Review by CaliGamer25850

"A marvelous beauty for the series, definitely worth playing."

It has been two months since submitting my Grand Theft Auto III review for GameFAQs, so I decided to do reviews for all the games in the Grand Theft Auto series up until Grand Theft Auto V. I will not review the game until I have played it enough times, so expect a review of that game around April or May of 2014. Anyway, this is my series of Grand Theft Auto reviews, and I continue it with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the PlayStation 2. Excellent.

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto is one of the best-selling franchises in the history of video games, and is also one of the few series of games that has most, if not all of its games, consistently good. I know I may have said that in my Grand Theft Auto III review, but I feel that it is worth repeating.

Grand Theft Auto III laid the groundwork not only for the rest of the series, but also for future 3-D open world games from then on. If you read my review and complain about the score I gave it, it is because I've grown accustomed to it that it doesn't seem to excite me as much as it did when I was younger. Anyway, Rockstar Games as well as the now-named Rockstar North asked themselves, "How do we top this great experience?"

Apparently, with a prequel. This became a theme with the series from 2002 to 2007, an era that fans and critics refer to as the "3-D era," or the more archaic "GTA III era." This is the most well-known, highly rated, best-selling, and chronologically expansive era in the entire series, and as of 2013, has not been done again.

Anyway, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was developed as soon as Grand Theft Auto III was released and gamers were alreasy immersing themselves in its glory. It took only 9 months to develop the game, which was still somewhat common back in the early sixth generation (1999-2003), but in 2013, would cause a lot of problems. Anyway, there were a lot of plans during development, such as setting the game back in the 1980s, going to Florida, giving the protagonist a voice, making the game more open than in GTA 3, and creating a back story.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released on October 29, 2002, for the PS2, and later ported to the Xbox, PC, and Mac in 2003. The game was released to overwhelmingly positive reception from both fans and critics alike, receiving many awards and recognition from the gaming community. The game itself has sold 17.5 million copies since its release, with a sheer 10 million just on the PS2 itself, making it the 4th best-selling game on that console.

It was not without controversy, however, when a coalition of Cuban and Haitian Americans from Florida went to D.C. to protest the game in 2003, saying it promoted racial violence among ethnic immigrant groups in America. This later caused a second version of the game to come out, replacing any mention of Haitians in the text. The game I am reviewing is the original game, not the Double-Pack version, the Haitian-Friendly version, or the Trilogy version.

With that said, time to review the game, and first up, is the story.

Story: 9.2 out of 10

The game's setting is 1986. Back in Liberty City, the Forelli family is talking about the release of their former enforcer, Tommy Vercetti, from prison after serving fifteen years for killing eleven men. Being concerned about the presence of Vercetti in public being bad for the mafia, the boss, Sonny Forelli, says they should send him to Vice City to take part in the drug trade to be able to make even more money for the gang.

At Vice City, Tommy and a few guys get a ride from the Forelli-aligned lawyer, Ken Rosenburg, to a drug deal at the docks, which goes wrong as some guys bust the deal, kill everyone but Tommy and Ken, and both the drugs and $3 million go missing and is never seen again.

The two flee to Ocean Beach, when Tommy goes to a hotel to call Sonny. Sonny is expectedly angry, but Tommy reassures him that he will give Sonny the money, and the drugs, as well as "make the perpetrators pay for what they did."

Tommy now has to work for Ken, who introduces him to several "reputable" figures in the city, as well as doing favors for the Forellis on his behalf. Eventually, Tommy works with Colonel Juan Cortez, who set up the deal, and they both work personally to solve the problem.

First, Tommy kills Cortez' former right-hand, Gonzalez, for squealing about the deal, then takes down a French government agent for missile technology. Eventually, Cortez has Tommy go over to a deal in Washington Beach between the Cuban gang and Ricardo Diaz. Tommy then obtains the help of a mysterious man, known as Lance Vance, and the two defend Diaz against some Haitian gangs who wanted to bust the deal.

