Review by FalloutX

"Miami has never looked so good.."

If you're like just about every PS2 gamer, you were put into awe when Rockstar unleashed upon the gaming world arguably the best PS2 game ever made: Grand Theft Auto III. After nearly every PS2 owner had this game in their library for just about a year, Rockstar North reveals the latest in the line of Grand Theft Auto games: Vice City. And so, finally, the GTA take on Miami's crime scene in the 80's has hit store shelves, and now that the anticipation is no longer a factor, all that remains is one burning question. How good is the next part of the GTA saga?

Frankly, it's damn impressive.

From the opening cinema, cutscene and subsequent first-listen-to-the-radio, you're immediately dropped right into the lap of the 1980s crime wave in this ''Miami'', better known as Vice City. From the bright colors, bright clothing, and sometimes too-bright sun, this game leaps off of the screen as the polar opposite of Rockstar's previous effort, GTA3. But we'll get into more of that as this review continues. So, gas up, reload and buckle up, it's time to hit the streets in Vice City.

REVIEWED ON 11/01/02

GTA: Vice City puts you in the role of a 1980s gangster from Liberty City named Tommy Vercetti (voiced by Ray Liotta). Tommy had just finished an extended prison term and, for not squealing on the mob, is ''rewarded'' by setting up shop in the sunny city of Vice City. Upon arrival, Tommy and two counterparts meet up with Ken Rosenberg (voiced by David Paymer) who has organized a typical switch-off of drugs and cash. And so we witness the incident, which results in both of Tommy's counterparts being killed and the money and drugs being abandoned as the little switch suddenly results in an attack. Tommy is forced to report the bad news back to his boss in Liberty City, who eventually trusts Tommy into finding that money. And so begins our quest. The game flows from this point just like you'd expect from a GTA game. You do missions for various wealthy ''businessmen'' throughout the city, inching ever closer to finding out just who took your cash. It's GTA, only sunnier.

Ever since the very first game, Grand Theft Auto has stood out amongst other games, purely on what you could do in the game. In Vice City, everything you could do in GTA3 is back and bucket-loads full of much more. With the addition of helicopters, airplanes and motorcycles, you have even more ways to get around the city than ever before. Controls may take some early getting used to, as Vice City plays less like an enhanced GTA3 and more like a brand new game (as it should), but you'll quickly adapt and start having a blast at what the game has to offer. First and foremost, vehicle control has improved over GTA3 and the physics model has been tweaked to include from some interesting tricks - such as riding on two wheels. This improvement means that you'll be less likely to require any sort of ''better handling'' cheat, since with it on, the fast cars tend to flip over on quick turns. Riding motorcycles is a simple process and flows just like you'd expect it to. Since the last game that allowed you to ride motorcycles was GTA2, getting the 3D and physics treatment definitely makes this experience a blast. Flying over the city is also unique and tuned in it's own way, providing for genuinely interesting controls both in the air and on the road. Also, boats are back so you can not only take to the air and the land, but also to the sea once again. But I digress, I'm here to talk about the meat of the gameplay. The storyline.

Last year's effort wooed critics and gameplayers over and over for not only providing a uniquely violent gaming experience, but also a brilliantly crafted story. However, this year, Rockstar delivers something no one could have possibly expected - an improvement. The story that unfolds in Vice City is not only brilliantly developed, perfectly acted and meticulously created, but it's also a blast just to get there. While in GTA3, missions would tend to get a little repetitive from time to time, Vice City gives you unique objectives time and time again, all flawlessly meshed together with an excellent storyline. Vice City is the best GTA experience to date. Period.

Speaking of sunnier.. In GTA: VC, the graphics take a bit of a polish. The models are a little smoother, textures a little more well formed, but the same similar visual appeal lingers from GTA3. The biggest thing anyone will notice who has played GTA3 and is now settling down to Vice City is that the game is a lot brighter. Liberty City - Rockstar's take on New York - was often dark, cloudy, covered in shadows. It was pretty accurate, frankly, not to mention there were just buildings everywhere and tons of streets. Vice City, however - Rockstar's take on Miami - has a lot more sun, a lot more open space and fewer roads. There are grungy parts of the city, but they're Miami-grungy, not New York-grungy, and it all comes together splendidly. Just like GTA3, the vehicles and environments look much more beautiful than the character models. As to be expected. But even this time, everything got a polish. So, visually, where GTA would have received only a 7 out of 10, Vice City turns things up a notch. The only thing holding it back is the character models, but considering every cutscene is composed out of the in-game models, you're still given a very impressive experience. Visually, you also have many small elements, such as Tommy's shirt blowing in the wind as he rides down the highway on his chopper or evades a police copter, the trees reacting the same, light glinting off car windows... To put it mildly, you'll like what you see. I guarantee it.

Let's see, oh, how do I put this... 80's! It's 80s all over the place and you'll never be misled into thinking it's anything else, trust me. From the 80s music to the 80s clothes to the 80s cars, you'll feel like you're planted right in the middle of a bustling 1986 ''Miami''. The look, sound and feel of the environment just make everything feel like it's supposed to, like Rockstar wanted it to. With little elements all over the place, such as Miami Vice look alike cops who may come after you with a high-enough rating, cops going after *other* criminals, and more, the world you're given in GTA: VC is much more 'real' than the one in GTA3. Anyone who had anything to do with making Vice City Vice City should be proud to know they just didn't help make a game, they put a little world on a DVD disc, and that's saying something.

AUDIO: 10/10
The pedestrians, the cars, the motorcycles, the planes, the choppers, the water, the voice-acting and especially the MUSIC. It's all done with a level of quality you don't see too often, unless you're playing a Rockstar game. Everything has an excellent level of clarity to it. Every smash, punch, shatter, break, splatter, splash, rev, gunshot and scream. Your ears will be very happy at what they have to listen to in this game. And the best part is, even if you don't prefer the 80s music on the radio, you can tune to either of the two talk stations and be entertained nonetheless. You'll have a good time, radio on or off, because it's just.. well.. like that.

Like every other GTA game, once the missions are done, all that you're essentially left with is mini-missions (if those aren't done) and the always fun run-around-and-cause-mayhem-to-be-cleaned-up-later. I have yet to finish GTA Vice City, so I'm not 100% sure if this holds true or if there's anything else one can do when the game is ''over''. But I will tell you this, even when I was through with GTA3, there's always fun is just running around and seeing what trouble one can cause. And with a world as big as this one, there's plenty of trouble to cause. Suffice to say, even when you do grow tired of what GTA has to offer, you'll still find yourself picking it up off the shelf from time to time for a quick blast, just to blow off some steam or just plain have fun. You'll get your money's worth out of this game. That's for sure.

OVERALL: 10/10

To close, let me just say this... I've been a fan of the GTA games ever since game 1. I've owned every single take on the series from the first to the latest, and every time I still find myself enjoying what they deliver. Vice City is, by far, the best GTA experience yet. However, if you go into this game expecting just a polished GTA3, you'll be sorely let down, because this is much more than that. You're given a brand new game, with a few GTA3 elements carried over. But, if you're like me and a fan of what this series has to offer and always HAS offered, you'll be equally as pleased with Vice City, to say the least. So I suggest to you, if you know you'll like it, buy it. Buy it right now. If you aren't too sure, rent it, then buy it. You will love it, it's too good to let go. If you already own it, why are you reading this? Go! Play it now! Hey, why am *I* writing this?! I own it! I wanna play it! Do the same!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/01/02, Updated 11/01/02

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