Review by NES4EVER

"The game of which all games should aspire to be."

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is finally out, and after 2 weeks of nearly nonstop playing, I can safely say this is one of the best games to hit any system… ever. Rockstar had accomplished more than it had ever hoped with Grand Theft Auto 3, but once again they put their minds to the table and come up with another mega hit. As soon as the game loaded for me, the feeling was simply unexplainable. The graphics are awe-inspiring, the soundtrack is perfect, the gameplay is out of this world, and everything else in this game is just… right.

Like many, I had been following up on this game quite a bit. I was there for its official announcement in March, I was there for the first screenshots in August, and I was at Electronics Boutique on 10:30 AM the opening day to snap up my pre-ordered copy of this game. Like many of the 4.5 Million people that preordered, I was subtly surprised at what the love and labor of Rockstar North had become. Anyone who has looked at screenshots and followed a game through production will tell you how exhilarating those first few seconds of play are. It looked great on my computer screen and it looked even better on my TV screen.

Story

The year is 1986. Tommy Vercetti is released from Prison after spending the last 15 years of his life in there. Sonny Forelli hired Tommy to make a deal but the deal went drastically wrong and Tommy ended up killing everyone there. After hearing of Tommy Vercetti’s release, Sonny has him sent from Liberty City down to Vice City to get the mafia established in the flourishing drug market. Tommy accepts and is sent down with 3 million dollars to buy drugs with. After arriving in Vice City, Tommy goes with his new affiliate and lawyer Ken Rosenberg to proceed in a drug deal. The helicopter lands and out hops an old man. As Tommy and the old man exchange briefcases, the old man laughs maniacally and Tommy is ambushed and forced to run away without the money. Ken and Tommy make it back to Ken’s office alive, but 3 million dollars in debt to the mafia and no drugs to show for it. Thus begins the story of Tommy Vercetti and Vice City.

The story in GTA Vice City is unbelievable. Like its predecessor GTA III, the game starts out with a strong presence. None of those slow starts crap. This game goes straight to the action. Throughout the game the story still plays a strong presence. Even when you are doing side missions, it still feels like you are advancing through the game, making friends and foes. As the Eurhythmics said in the song ‘Sweet Dreams’, “Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused”. That excerpt pretty much describes this game perfectly. There are some people in Vice city that get you close and stab you in the back, and there are others that come through for you at the darkest moment. Once again, Rockstar North has accurately portrayed the life of crime (not that I would know) and stuffed it on a nice little DVD for gamers to indulge upon. Very well done Rockstar, very well done.
10/10

Gameplay

Gameplay has to be the selling point of this game; there are just so many things to do. To accurately portray this game, I will break it up into sections. Otherwise this section would just be one giant paragraph.

Main missions and side missions

This is basically the main part of the game. There are well over one hundred main missions stemming from drop offs and pickups to intricate missions involving boats, helicopters and seaplanes. In the start, the missions are low key and mainly involve point A to point B objectives. As you progress through the game though, the missions become much more varied and put you to the test with unique situations. For instance, you could go from doing a helicopter mission to a car racing checkpoint mission under the same boss. Not only are there many missions for every boss, there are several key bosses for you to work for. In most cases, one boss will lead you to the next one or two bosses, but sometimes what you do can have an impact on the story. The main missions were very well put together, and I find that they flow very smoothly; but that all depends what order you do them in. See that’s another great thing about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it’s completely non-linear! That’s right! If you want to just drive around after completing a mission its totally okay. You can just drive around the city killing people needlessly and you wont have to worry about having to do the next mission. This provides for a great gaming experience and excellent replay value since you can keep playing forever after you’ve beaten the game.

The side missions tend to be for bosses that don’t have any effect on the story line. It isn’t required that you do their missions at any time, they’re like a time consumer first and foremost. But don’t get me wrong. Some of the best missions in this game are side missions. They challenge you to do the same things you would do as you would in the main missions, but they add extra goodies to make them even better! Some of these missions require you to race people, traffic their drugs, and assassinate people. They seem like pretty bland jobs in theory, but they provide a lot of action and let you showcase your skills. Also, unlike GTA III, there are a lot more side missions to do in this game. Where there were 20 in GTA III, there are 40 in GTA: Vice City and they range from taking care of a bikers business to protecting rock stars. Rockstar North truly created a masterpiece in this department.