Having proved his usefulness, Diaz gives Tommy some important work, such as tailing a gang member of the Sharks who stole Diaz' money, and going with Lance to raid Prawn Island in order to get the money back. At this point, both Tommy and Lance find out that Diaz attacked the deal and killed Lance's brother, but they will not kill Diaz yet because they need to gain his trust first.

Tommy meets up with Cortez not much later, whom confirms their suspicion about Diaz. After stealing a tank from the National Guard for Cortez, Tommy goes back to Diaz. Tommy goes to a Boatyard in Viceport, takes down a rival gang, steals their boat, and takes it back to Diaz' place. Then, Tommy and Lance use the boat to buy drugs from a freelance gang in Vice Point then takes them back to Diaz. Lance later calls Tommy to tell them that they will eventually have to take out Diaz.

Meanwhile, Tommy works with the real estate mogul Avery Carrington in order to gain his favor and help. After both killing a rival firm's boss and blowing up a building under construction, Avery sends Tommy to cause a gang war between the Cuban and Haitian gangs in order to buy off the neighborhood, causing major gentrification.

Tommy gets a call from the Cuban gang leader, Umberto Robina, who first has Tommy test out a speedboat, then sends him and an army of gang members to rob a drug van belong to the Haitians. At this point, Tommy gets a phone call from the Haitian gang leader Auntie Poulet, who then gets Tommy to sabotage the Cubans by means of using a soup to drug Tommy, then sends him off having served his usefulness.

After realizing his mistakes, Tommy helps Umberto and the Cuban gang take down the drug factory in Little Haiti, causing the Haitian gang to be hostile to Tommy now.

Back to the main plot, when the co-owner of the Malibu Club, Kent Paul, meets up with Tommy to tell him that Diaz' men kidnapped Lance and are holding him at the Junk Yard in Little Haiti. Tommy goes in the yard, guns blazing, to save Lance, then takes him to a hospital in Downtown. Afterwards, Tommy and Lance storm the Diaz mission in Starfish Island, killing the gang, and then ending Diaz.

Both Lance and Tommy now took over the Diaz gang, as well as his mansion. Sonny then calls up Tommy, telling him that despite Tommy taking over Vice City, he still needs to give him the drugs and money. Cortez then calls Tommy to his yacht, because he needs help in order to leave the country with the merchandise, but the French government (GIGN) is trying to kill him. Tommy helps Cortez' men defend the yacht, and as a final request, Cortez asks him to watch after his grown daughter, Mercedes.

Meanwhile, Tommy, Lance, Ken, and Avery meet up in the mansion to discuss what to do. Lance says local businesses are not paying protection because since Diaz is dead, they don't need to pay anymore. Tommy then sets off to remedy that problem, such as smashing up some stores, killing members of a private security firm, and blowing up a coffee shop in the mall (Dude!). While doing this, Lance starts to not trust Tommy that much because he thinks Tommy is treating him like a child, just like what his brother did to him.

Tommy then buys out many businesses around the whole city, such as the Boatyard, a Print Shop, the Club, a movie studio being used for pornographic films, an Ice Cream factory as a drug lab, a Taxi Firm, a Strip Club, and a car dealership. Tommy does a lot of work with these places, such as doing a Bank Robbery, distributing adult films, ruining the career of a local congressman, Alex Shrub, and other things. These types of businesses make the gang, known as the Vercetti Crime family, even richer and more powerful.

Kent Paul calls up Tommy to meet a Scottish rock band, Love Fist, whom he is managing, and helps them out by protecting them from a stalker. Meanwhile, Tommy works for the leader of the Biker gang, "Big" Mitch Bake, in order to provide security for a Love Fist concert in the city.

Eventually, the Forellis come down to Vice City unannounced because they have not received the money and Tommy has no intention of giving them any now. This leads to the mob going to all of the Vercetti Family's businesses to get their cut, but fortunately, Tommy stops them.

