Review by Hajime

"The defining game for 2002"

This game needs no introduction (if you are at GameFAQs there is very little chance that you haven't heard of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (GTA:VC)). It is the 'follow-up' to the extremely successful GTA 3 and features improvements in almost every department. Don't think that this game is just an extension of GTA 3, with more cars and that's about it. Truth is, VC is a completely new game, set in the neon 80's, that builds on the strengths of GTA 3 and manages to remove/fix some of the problems.

This is not to say that the game is perfect - it does have several bugs which should have been caught and at certain times, it feels as if the producers haven't done enough work to make the overall gaming experience 100% satisfactory. However, from the perfect score I gave, you can see that these complaints are fairly minor.

Graphics: 7/10
Make no mistake, graphics is not this game's forte. Most of the animation is fluid and quite nice to look at, but go up close to a building or a car, and you can see that the detail level is rather low. Texture handling is a bit weak but acceptable overall. My main problem with graphics is during the cutscenes where you get to focus on the characters. If you own the game, think about the hands of the characters - they are terrible! They look like the hands of action figures and are very unrealistic and rigid. This may be a minor issue, but it does constantly remind the gamer that this is not real! Even though the rest of the game does such a fine job at convincing you that VC is a real city and you are living in it. Overall, the graphics are good but nothing to write home about. It does its job, doesn't really have many slowdowns and are acceptable.

Music & Sound: 10/10
Like in GTA 3, the music of this game mainly comes from the various radio stations which you can tune into when you are in a vehicle. There are a wide variety of 80's songs (I heard it is about 80 songs) and also hilarious chat stations. This all adds a lot to the game atmosphere and due to the large number of songs, doesn't really get tiresome either. Sometimes I even just jump into a vehicle and drive around so that I can enjoy this awesome array of great tunes. Many of the songs are era-defining hits, and should please most people. Even for someone like me, who aren't familiar with many 80's hits, I found the compilation to be enjoyable and refreshing. The speech in this game is provided by some top talent (including Dennis Hopper and Ray Liotta) and is of a very high standard. The sound effects are average (cars, explosions etc) and do their job just fine.

Gameplay: 10/10
Can I give this category a 11? This game is so addictive that I doubt anybody owning this game will be playing another game for a long long while. There is just so much to do, and in so many ways. The best feature of this game is the freedom that it grants you. Unlike most games, which poses a linear structure, GTA:VC gives you a lot of choices as to which missions to tackle, who to work for, how to accomplish the tasks etc so that even with one single mission, you can replay it a couple of times and still not get bored by it. The core gameplay is enhanced through several ways - there are now many more vehicles (including motorcycles and better planes), more weapons and the city itself is also much bigger than in GTA 3. What this boils down to is more engrossing play and an awesome experience that I honestly believe no other game can achieve. The difficulty level is just right, with the learning curve increasing steadily so as not to frustrate new players, but also avoids boring the experts. At any one time, there is usually more than one mission available, so if you struggle with passing one, you can always try out another. Plus the number of extra challenges which the game has (including performing motorcycle stunts!) and VC is really as great as people have been saying. However, there are still some problems with the game, and these are the major irritations I found: (1) targeting - definitely improved over GTA 3 but still a bit dodgy to use at times (2) display - the font is extremely small and difficult to read (3) silly bugs - examples include, unexpected slowdowns, save screen slowdowns, game crashes etc - some of which should have been caught during game testing.

Replayability: 10/10
Are you kidding me? You will be playing this for MONTHS! There are tons of hidden secrets, not to mention how much fun it is just to drive around in different vehicles and listen to the cool soundtrack. Don't even think about a rental - this is a must-buy.

Overall, this is the best game I have played for a long long time. I know there are a lot of controversial issues going on with this game, but these are not what GTA: VC is about. VC is about the creation of a game world so real, and so engrossing, that it frequently blurs the line between playing a game and really being in the game. I emphasize again - a MUST BUY!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 11/06/02, Updated 11/06/02

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