Other goodies

Even when you are not doing a mission, there are still things for you to do. There are 100 hidden packages spread throughout the entirety of the islands; there are over 30 rampages and 36 hidden jumps. Hidden packages are useful because once you find one, you pocket a certain amount of money, and for every ten you find, you get something delivered to your hideout, whether it be a weapon or a secret vehicle or whatever. They are pretty well hidden as well, and it takes a lot of patience to locate every last one. Rampages are little bits usually between one and two minutes that allow you to kill a certain amount of people in a certain amount of time with a certain weapon. I must say it is pretty fun to do, but they are not for the light hearted, there are some pretty gory instance where blood is spattering all over the screen and its just not a pretty sight. Hidden or ‘unique’ jumps are probably the most playful part of this game. Your goal is to project yourself into the air off of a certain ramp and travel a certain distance before landing. As with the hidden packages, these ramps can be quite hard to find or access easily, and you need to be going a good rate of speed to make the jump. These games are pretty fun, and they add depth to the already deep game.

Owning Property

If all of that is not enough to convince you, you can even buy property in this game! Once you save up enough money, you can choose one of a few hideouts and buy it. This allows you to save your achievements in the game, and if you buy a good hideout, maybe even a car or two. This is a great advancement over GTA III because before you only had one hideout per island. Now if the cops are after you, there is way more chance that a hideout will be accessible to you. But that’s not even the best part of owning property. After a certain point in the game, you will be able to buy certain businesses in Vice City. Strip clubs, Car showrooms, and even a Film studio, you name it and you can buy it. These places not only provide you with a place to save, but after completing a certain task assigned by the business, you are able to access the money earned from the place. After 24 hours (game time of course), you are able to receive the maximum amount of money collected by the place. So if you are running low on cash, you can always stop by a business for a quick boost.

I cannot think of any other game that allows as much freedom and variety as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It’s predecessor GTA III is the only other game I can think of that gave players such a range of tasks, but as you can see, all the comparisons between the two end in favor of GTA: Vice City. The main missions are much more involving, and the fact that Tommy talks give you much more inclusion in the missions. The side missions are a lot more entertaining and vary much more than they did in GTA III. The other aspects such as rampages have been added on to and are much more rewarding this time around. The addition of properties is another great thing that just makes GTA: Vice so much better than GTA III. I feel kind of awkward comparing it to its predecessor, but it’s the only game that even partially resembles it.
10/10

Graphics

The only thing I can say about the graphics is “Holy Crap!” They are greatly improved from GTA III in almost every way. The polygon count has doubled and I have a suspicion that the frame rate has been increased as well.

The cars this time around are much more detailed than they were in GTA III. For example, when the sun is shining down on the cars, you can see the light reflect off the metal of the cars ahead of you as it would in real life. The damage modeling looks much more realistic as well. If you hit something on the right side of the hood, the right side of the hood will be crumpled, but more severely than the left side. The glass on cars has also been improved. This time you can actually see through the windshield of a car from much farther away than you could in GTA III. You can even shoot through the windshield and kill the driver with a sniper rifle if you wanted to. Another new addition is the fact you can shoot peoples tires. If someone is driving by, you can use your manual aim weapons to shoot the persons tires out. Suppose you shot the car a little too much instead of the tires, the car will catch fire and blow up. The fire looks much more realistic this time around and so do the explosions. All in all, the cars are much better this time around. They have much more sensory details like lines and curves that make them look like real cars. I don’t think there is any other game in the action/adventure category with better looking cars.

Another new addition to the GTA series on the PS2 is the motorcycle! There are racing motorcycles, mopeds and highway cruisers. They look absolutely stunning as well. As you walk up to one, you can see the various parts of the engine on stuff like the highway cruiser and the smoke doesn’t just come out of the back of the bike, it comes out of the middle. Exactly where the engine is. I like the amount of detail that went into the new bikes. They look fabulous.

Yet another new addition to this game is the Helicopter. There are quite a few helicopters in Vice City and they all look good. They all keep the curves that are on their real life counter parts and they just look good. The blades on the helicopter start up slow and work their way to regular speed just like a real helicopter. There are quite a few of them too. There is your average helicopter, your news helicopter, and your police helicopter. They really have no difference graphically though. The one that stands out is the MASH type helicopter. The bubble dome is clear and surprisingly round. There are no jaggies on it whatsoever. All in all they look absolutely fabulous.

