"Pastel suits, neon lights, fast cars and fast women"

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City takes everything great about GTA III and refines it, creating a whole new game, topping a game that I believed to be untoppable. That's not a word, but for the sake of this review, we'll pretend it is.

STORY:
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (from here on referred to as GTA: VC) tells the sordid tale of Liberty City mobster Tommy Vercetti. After killing several men in an ambush, Tommy, a capo in the Forelli crime family, spent 15 years rotting in jail. After he's finally let out, the Forelli boss sends Tommy down to Vice City, Rockstar's twisted vision of Miami, to orchestrate a drug deal and get the Forellis a cut of the booming drug business. The deal goes horribly wrong and Tommy is stuck in Vice City until he can scrape together the money he needs to repay the Forellis for their losses. This time, it's a much better "rags to riches" story than GTA III, with a character you can better relate to. There are also plenty of over-the-top and hilarious secondary characters that drive the story along. The story also picks up many elements from '80s culture, such as Scarface and Miami Vice.

Score: 8/10

GRAPHICS:
GTA: VC is run by the same graphical engine that powered GTA III. Vehicles and pedestrians look similar. Cars look more boxy, resembling car designs from the '80s. The colour palette has a lot more variety to simulate the vibrant mood of the '80s. GTA III, with is bleak vision of modern urban decay, had a lot of dark and drab colours. Its city was a pastiche of a few landmark areas of several urban cities, most notably New York City. GTA: VC models itself after Miami with its vibrant and soothing neon lights, sandy beaches and towering skyscrapers. GTA: VC also has a better frame rate than GTA III, rendering only things that can be seen and not offscreen objects as well. When it rains or water splashes on your, dots of water can be seen onscreen. When you mutilate somebody with a chainsaw, splats of blood will decorate the screen too.

Score: 9/10

SOUND:
Rockstar really excelled in the sound department. Instead of a bunch of tunes authored by small artists, Rockstar licensed tons of period music. There's a rock station, a power ballad station, a pop music station, etc. and for the fans of Chatterbox from GTA III, there are two talk stations available for your listening pleasure. The sound effects are as good as they ever were, and the voice acting is fabulous. Big names such as Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Tom Sizemore, Phillip Michael Thomas and Danny Trejo have lent their voices to this epic crime saga, and all of them do amazing jobs with the voice acting.

Score: 10/10

GAMEPLAY:
GTA: VC has more of GTA's trademark gameplay, with a few sorely needed features and much better mission design. The first thing you'll notice while wandering around Vice City is the inclusion of motorcycles, which have been absent from the series since the 1st first game. Motorcycles are generally faster than most of the cars, and allow you to squeeze into tight spaces you would normally need to go through on foot. You can do wheelies and also do forward drive-by shootings.

Additionally, GTA: VC has more prominent use of boats, and included more options for air travel. Now you have helicopters and a seaplane to play with, as well as a miniature RC helicopter, all of which are great fun to fly. There is simply nothing more exhilarating than exploring the city from the air. Helicopters are also great as escape vehicles too. As a bonus, there's an unlockable Apache-like helicopter you get to cause havoc with.

New to the series is the ability to cause location specific damage to vehicles. Now you can pop out tires, shootout windshields and snipe drivers from far away. You'll notice now that cops will try to pop your car tires as you make your getaway, and eventually they'll start to place spike strips to do so.

GTA: VC also comes with a new inventory system. Instead of carrying a handful of the same type of weapon, now you will have to pick and choose. You can only carry one pistol in your pistol slot, one SMG in your SMG slot, one assault rifle in your assault rifle slot, one heavy weapon in your heavy weapon slot, etc. In a few cases, the choice is clear, but in others it's not. Do you want to carry your RPG, or make room for a minigun? Should you carry the pump-action shotgun, which has a greater range and minimal reload time, or the automatic shotgun, which shoots faster but has shorter range and a long reload time?

Missions are generally more well designed and are more complex than they were in GTA III. You'll get a few fetch quests, along with several missions where you'll need to provide covering fire, be the wheelman or return fire while inside of a vehicle in a sort of rail-shooting mission. One mission has you providing machine gun fire from the gunner's seat of a helicopter. Once the area is clear, you're set down onto the ground to finish the rest of the mission on foot. In order to facilitate combat missions, you can now crouch and fire from cover, which is a very useful feature indeed.

Side missions such as taxi driving and vigilante have returned, as have the rampage missions, which are much easier. You can still do unique jumps, which are spectacularly fun. New side stuff includes PCJ Playground, wherein you attempt to do a wide variety of stunts with a motorbike in a very short amount of time, a dirt track racing mission and a boat racing mission.

You can now purchase properties, which mostly serve as new safehouses. Several of these properties generate revenue once you complete the property's set of missions, and completing these are integral to story progression. While you can purchase new properties as save points, it takes a while to get enough money to buy them because you don't get paid nearly as much as you did in GTA III for completing missions. Where the most basic missions netted you a couple thousand dollars, now you only get paid a couple hundred. As well, it's still kind of sore having to drive around to your hideouts in order to save your game.

Vice City, unlike GTA III, has plenty more bonuses for completing the game to 100% and doing all of the side missions. You get fireproof abilities, infinite sprinting, doubled health and armour limits, fast weapon reload and even infinite ammo for all of your weapons.

Score: 10/10

OVERALL:
Pros:
+ Great story
+ Fantastic '80s soundtrack
+ Celebrity voice acting
+ Overall does a very good job in terms of atmosphere
+ Locational damage on vehicles
+ Helicopters and motorcycles!
+ Ability to buy property
+ More weapon variety
+ More intricate mission design
Cons:
- Still have to haul it to safehouses to save
- Mission payouts are far too light

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is definitely worth picking up, and in my opinion, is the best game in the GTA series.

FINAL SCORE: 10/10 (Not an average)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/03/07


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