Review by LuigiVercetti

"The best entertainment ever!!"

Since I'm a Miami resident, I couldn't be more excited when I heard that the next installment in the GTA series (one of my favorites since the PSOne) was going to be based here. And this was even before I got the details on how improved the game would be. Now that the game is finally out, I can tell you for sure that all the hype was well-deserved. This is not just the best game ever to be released, this is the best form of entertainment, period. Of course I still love movies, music, comics, books and some other stuff, but this surpasses the fun I had with any other media available, ever. Why would you need to watch Scarface or Good Fellas(for the 50th time), when you can live it all by yourself? Witch is pretty much what you'll be getting once you buy this game. And by all means, please do.

GRAPHICS: The first thing you'll probably notice about the game is that it looks better than GTA3, a lot smoother, richer and warmer. This happens in part because all the neon, tropical sun and vivid colors that are part of the real Miami, that Rockstar translated so well into the game. Other thing is a higher number of polygons for cars, weapons and people in the game. And last but not least is the trail option, witch gives a nice glow to all the lighting in the game, although the frame rate takes a small hit. Nice thing you can turn it off on the pause menu, though. Now, if some people try to tell you this is not Miami, it's because they never been here and never seen any pictures either, for that matter. This IS Miami, no doubt, and if you happen (like me) to live in the city and work at South Beach, you're gonna marvell at how faithfully the maps depict the streets. All the alleys, the pastel-colored buildings and sun-washed sports cars are amazingly recreated for this virtual Miami. Whereas Liberty City was dark and depressing (just like NY), Vice City is tropical and full of neon lights, with people walking around in their bathing suits (just like Miami). Improved? Yes, but hardly a leap, since it's pretty much the same graphics engine as GTA3. So you'll still find some annoying draw-in problems, but it's more subtle than it was before.

STORY: Not much different from the last game, and pretty close to a ton of gangster films that anyone over 25 probably seen before. You're Tommy Vercetti, out of jail after a 15 years stretch, and looking to estabilish yourself as one of the crime lords in this touristic, but extremely violent new city. It runs like before, short cut-scenes before each mission give you a brief of the situation you'll be facing, help estabilish the personality of the characters you're involved with, and move along the plot of the main story. Of course there are several odd jobs and extra missions, but these rarely rely on the cut-scenes. So if you ever dreamt of being Tony Montana, or a evil version of Sonny Crockett, here's your chance. At the outset of the game, all your money and the drugs you were supposed to acquire with it are stolen, and you're set on quest to recover it, becoming a major player in the fiendish ways of the city in the process. This will put you in contact with all the strats of the society, from the low-life Cubans and Haitians, to rock stars, politicians and South America dictators.

SOUND: I was a teenager in the 80's, and many of the real songs that form the radio stations in Vice City were part of my own personal sound track growing up, many of them I never heard again since, and what a pleasure to listen to them while tearing up the streets. This is certainly one of the highlights of the game, no wonder they're releasing the seven CDs as a collection. If something screams personality in this game, this is it. Don't get me wrong, I liked the original (for the most part) songs in GTA3, but this is what places the game in time and space, and sets the atmosphere like nothing else. Of course I hate (and you probably will, too) some of the songs, even in the rock station (by far, my favorite), but that's why you need to have several different radio stations. If you don't like that song, just seek something somewhere else, it gives you a feel for a real in-car radio way better than before. I was grinning to myself the first time I heard Iron Maiden and Ozzy while riding my bike at high speeds, what a great feeling. And that Latin radio is so great that I feel sorry for people that don't understand spanglish, because that's the funniest of them DJs. The sound effects are nice, the cars sound different from one another, and the guns sound just like the real-life versions do. What you would expect, nothing surprising here.

GAMEPLAY: Here's where the title really shines. You may think the bikes are just another ''little'' improvement, and you couldn't be further from the truth. They're the coolest single addition to what GTA3 is, and they affect gameplay big time, because you can shoot straight ahead (plus to the sides) while riding one. This gives you new ways to accomplish objectives, especially on the drive-by and chase missions, plus they're just a blast to ride around. Master the power-slides, wheelies and stoppies and you'll be having big time fun, guaranteed. And it's not all, bikes can squeeze into places cars can't, and this makes the exploration a lot easier and faster. Of course there's a downside, since you can fall and loose some health (or armor, if you have it), but that's small beans. I'm sure many will rather the old-school way of moving about, but I'm totally hooked to the bikes. The helicopters are nice, and nothing beats the feeling of taking off for the first time and realizing how big the city really is, but they're too clumsy to factor in your missions. They take their sweet time untill you can take off (not good when you have the SWAT and FBI on your heels) and need a fair amount of space for you to land them down. But that's just for the vehicles...
The other huge gameplay change is what you can do with the money you earn (decently or otherwise). While in GTA3 you could only get more weapons for your hard-earned dough, here you have a real sense of urgency, of needing the money more and more, since you have to actually buy your own save houses. Money is harder to get this time around and the weapons are way more expensive, but once you get it it's really satisfying. And there's all the ''legitimate'' business that you can acquire as well, witch in time become a source of income, as much as your ''other'' businesses. Vice City people need their share of strip clubs and porn film studios, someone has to provide it, and it might just as well be you.

CONCLUSION: Vice City is way better than GTA3. It's bigger, prettier, got more weapons, cars, boats, bikes and choppers. The missions are more involving than before, the voice acting fully fleshes out the characters. As far as games goes, this is the best release ever. Hell, this is better than anything else, no form of entertainment can beat it. As a matter of fact, I don't know what am I doing writing this, I should be playing right now. So if you like the first one, chances are you're gonna love this. If you didn't, well, maybe Vice City can change that. And if it can't, there's got to be something wrong with you, you better go see a doctor. SOON.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/04/02, Updated 11/04/02

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