Review by Relle

"My only alternative to Simcopter..."

I bet you think that's an odd tagline. Well, I'm not going to explain it. I'll let you wonder. I've never been much for the GTA games, personally. The blood-splattering ultra-violence and similar-splattering sexual content are small doses. Similar pure violence games like Bloodrayne fall flat, and if I wanted to play a game with some simulated bouncy-bouncy, I'd check out one of the many Japanese hentai games. So what kind of sado-masochist would be content wreaking havoc and destruction throughout the city while banging hookers in each arm and a minigun strapped to his back?

*raises hand*

All right, so I'm not the sweet and innocent type. In fact, I'm the "shoot out a cop's tires because it's funny" type. Because the cops can't do anything about it, you see. They only care if you slam into them headfirst with a car.

I would be hard-pressed to find a gamer, casual or otherwise, who hadn't at least heard of GTA. The whole game starts, continues, and finishes with the central theme: crime. Right off you're placed in the loafers of Tommy Vercetti, just released from prison and sent down to Vice City to break the mob up north into the massive drug business down there. And by drugs, I don't mean Viagra and Rogaine. This is the 80's, after all. A prequel, of sorts.

Much like GTA3, your first big deal in a new city goes bust. The drugs are hijacked, the money for said drugs is gone, and you're in some deep doo-doo. What's a mobster to do? Hunt down the lowlife sons of [explitive deleted] and bust some skulls! How do you do that? Deliver pizzas, drive an ambulance, kill a snitch or know, the usual.

In RPG terms, this game consists almost entirely of side quests. You visit the various players of Vice City, including a buildng contractor slash cowboy, the rock band Lovefist (har-har) and some strange Jamaican who drugs you into doing things for her. Bad things. Naughty things. Nonsexual things, you freaking perverts! You're basically the same thug for hire as the nameless entity in GTA3, except this time you have...a name! They'll never see you coming now!

However, they will hear you. The game provides a lovely ensemble of voice actors, including the slightly frightening Ray Liotta in the starring role. That's not the end of it, though. Pedestrians will shout at you. Hookers will whisper sweet nothings into your ear as you sing the body electric. As you drive from place to place you'll enjoy countless and authentic 80's songs, or even your own tunes if you so happen to rip a CD to your hard drive. And cops...well, who listens to the police, anyway? You're a busy criminal, you have places to go and people to whack.

To that end, you need a car. Or a motorcycle. Don't have either? Steal one. You're a mobster, you put your pants on two legs at a time like all the other mobsters, so go out and swipe a car! Any car will do, as long as you're not stupid enough to try and hijack a cop car while the nice policeman is still inside. Fortunately, there's plenty of cars to be had, from vans and semis to sleek sports cars. Each one handles just a little bit differently, and each one has several areas that can be damaged, such as the doors, rear bumper, windshields, or tires. Popping tires is especially fun, since it's amusing to see a car skid away on its rims. Your typical criminal isn't going to care whether his getaway vehicle is a sports car or the...ugh...Idaho, but you're the more discerning type, aren't you? I know I am.

While there are many cars, as I said, only a few are really worth driving. The rest are slow, have poor handling, and are good for little more than a last resort. I mean, if you don't have fifteen cops chasing after you, what are you going to choose? The station wagon, or the 150-mile-an-hour Infernus? Yeah, that's what I thought. The motorcycles, an interesting new addition to the game, suffer from the same mentality. Only the PCG 600 is any good. The rest are noisy, slower, and will buck you more often than the wild stallion that is the 600.

As it is, driving is pretty much the only way to get around Vice City with any haste. It's a big city. Very big. To scale, even. So just like a real city, there's plenty of surprises to be found. In fact, what I enjoy most about the game is just tooling around in a Cheetah, driving on the wrong side of the road, knocking down signal lights, driving on the sidewalk, and completely disregarding every single traffic law I've ever learned.

It's this kind of freedom that appeals to me much more than the violence. Not that such a thing has no place, of course. As an unscrupulous criminal, you're free to do whatever you'd like in Vice City, whether it be going on missions for other crime lords, blowing up passing cars by tossing grenades into the street, whatever. Or use an Uzi to take out rival gang members, fire a few rockets from your shoulder-mounted launcher, snipe people from half a block away, etc. The amount of weaponry in this game is staggering, so much so that you can only hold one of a certain class of weapon at a time. It's with all this hardware that you're free to live out various aggressive male fantasies, even if you're a girl. As for me, I made it my personal mission to kill every hooker that crossed my path. Why? They know why...

Naturally, rampant mayhem will get you into trouble. The more killing and destruction you cause, the greater attention you'll receive from the boys in brown (which are the color of police uniforms in Vice City). At first it'll be like a game of tag. They spot you and give chase, joyously shouting, "Tag, tag, you're it!" as they knock you to the ground with their nightsticks. Then they start going after you in cars. Suddenly it's no longer "Tag," but "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." Then the FBI decides they want to play, and of course, the army's not going to just sit on the sidelines. The only way to get them off your back is to pick up the handy bribe icons scattered about the city in odd locations. Of course, if you're caught or 'killed,' the game's not over. You just go to the hospital or police station, sans a good chunk of money and all your weapons, along with a good deal of your precious time.

Yes, that damn time. While there is a definite change in the day's light as time (actively) progresses from morning to evening, it's not as if things become hard to see. The sky just changes color. Likewise, the headlights on your car/bike don't actually light anything but the road directly in front of it. There's also no real way to adjust this level of detail. Depending on your system, you can improve your framerate by merely adjusting the draw distance. However, even with the draw at its maximum setting, you will still see some pop-ups and pop-ins from time to time, especially as you're driving.

Which brings me to the glitches portion of our program. Let me set the scene for you: it's a bright, sunny day. You're standing in the middle of the road. Why? Because you can. You watch a car drive toward you from the bridge to downtown. It could be slow, fast, any make or model. As it comes barreling toward you, you move the mouse so it's out of your view, then look again! The car is gone. The people who were previously wandering around have changed places, and some are gone completely. Is it a UFO? No, just poor programming.

There's more. On occasion the sky will darken, and it will rain. When in a car, this will cause rain drops to splatter on the inside of the monitor, which gives quite the impression of realism when driving in the behind-the-wheel mode. However, change the view to outside the car, and the raindrops remain on the screen. Takes away from the effect...just a bit.

However, I can't fault the game too far for its graphical glitches. Past the surface flaws lies an experience that defined true free-roaming gameplay. This is the kind of game where even the consequences to your actions are no real consequence. You don't really die. You aren't sent to jail for more than a few hours of game time. There's so many things to do outside the game's official missions, it would behoove me to allow you to discover them for yourself. It's a big stinkin' city, and you're a big stinkin' criminal. Go make some noise.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/19/04, Updated 06/19/04

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