The next day, Sonny Forelli come down to the mansion to try to bargain with Tommy for the money. At first, Tommy tries to give them the counterfeit bills, but Sonny says that he set you up fifteen years ago, and not only that, but he tells him that Lance now works for Sonny. Sonny gets a little mad, but Tommy says to him, "I just wanted to piss you off before I kill you." Damn, every time I hear that line, it sends chills down my spine.

Anyway, a bloody shootout happens in the mansion, like in Scarface, which results in the deaths of both Lance and Sonny. Ken then walks into the mansion after the gunfight, then freaks out because the mansion is trashed. Both of them are relieved by not having anymore problems from the Forelli family, and they both go off to celebrate "the start of a beautiful friendship."

The one thing I find fault with are that a lot of missions (even those that play a part in the story) do not have a sequence and can be done in any order. It doesn't have that cohesive of a continuity. However, because the story really stands out on itself with little problems has me overlook the lack of continuity.

The story is still pretty good, because it takes a lot of inspiration from Scarface and Miami Vice, and those two were pretty awesome back in the 80s. In fact, after 30 years, Scarface is still a pretty awesome movie, much like how the Godfather is still a great movie after 40 years. I also like how now that the player can talk, we can get a lot of backstory and new plot elements out of Tommy.

Gameplay: 9.3 out of 10

The gameplay is still the same from Grand Theft Auto III, such as that you can tire out after sprinting a while, you take fall damage, you can still drown in deep water, and you can still use weapons. With that said, the gameplay has improved in a few ways.

For one, you have over 30 different types of weapons to do, but you can only use one type of weapon in each slot, so to switch to a new weapon, press L1. Each category has more than one weapon. You have a lot of new things such as MP5s, Macs, Uzis, Magnums, Miniguns, Tear Gas, Nightsticks, Swords, a Chainsaw, and also Brass Knuckles. Also, some guns are considered better or worse than others of the same type. However, the Assault Rifles have manual aim, and just coming off of Saints Row 1 and 2 as I write this, it's actually BETTER than auto-aiming.

The driving is still like it was in Grand Theft Auto III, but there are more cars to pick from, such as muscle cars, SUVs, trucks, sports cars, and sedans. And now, you also have motorcycles to ride. The motorcycles are pretty amazing but you only have four to choose from (a moped, a dirt-bike, a chopper, and a sports bike). They have become mainstays of the series since and even in Grand Theft Auto V they remain today.

There's also a lot more boats to use, and not only do they have radios now, but some boats are more faster than others. And for the first time in the series, you can pilot helicopters and planes. There's the basic helicopter, the helicopter that can land on water and has a gun, as well as the military copter that fires missiles and guns. There's a plane, which is like the Dodo in GTA 3, but flies, as well as lands in the water. Unfortunately, the flight ceiling is severely short, when you compare it to San Andreas or The Ballad of Gay Tony, of which have INCREDIBLY HIGH flight ceilings.

The wanted level thing is still the same as in GTA 3, except around 3 stars, you also have Vice Squad chasing after you in sports cars (an homage to Miami Vice). Also, at five stars, they chase you in large SUVs, and at six, there are giant trucks chasing you as well. Also, whenever you respray the car at a Pay n' Spray, the stars flash. If you do ANYTHING illegal, like fire a gun, or run over someone, they come back. I recommend waiting in the garage until the level goes away. Also, this game introduces a restricted area. The bank in Little Havana you rob has $1000 upstairs, but you get 4 stars if you go up there. This feature returns in San Andreas and the IV trilogy.

The gangs are also pretty easy to deal with as well. In GTA 3, many of them hated you, but in Vice City, only the Haitian gang hates you, and they only carry 9mm guns and bats. ALL gangs carry 9mm guns and bats and they are only a problem if there are a lot of them, like with Diaz's Gang. However, the soldiers over at the Air Base fire at you with the AR-15s, even when you're NOT in the base.

Vice City is set in Florida, and it is actually larger than Liberty City from the last game, GTA 3.

