Review by horror_spooky

"Sunny skies, beautiful beaches, death around every corner...we must be in Vice City"

Arguably, Grand Theft Auto III is the most influential game of all time. Not only did it introduce gameplay elements that are consistently copied to this very day, but it also provided one of the most amazing gameplay experiences I have had the pleasure of playing through, and I love its other sequels, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV, but compared to those three great, great games, Vice City just doesn't compare. I'm not saying that Vice City is a bad game, it definitely isn't, but it's just not as fun as the other games in the series and is actually on-par with some of the spin-offs like Liberty City Stories. However, just because it's not the best in the series doesn't mean it isn't worth a look.

Vice City's core gameplay is virtually identical to that found in its predecessor with some notable exceptions. Before this game was released, a lot of hype was about the fact that you were no longer limited to cars, tanks, and a crappy plane, but there were now new vehicles for your use. These vehicles include helicopters and motorcycles that definitely add to the game and it makes you wonder why they didn't just include these vehicles in Grand Theft Auto III.

Where Vice City fails terribly at is that it is the most repetitive Grand Theft Auto game because of its early missions which set the tone for the later missions of the game to ill effect. Basically, you are tasked with changing your clothes, picking someone up, dropping them off, and sometimes you engage in a firefight. Some of the missions try to mix things up a bit and while this does work to a degree, these mechancis sometimes feel a little gimmicky, such as shooting a turret at a bunch of thugs on some rooftops as your partner flies around a helicopter.

Since the last paragraph was about something negative, let's go back to something positive that Vice City brings to the table and that is the simple ability to rob stores. Nowadays this may seem like a simple mechanic, but at the time that Vice City was released, this was awesome. Not only that, but you can walk into more buildings than you could in the previous game and you can purchase clothes, weapons, and buy food.

Speaking of weapons, there are a ton more weapons in Vice City than there were in Grand Theft Auto III. Chainsaws, katanas, and hammers join the fun this time around as well, which is something since Grand Theft Auto III was a little weak on melee weapons.

Some changes have been made to the police system, and now SWAT teams will zip-line down from helicopters and try to take you out. Police officers can now whack you with night sticks and even throw spike strips out into the middle of the road to demolish your tires. While these additions can become frustrating when you're trying to play through the missions, they add to the free-roam aspects of the title exceptionally.

While all of those improvements and changes are great, the biggest addition ins the inclusion of an entirely new gameplay mechanic that focuses on purchasing real estate. Once you complete a certain amount of missions and get enough money, certain establishments can be purchased like a strip club or a taxi company (there are many more as well). These properties serve to provide side missions and once you complete the side missions for a certain business, you can collect income from that establishment.

Just like in Grand Theft Auto III, there are various gangs around Vice City that tend to get into trouble, and if you want to help the cops out a bit by taking these guys out you can. However, police missions aren't the only side missions you can partake in. The ambulance and fire truck side missions return, but there is now the new side mission where you must make pizza deliveries. I know these sound boring, and, well, they are, but they are also completely optional.

In Tony Hawk, some gamers challenge themselves to find all of the "gaps", and Vice City provides a similar system for Grand Theft Auto fans. Just like in the previous game, certain ramps can be taken on that act similarly to the gaps in the Tony Hawk games. Once again, these are completely optional, but if some of these "stunt jumps" provide for some pretty entertaining moments.

Sprinkled throughout Vice City are various hidden packages that serve the same purpose as they did in Grand Theft Auto III. Guns, health, body armor, money, etc. can also be found floating on the streets, grasses, sidewalks, and homes of Vice City. Makes you wonder when the residents are ever going to feel like picking these things up to get them away from their children...

Unlike in Vice City's predecessor, the main protagonist has an official name and he actually talks. Of course, the "good" guy in Vice City happens to be the infamous Tommy Vercetti. Tommy works for some gangs located in Liberty City and even went to jail for them. Instead of having Tommy come back to work in Liberty City, his boss sends him to Vice City to work as their contact there. Unfortunately for the boss, Tommy sees the potential in this small sunny town and starts building his own empire piece by piece. Vice City doesn't provide much twists or anything, but the characters are likeable, hilarious, and the story is still a good crime story if anything.

Providing shabby load times and graphics that really aren't that improved over the third game, Vice City fails to impress in this department. Streaking effects are over-done and can cause a headache, but the character models are more detailed than in the previous game. Vice City really doesn't do all that much that III didn't do and the smaller islands gives the game no excuse for not having better graphics. On a brighter note, the game does capture the vibe of the 80's pretty well with its presentation.

Vice City has a soundtrack that is a little stronger than the one found in III, but it's still nothing to drool over. There are some great 80's songs in this game and must be enjoyed as you travel from mission to mission. The radio stations aren't as funny as they were in the third game, however, which is a huge disappointment. Voice-acting is improved greatly and there is some great work to be found in this title.

Vice City has a relatively short story to play through, but it is a little longer than the one found in Grand Theft Auto III. The load of side missions as well as the hidden packages add some more gameplay to the game. However, the best part of a Grand Theft Auto game, the free-roaming, is what makes Vice City as great as it is and will add even more hours to how much time you spend with the game, but you probably won't be as amazed with it as you were with the previous installment.

I love the Grand Theft Auto games, but this installment fails to impress me that much. Sure, it's a very solid game, but it fails to live up to the legacy of the game that preceded it and it isn't even as close to being as good as San Andreas. However, Vice City does provide for an entertaining experience and a good plot if you can get over the somewhat irritating graphics and minor gameplay problems.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/24/08

Game Release: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Greatest Hits) (US, 02/28/05)

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