The city itself is gorgeous. Every building is detailed and there is a lot more variety in architecture than there was in GTA III. I have to say one of the most surprising examples of the better graphics is the main strip on the beach. If you stand far enough back, you can see the plethora of neon signs and bright lights lighting up the hotels along the main drag. It’s a spectacular view when compared to GTA III. You wont find another game on the market like this that looks this good. The buildings are more detailed than any game with a city that I’ve played.

The people have improved slightly from GTA III. Instead of everyone looking like a Michelin man, they look more like humans. The people have natural movements in the FMV clips. Although their hair and faces do look a little odd compared to a real human. The pedestrians are the ones that look really good. Unlike their alien shaped heads in GTA III, they look like real people and have real faces.

You would be hard pressed to find a better-looking game in the Action/Adventure genre. The graphics are nearly perfect. The only problem that I have had with them so far is the fact that there seems to be an abnormal amount of pop-up for a game of this day and age. For example, I have been driving over a bridge and the other side of the bridge doesn’t load. So I head down the other side of this bridge thinking that I’m going straight for the water, but it is just an invisible bridge. It scares the crap out of me but I can live with it. Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the graphics. Rockstar North did a good job with them this time. A very big improvement from GTA III.
9/10

Sound

Now THIS is the part of the game no one should have a problem with. The sound is superb. I cannot believe how much went into this category and what came to at the end. GTA III was a scorcher in this category, but Vice City blows it out of the water!

Radio stations are back and better than ever. The radio stations have grown from around 20-30 minutes to over an hour each. There are 2 talk show stations, quite a few pop stations, a rap station and a rock station. Each station has well known songs from the 80’s by Blondie, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Michael Jackson, Wang Chung, INXS, and my favorite band Slayer. It seems like quite an eclectic collection of music here, but it actually fits into the game quite well. Songs like “Raining blood” work really well with missions where you must kill a lot of people in your car and “Video killed the radio star” works great for just cruising around to. The stations are just fabulous. Too bad there aren’t any other games out there with this much music. Voice acting is also top notch in GTA: Vice City. Many guest stars like Bert Reynolds, Ray Liotta and Jenna Jameson play characters in the game and there are many other noticeable people in the lineup too!

The sound effects are great as well. The guns sound like their real life counterpart in most cases and the reloading noise sounds realistic. When the metal clashes with metal on the cars, it creates a crunching noise, but not one you would hear in an accident or something. But still, it sounds surprisingly good.
10/10

Controls

The controls for GTA: Vice City is actually quite good. The cars handle slightly better than they did in GTA III, and the new motorcycles also handle well. You can do wheelies and stoppies on the bike, which is actually quite fun because you get money for doing it too! The only method transportation some people might have trouble with is the helicopter and the seaplane. Its like riding a bike though, once you do it you will never forget how to. Fighting bare-fist or with Melee weapons is easy as well, just swing at the target. The guns are also easy to aim and shoot with since there is a new aiming system. It is slightly better than the one in GTA III but you probably wont notice any difference. It still screws up sometimes, but so rarely that you won’t gripe about it.

Difficulty --- Moderate/Hard

At the start of the game, GTA Vice is pretty easy. All the missions are straightforward, but as you get deeper into the game, they get much harder and require some creative thinking and a little luck on top of that. Driving takes some skill as well, especially in the later races where you are required to race people. So you need to know how to drive, how to fight, and how to shoot. Once you know those three things and know them well, you will be fine.

Replay Value

Through the roof people!!! I seriously mean it when I say it will take a long time to get sick of. First off the game usually takes about 15-20 hours to complete the missions and at least that much time to get 100% as well. So now you are looking at a 30-40 hour game. And once you play through it, you are going to want to play it at least one more time, maybe even twice. Add in the fact that you can always drive around and cause mayhem after you are done, which adds another dozen hours to the game. That’s nearly 100 hours of game time. I think that’s pretty awesome for a game that is not an RPG.
10/10

Conclusion

This game should be required by law to have for any gamer over the age of 18. It has great graphics, great music, one HELL of a lot of depth, good replay value and an intriguing storyline. What more could you want from a game? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has it all. Do whatever it takes to get the money for this game. It is worth twice as much as it is selling for. It took the revolutionary game GTA III and revolutionized it again. How could you pass that up? Even if you are still not sure, just rent it. Vice City is just too good to pass up.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/02, Updated 11/22/02


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