The east side of town is Vice City Beach, and a large part of the island is the whole beach, where all the tourists and beach people are. There's also a dirt-bike track in the northern tip of the beach. Vice Point is full of hotels, apratment buildings, shops, and has the large Vice Point Mall. Washington Beach has some construction going on in the western part, but also has a lot of shops and stuff. Ocean Beach is the richest part of town, with hotels, shops, a mall, the Marina, and the lighthouse complete with reefs and stuff.

In the middle of the bay has three islands. Prawn Island has some old torn-down mansions and the porn studio. Leaf Links is the golf course, but they also take your weapons in the metal detector, but if know how to jump from the cul-de-sace in Vice Point near the southern part of the course, you can explore the area and screw not having weapons. Starfish Island has all the mansions where all the rich live, as well as Diaz/Vercetti's Mansion, which is truly a sight to behold.

The west island is the "mainland." You have Downtown which has shops, office buildings, condos, and the stadium. There's also a larger dirt-bike track. Little Haiti is pretty run down, lots of old homes, warehouses, and has a landfill in the western edge. Little Havana has somewhat nicer homes, as well as some apartments, hotels, and the car dealership.

Viceport has all the shipping, and industrial parts. Then there's the Escobar International Airport (named after notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar), where everybody goes in and out of this nicer, but crazier hellhole. There's also the Air Base, but don't bother going in unless you like being shot at by the guards.

The gameplay is better here than in GTA 3, and I feel pretty comfortable playing in them. However, a minor nitpick is that whenever you sprint into the street, you randomly lose some amount of health, and I never understood why.

Mechanics: 9.1 out of 10

The money system has been revamped from what it was in GTA 3. Instead of only being used just for car repairs, bombs, and weapons, you can also use it for things like properties, food, health, clothing, and also weapons. You have your Ammunations in Ocean Beach (weakest weapons), Vice Point (okay weapons), and Downtown (good weapons). Also, when you do all of Phil's missions, you can also buy heavier weapons like RPGs, MGs, and Miniguns in his place in Little Haiti.

Also, you can buy melee weapons. This is the first of many games in the series where you can buy melee weapons from stores. However, these are not Ammunation stores, but hardware stores.

The story progression is somewhat linear in the early parts, but it allows you to do some missions in any order, such as doing Avery's missions, as well as Cortez' final mission at any point in the story. This also allows you to do the Gang War missions, as well as the Love Fist concert missions at anytime. Additionally, once you beat the "Cop Land" mission, the next story mission will not unlock until you earn assets from at least 4 out of 8 businesses throughout the city.

I might as well talk about property. Whenever you see a pink token with a green house icon, you can buy it by pressing L1 and having the amount of money. No matter what kind of perks it may have, it always has a save point, which is a cassette icon that allows you to save and pass time by six hours. There are two types of properties: save point and asset. Save points just allow you to save and store vehicles, whereas assets make you more money after fulfilling certain objectives with them.

For some reason, you don't earn as much money for missions as you did back in the last game, but I think in works in Vice City's favor. You don't need an insane amount of money to buy weapons and unlock a couple of missions, however you do need an assload of money for the final mission, where the mafia slowly steals your money and if the counter goes all the way down to $0, you fail.

Story missions aside, you can do vehicle missions, which are somewhat the same as in GTA III, but with more added missions. There are dirt-track races, vehicle missions, helicopter missions, and the like. Also, this is the first game to actually have a full racing side mission. At Sunshine Autos, you can select from six races of varied length, and start out short, but the final race takes you all around the city. The "R3" missions are somewhat changed, such as needing to do 12 levels of firefighter and vigilante. What changes are the you need to put out cars and people on fire, as well as having to kill cars full of criminals. What makes the vigilante mission easy is when you unlock the Hunter at the Air Base, as well as getting the cop outfit, and you have a much easier time beating it now.

