Review by Timmy Big Hands

"Crime is King, Baby!"

About a year ago I wrote an article in which I denounced the sort of adult material found in games such as Grand Theft Auto III, and said that such content has no place in the video game industry. However, after extensively playing the recently released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it looks like the time has come for me to eat my words. Rockstar's continuation of their insanely popular GTA series comes only a year later than GTA3, yet it shows as much refinement and quality as a game that has been in development for three to five years. By
fixing what few inherent problems GTA3 had, and giving the players more, it is safe to say that Vice City is one of the most worthwhile games available for the PC.

At its heart Vice City boasts the same go-anywhere do-anything structure that was so successful in GTA3. All cars and motorcycles on the street are free to be stolen, random attacks against pedestrians are commonplace, and the cops will attack wrongdoers excessively. The allowed violence is a major source of controversy, but when its taken into consideration that the game has a Mature rating that is enforced at most retailers, whether young children are allowed to play this game is pretty much up to their parents.

The biggest changes made to the gameplay in this installment are the inclusions of motorcycles and the ability to buy property. The motorcycles are extremely fast, but a collision results in the loss of a ride. It is also a welcome addition that in motorcycles it is possible to shoot forward. The other addition, property, adds another dimension to the game. By buying buildings such as an ice cream factory or a print shop, those businesses can be run and can make hefty daily profits.

The scope of the game has changed also. While GTA3 was content to only have a baseball bat available in the way of melee weapons, Vice City includes a meat cleaver, chainsaw screwdriver, katana, hammer, knife, and spike knuckles available. Also, the amount of cars and the size of the city have both doubled. This was made apparent the first time I took a helicopter out for a ride. The realization of just the sheer enormity of Vice City is humbling to say the least.

In this installment of the freestyle crime simulator series, the main character actually has a voice, and there is a relatively engaging plot, which is helped along by some surprisingly famous celebrities. After finishing a 15-year sentence for mob boss Sonny Forelli (Tom Sizemore), lowly Mafia working guy Tommy Vercetti (a perfectly cast Ray Liotta) is rewarded with a place to live in Vice City (a.k.a. Miami) where he can run operations for the Forelli family and gain influence. Unfortunately, Tommy's first drug deal goes sour and he is left with no money, no drugs, and a heavy debt to Sonny. In his quest to discover who is responsible for the betrayal, Tommy makes friends, betrays them, and ultimately sets out to run the entire city. A supporting cast including Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, and everyone's favorite Tarot card reader Ms. Cleo (yes, you read that right) lend their voices also, making this the most star-studded video game ever. The actors all provide the same flair that they do in their on-screen outings, and the cast opens the
door for games with ensemble casts in the future. I pray that someday we will see a game starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman.

Quite possibly Vice City's greatest attribute, however, is the incredible 80's theme soundtrack. When in a vehicle there are nine radio stations to choose from. Two are talk stations, but the other seven are filled with music that perfectly embody Vice City's 80's setting. There are 79 licensed tracks, making it the largest licensed soundtrack in gaming history. Flock of Seagulls, Ozzy Osbourne, Yes, Twisted Sister, Tears for Fears, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, Kool and the Gang, Tito Puente and dozens of other musicians
contribute tracks to Vice City's almost indescribably good soundtrack.

I have nothing but good things to say about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. By fixing any kind of beef I've ever had with GTA3, and by giving twice as much as all of its good qualities, I find myself giving Vice City my highest recommendation. I don't grade on an established scale, but if I were to ever give a perfect 10, it would undoubtedly go to Vice City.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/19/03, Updated 06/19/03

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