shady mobster type recently transplanted
to the Miami-esque beachside town of Vice City. You were sent to make sure a
certain transaction went smoothly. It went anything but, and the next thing
you know you’re stuck in the middle of a strange, seedy city trying to get your
boss’ money back. It turns out that Vice City is the perfect home to a criminal
type like Tommy, and soon enough you find yourself embroiled in all sorts of
mob behavior, eventually leading to dreams of taking over the town.
The game is set in the mid-1980’s, and it captures the over-the-top, New Wave
lifestyle beautifully. Fast cars, fast women, neon signs and a certain white
powder rule Vice City, the perfect recipe for a thug just trying to survive.
The last GTA employed plenty of voice-acting and FMV to flesh out the
story, but Vice City blows it away. The plot is much more interesting,
due in part to the fact that Tommy has his own voice, or rather, has Ray
Liotta’s voice. Other notables include Dennis
Taylor and even Blondie
Harry. The voice-acting is well done and gives the story credence.
If Al Pacino
ever went bankrupt, I bet he could sue the pants off Rockstar and DMA considering
how heavily Vice City borrows from movies like Scarface and Carlito’s
Way. The lawyer you meet early in the game is almost the spitting image
Penn. Not that any of this is a bad thing; in fact, it’s terrific fun romping
around an 80’s paradise filled with angry Cubans, pissed-off Haitians and more
drugs than a Tijuana pharmacy.
That fun comes in the form of outstanding gameplay. Fans of GTA 3 will
instantly find themselves in familiar territory. You spend most of your time
running missions for local characters, gaining money along the way. You still
steal cars like packs of gum from 7-11, you still drive like a maniac, and you
still wind up killing more people than The Plague. Like the previous game, this
is really, truly not suitable for kids and earns its ‘M’ rating easily.
there’s enough new stuff going on in Vice City to keep even those who
finished GTA 3 glued to the set. Take the city itself. Vice City is easily
as large as Liberty City, and it also takes less time to open the whole thing
up, so you’re not kept guessing for 30 hours what lies over yonder bridge. And
like Liberty City, Vice City is simply awesome in its realism and detail. There
are far more building interiors to explore than the last game, which ups the
importance of out-of-car experiences and gives the city a much more mysterious
Which isn’t to say that you won’t be spending a lot of time behind the wheel.
In addition to some favorites from GTA 3, you’ll find plenty of new cars
to jack. But the big winners this time around are the motorcycles. Four kinds
of bikes can be swiped and all of them are fun to drive. Riding a hog allows
you to fire guns forward as well as to the side, making them ideal for drive-bys.
The excellent car control makes a return and is extended to the bikes. The
physics are still great, though you’ve got to be careful riding the motorcycles
as a wipeout will actually hurt.
And this time around, you won’t be stuck with a crummy dodo when it comes
to getting a bird’s-eye view of the town. Helicopters become available fairly
early in the story, and while they’re a little tough to control, they give you
a whole new outlook on the city.
By the time you’re flying choppers, you’ve probably gotten to the next big
thing in GTA Vice City – property ownership. In addition to the hotel
in which you start your journey, you can acquire new safehouses by actually
buying them (or killing the previous tenant). Scattered throughout town are
little house icons, and when you’ve gotten far enough in the primary plot, you
can start taking over the city, literally, piece by piece. It really makes you
feel like you’re becoming a bigshot and is a welcome addition to the series.
Another nice move is the inclusion of different clothing styles, denoted by little shirt icons floating around. Pick one up and you’ll change clothes, thereby getting rid of some of those pesky ‘wanted’ stars if you’ve pissed off the cops.
Which you WILL do, and they will try their best to avenge the nice people of Vice City by throwing tons of muscle your way. It’s hard to say if the AI has improved, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s aggressive and it’s realistic, particularly when your wanted meter starts getting cranked up and the feds get involved. They’ll jump out of helicopters, roll across the hood of your car and, in all likelihood, put a quick end to your day.
You’ll need weapons to deal with the (bad) good guys, and Vice City
doesn’t disappoint. You can pick up all kinds of pistols, shotguns and rifles
at Ammu-Nation again, and this time you can visit hardware stores for melee
items like hammers, machetes and everyone’s favorite, the katana. Hassan
An old problem does rear its head here, however, as the aiming is still tough.
Though they improved the sights – the targeting reticule is more colorful –
it can still be a pain trying to target the right guy. You might get into a
big gang brawl and find yourself shooting at a guy twenty feet away while one
of his buddies is standing right next to you whaling away with a shotgun. It
can still get frustrating.
3 was a technical marvel, and Vice City is its equal in terms of
incredible detail in such a vast world. The graphics are slightly improved,
especially in the FMV segments and the facial details, though animations are
not cream of the crop. Oddly, a ‘trail’ graphical effect is turned on by default
and gives the game a slightly blurred look. Turning it off cleans up the graphics,
though you’ll notice more edges, obviously.
However, the game only loads once during initial start up, when switching
between the two different city areas or when starting missions; the rest of
the transitions are seamless and fluid. When you consider the size and complexity
of the city, it’s really pretty sweet programming.
So the game looks fine…and sounds stellar. Vice City features a spectacular
collection of licensed 80’s music, which sets the tone perfectly. There are
8 radio stations which can be switched at the touch of a button. In addition
to the return of the chat station, you can tune in to Wave 103 for some Flock
of Seagulls or Blondie, check out the Wild Style station for Afrika
Bambaata and Run D.M.C. or dip into the Espantoso station for classic
Ranger, Toto, REO
Speedwagon – the list of bitchen 80’s artists is both awesome and tubular.
I’m an ex-headbanger, so I like to tune into the Rock station and rampage through
the city while blasting Judas
Priest. (This is a maneuver I like to call the “PMRC Jackpot” – playing
Priest while killing people in a video game. Take that, Tipper.)
I have one request that wasn’t fulfilled in this iteration of GTA –
a replay feature. A big part of the fun is creating these insane action sequences
– stealing a car, running over some people, getting into a huge chase, pulling
some crazy flips, blowing things up left and right – but once it happens, it’s
gone. The ability to relive even just a few saved moments of a scene would have
Still, this is a small potato in a big, big pot. The depth of this game is unparalleled; there are hordes of side quests and missions and cool little easter eggs. You need to follow the main story in order to open up the whole city and gain access to property acquisition, but you can still spend hours just wandering around getting into trouble. This game is not suitable as a rental since you’ll hardly scratch the surface in a weekend. Listing the subtleties would take a month.
The beauty is that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will last you much longer
than that. This is an excellent sequel to an excellent game and simply shouldn’t
be missed by any PS2 owner…with proper ID, that is.