Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, Xbox
Publisher
Rockstar
Developer
Rockstar North
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content
 
Grade
The Good

• Huge living city
• Best soundtrack ever
• Lots of missions or exploration to do
• Vastly improved auto-aim

The Bad

• Some flaws in the graphics engine
• Interior locations not as good as exterior

 
Grade
A-

On the heels of the immensely popular and surprisingly successful Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar has created a successful sequel that not just adds on the original, but gives the player more of everything. Set in the 1980's, this game has the decade's nostalgia poured into every seam. You play as Tommy Vercetti, who has recently gotten out of jail. Your old boss, Sonny Forelli, wants to reward you for your loyalty (apparently, you didn't snitch on him and that was why you were in jail), so he sends you to Vice City to start up a drug trade. When the deal goes bad, leaving Tommy without money or drugs, you have to find out why and who has your money before Forelli sends some people down to take care of you. This, of course, means taking on a number of jobs for various criminal elements in hopes of getting information or direction.

The basics of Vice City are the same as GTA3 - the player will have various people around town who give you missions to complete. The missions range from assassination to demolition to even just the delivery of people or contraband. Once you complete a mission, you'll earn money and often another mission to perform. On top of the main story missions, which you will acquire things to do from a variety of sources throughout the game. The player has a lot of alternative missions they can perform. From time to time, you can pick up a ringing payphone for an assassination mission. Car-jack a police car, taxi, firetruck or ambulance and the player can press the R3 button to initiate timed missions specific to that occupation. Heck, you can even deliver pizza if you want to. On top of that are rampages (timed mayhem and murder objectives), hidden packages to locate, insane jumps and stunts to pull off and even the occasional vehicle specific mini-game (like racing a remote-controlled car around a track on the beach). And if none of that floats your boat, you can always just run around doing whatever you want to do. Days can pass without the player doing much of anything outside of just exploring the immense city.

You'll find there there is no one set way to complete any of the missions, even though you may have some rules set on you from time to time. It's noticeably harder to get money at the start of the game and the cops seem to be everywhere and take some serious effort to ditch. The player has available to them a larger number of weapons (including a chainsaw), but can only carry one of each type at a time. On top of all this is a vastly improved aiming mechanism, which thankfully addresses the problematic shooting mechanics that made GTA3 harder than it needed to be.

So, you may ask "What's new?" With so much that's returned from last year's game, players may not immediately notice what's new (but I doubt it). There are tons of new vehicles, including a wide variety of 2-wheeled autos, including scooters, hogs and even the occasional "crotch-rocket". Riding the motorcycles can be fun, but also dangerous as any minor wreck will send you flying. Also available are a handful of buildings you can actually enter. In comparison to the vast number of buildings and areas, you may have a hard time finding all the places you can actually enter in Vice City. This time around, the player can actually purchase some of the buildings, either to use as a safe house or to keep as a means of income. And, the player can legitimately fly both a helicopter and seaplane.

As with the previous game, the audio portion of Vice City is spectacular. Sound effects are varied and really add life to the game. Every vehicle has a different engine sound and driving around town, whether it be the screech of tires or the impact of a crash, feels pulled straight from life. Pedestrians have a large range of things they blurt out as you pass them by on the street, most of which are good for a chuckle. The voice acting for the main characters is top notch, including performances by Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Robert Davi, Burt Reynolds, Lee Majors, Gary Busey and Fairuza Balk. Considering he gets the most airtime, Ray Liotta does an excellent job as Tommy Vercetti.

On top of the fine sound effects and voice acting is a soundtrack that's beyond amazing. When running around town on foot, you'll mostly hear ambient city sounds, but once you steal a car, you'll be able to change through a variety of radio stations, including two talk radio channels. Once again, the radio banter is over-the-top funny, but it's not even the star here. Rockstar has managed to gain access to volumes of '80's era music to make each channel feel authentic. You'll here tracks from everyone who was popular during the decade, including Judas Priest, Herbie Hancock, Run DMC, Yes, Rick James, Toto, Mr. Mister and Tears For Fears, to new a few (and when I say few, I mean a few - I was surprised to hear some of the songs turn up).

The game's graphics engine, while noticeably better than last time, is probably the game's weakest part. The car models look a lot better and sport some really nice reflection and lighting effects and even show more varied damage effects during crashes. The buildings and surroundings also show more detail and depth, but only to a degree. The character models tend to look blocky and feel lifted straight from the last game, which may just be the case as the graphics engine feels just like GTA3's. The lighting effects, especially the neon lights that adorn most buildings, are nicely done and really stand out. The red glow of the morning sun coming up is a great touch that really works with the finely implemented weather effects. The game does manage to run at a fine framerate, even if it bogs down on a rare occasion, and the draw-distance is great enough to actually allow the player to see down the road as you're flying through town (whether it be in a car or 'copter). When running along buildings, the camera will often weave just enough to show the empty interior and there are a number of times that textures will just pop-up as the player moves through town. While it's nice to have some interior locations, the camera inside tends to jerk around a lot and some interior locations, like the mall, just don't look all that great.

Considering how much I hated the '80's, Vice City's overall design and concept makes me glad I lived through it, even if it is so that I can get a great laugh from all of the events that the game has for me. At it's heart, Vice City can be labeled as "more of the same", which in essence is true. But, there are more than enough things new to this game to make it worth the time to play. If you loved the first game, this one is for you. But, be warned, this game is not for children as it earns it's Mature rating in a matter of thirty minutes.

- - Kinderfeld

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