Collectibles are also the same. For hidden packages, there are 100 green tiki miniatures scattered throughout the city (they are still drugs, by the way), and you can collect them for weapon and armor icons, as well as unlocking vehicles, such as the tank and the Hunter. There are also 35 rampages, and they are pretty fun. However, the melee rampages may give you some grief if you don't know what you're doing. There are also 36 jumps, which are made a hell of a lot easier now that you can use motorcycles.

The side stuff provides a lot of good rewards, such as more clothes, weapons, more money, vehicles, and all kinds of perks. You can get infinite sprint, more health and armor capacity, a fireproof feature, etc. Also, when you beat the game 100%, you don't get a crappy reward like in GTA III. F*** no. You get double the health and armor you had, you get three bodyguards you can recruit at anytime to protect you at $1000/hr each, you vehicles have double the damage, and you get an outfit consisting of a t-shirt that says, "I got 100% on GTA: Vice City and all I got was this stupid shirt."

The mechanics are more free and open-ended than in GTA III, the rewards are much better, and the game actually gives you stuff for beating the game 100%. I can say that the game mechanics here are awesome.

Graphics: 8.6 out of 10

The graphics of Vice City pretty much run on the same plane as GTA III, but with some noticeable tweaks. For one, the textures are improved and more nicer to look at. Also, the water looks impressive. It doesn't look all dark and bleak, and it actually gives you the impression that it looks amazing.

The character models here have somewhat better movement and facial features than in the last game, but I do see that there is still more to improve on here. I know I shouldn't really expect much out of a 2002 title, but still, it would've made sense back then.

The graphics were somewhat nicer than GTA III, but it also doesn't age that well, although I must say that the water and ground textures here are the best ones in the early-PS2 days.

Sound/Music: 8.7 out of 10

Talk about a big leap from GTA III. The sound effects are awesome, the guns actually sound like what they look like, and the combat sounds are pretty nice.

The voice acting is top notch here, because you got some big celebrities doing the voice work. There's Ray Liotta (Tommy) from Goodfellas, Phillip Michael Thomas (Lance) from Miami Vice, Gary Busey (Phil), Danny Trejo (Umberto), Luis Guzman (Diaz), and I think some others. These voices stand out pretty nicely because of their decent performances. This is better than GTA III (this may be a theme of this review, saying stuff is better than in GTA III).

The music is MUCH better than the last game. You have your pop and new wave, your techno and underground rap, your hard rock and hair metal, your R&B and disco, your latin music, and also the talk radio. VCPR is one of the best in-game radio stations in the whole series because it is just so damn funny. It saddens me that Lazlow isn't as shown off as much as in GTA III or other games after Vice City.

The sound and music is pretty decent, and knowning that it gets better through the series shows so much promise.

Replayability: 8.7 out of 10

I never get tired playing this game. There's so much side stuff, the story is great, I love the music, and the graphics are beautiful. I don't care if I play it three times or thirty times, it will never get old. Anyone who has played this as much as I have will probably agree.

Final Recommendation: Buy it. I don't care what console, such as PS2, Xbox, PC, or from PlayStation network. This is a good game, which I recommend in a minute. It's only a few bucks, but to me, it's worth around $18.99 for the box art, manual, and map. It's pretty good though.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City fulfilled its purpose as a sequel. It fixed all the problems that GTA III had and added in a lot of new and interesting things. The game became what Rockstar hoped, selling so much and being loved by all. If I were to put this anywhere on a top 10 list, it would probably be #2, because it is so enjoyable, and I wish I can say that about GTA IV, though. Vice City is one of my favorite games on the PS2.

Final Score: 8.9 out of 10

Well, about time I do another Grand Theft Auto review. I was intending on doing the reviews from GTA I up until GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony before GTA V came out, but I realized it wouldn't work. I don't have any of the GTA 1 and 2 games, or the handheld games, so it wouldn't do the series justice. I do plan on doing reviews on other games that I DO have, so yeah. Anyway, stay put for my next review.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/24/13

Game Release: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (US, 10/27/02)

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