Review by pact

"Definitely not the sequel it should have been."

The year is 2001. Gamers worldwide rejoice as the very first Grand Theft Auto title comes to the Sony Playstation 2. Students everywhere discuss game tactics while mothers declare their hatred towards the game. After a very long time, the buzz died down until news of Vice City was announced. Everyone again breathed Grand Theft Auto and this time, the buzz died out much faster. As a devoted Grand Theft Auto fanboy, I bring to you Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – the review. What exactly did Rockstar do that killed of GTA:VC much sooner than expected?

The year is 1986 and the location is Liberty City. After 15 years in jail for his family, Tommy Vercetti is back. To say thank you, Sonny Forelli has decided to set Tommy up nicely. Unfortunately Tommy is still a known face in Liberty City so must travel to Vice City – a quaint town where he can cause all the mayhem he likes. Almost as incognito. I say almost because on his first deal everything goes wrong, money and drugs are stolen and Sonny is not happy at all. You play as Tommy and you must recover the lost money to save your own skin and take that of another. The world of Vice City is very Miami like; criminals have lives which delve into betrayal, greed and ego-mania. Everyone you meet is a suspect: even the guy in the pink suit.

GTA:VC is very much a mission based action genre game following in the footsteps of each GTA title to date. You have a great deal of exploring to do, much of which is completely voluntary. The lifestyle of Vice City is a lot more upbeat than that of the gloomy Liberty City – yes the sites are more attractive but many people roam the streets. You have roller-bladers, hookers, beach guys and girls and the occasional business person. This town however has concealed life styles of notorious gangsters, much like Mr.Vercetti. Vice City is a much larger town than Liberty City with plenty of buildings to enter and destroy. But much like GTA III the majority of the town is shut down and you are stuck to one island. A hurricane warning has left the bridges closed and as one expects, a twist in the story line opens them up.

The game remains linear, despite the freedom you have between missions. About a third of the way in however, the games goals are suddenly switched. You no longer do missions for the benefit of others, but largely for you. This includes buying property like strip clubs, taxi companies, auto dealerships and a porno film studio. Money is hard to come by in this game, so your main source of income (besides conveniently robbing convenient stores) would be the revenue generated from these places. That means ensuring success in their respective businesses. Wipe out rival taxi companies. Find cars for your automobile showroom. Success will guarantee you a generous helping of money as the days go by.

The glitches I mentioned earlier rear their ugly head the more you play. Sometimes Tommy would mysteriously lose three points of life when hes only walking. A vehicle you might have before a cutscene would disappear afterwards. Often times I found myself sinking into the floor. Sometimes I would be able to jump out, other times I found myself falling into a vortex of game textures that unintentionally gave it a look similar a crazy dream. Another horrible glitch found me getting busted while I was driving at top speed, still the cop was able to teleport next to my door and drag me out. A good number of these glitches werent even in the first game, which gives me the impression that this was a rushed release. Still, theres no excuse for poor programming, especially because the game remains essentially the same, and the glitches significantly affect your performance.

The characters in Vice City surpass that of GTA III. You will see street fights, cops hunting down criminals, roller skaters bumping into other pedestrians and much more. Quirky comments such as "In the navy" will be heard and sooner rather than later, each comment will have been heard 10 times over. The actions each character undergoes also betters that of GTA III – people do a lot more in Vice City such as visit the cafe, hang out on the beach and take their boat for a spin.

Vice City lives up to the GTA-esque of car jacking and so on. Rockstar have given us many cars, motorcycles, airplanes and helicopters to "borrow" from other citizens of Vice City and have allowed for some extreme joy-riding. A variety of stunts can be manoeuvred on two wheels and in the air. For example you can pull a wheelie or a stoppie on a motorbike, and various insane stunts inside a Police Chopper. Each takes time to complete and will be recorded in the stats record featured in the main menu.

Overall the missions you must participate in are a joy to play. They tend to be easier than that of GTA III but when the missions get hard, they get really hard. You have the standard missions such as "Kill X in Y minutes" where you will be given a specific vehicle and instructions such as don't get caught. The hard missions require multiple objectives and you are given a slim time-limit. The pressure is really on for the RC missions.

Stress levels will rise in the body as you get deeper into this game. The RC missions need plenty of attempts to master and when you have finished them you feel little but pleased. The police will be more rough and ready, they follow you all over the place and it is much easier to get wanted levels. On this note, I feel this is a flaw of the title. No more can you roam the streets and sniper someone from a rooftop and walk away unharmed. Apart from mission stress, we have a rather slow control scheme. Automatic enemy selection requires a tap of a button to highlight the nearest enemy to your position. However response times are slow and as a gang of enemies such as the Haitans advance, you will retreat with stained trousers.

The graphics of Vice City are nothing special. GTA III has the same, but Vice City has it on a larger scale with vibrant colours. The only major difference would be the amount of life in the title. No matter what happens, Vice City is ongoing. But to make such an ongoing and rather entertaining world, Rockstar have left the design of Vice City in shambles. Still the same graphical flaws of GTA III are noted such as sketchy lines and poor detail at times. Somehow the very important crash monitor is off – a narrow miss of an oncoming vehicle tends to lead you into a spin and 5 car pile up. Not what you need while evading many police cars, helicopters and gangs.

Character models have improved a little bit but all the little stiffness of GTA III has not gone. While driving top speed on your 'Hog, Tommy's clothes will flutter in the wind. The hair styles are more defined as well as general facial detail such as the eyes nose and mouth. Occasionally you will spot a character model sporting a very random facial expression, or none at all. It seems that the more people there are in one location, the characters take a back seat to the scenery. That or these guys came back from the bar or have no emotion.

A very noticeable point of the living Vice City would be when you are flying around in your chopper. You can see for miles around, and if you look close enough you can see the world in action – police chasing robbers, people moving from A to B and the traffic that you are glad you aren't in.

Celebrity wise, GTA Vice City had a lot of them. Voice actors included Fairuza Balk, Deborah Harry, Jenna Jameson, and Lawrence Taylor and the sound track (which spans 7 CDs) includes music from Judas Priest, Mr. Mister, Cutting Crew and Laura Branigan. I do believe that this game has more celebrity's than any other befor it.

So who or what is being exploited? Its not the Haitians, the Italians nor the 80s. Its the gamers, with their wrong-headed cheering of the games surface value without any clear relation to the flawed gameplay. To the games credit, its also a testament to the interactive nature of videogames, impacting an audience by allowing them to act out their darkest fantasies, performing pleasurable violence vicariously through Tommy Vercetti, who is the most significant and unlikeliest of videogame mascots to emerge in recent times. He is wittier than Sonic, more Italian than Mario, but most of all, he is most prevalent in my mind when I think about when the face of Thanatos revealed itself to me.

To me, GTA:VC is same old, same old. Nothing about it screams out to me. Everything I need for any GTA addiction would be found in GTA III. Vice City just takes that title, polishes it and chucks in an 80's theme. Many will argue that Vice City is a much better game than GTA III, but chances are that they also like Blinx and Spyro. No offence. Hardcore fans stick to GTA III, and San Andreas. Fanboy's of the title can pick it up just to extend the life of GTA III and mothers everywhere should avoid buying this title for their children. What's the final verdict? Vice City is a major let down.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/16/06

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