Review by The Duff Man

"GTA:VC means 'Gore Truly Associated: Vulgar Content'? Riiight..."

Grand Theft Auto. Not much to be said about this awe-inspiring series. GTA3 won Game of the Year from numerous sites and magazines, and GTA: Vice City is well on its way to winning it this year as well. The only problem with this game is it’s an exact copy of GTA3. It does play better, have more of everything, and improves on every aspect possible, but it is the same as the last one. You'll find you'll grow weary of the game after you beat it, a lot sooner than with its predecessor.

Tommy Vercetti is your name in this game, rather than being you as in GTA3. After being locked up in jail for over a dozen years, you're back on the streets thanks to Sonny's, a fellow gang members, help. We soon learn unfortunately, that Sonny is using you to bring back some power in Vice City, during this great time, the 80s. So you pack your bags, arrive in Vice City, and stay at a hotel room bought by Sonny for you, completely oblivious of what's going on. You take it upon yourself to start up your new life and progress through the game meeting new contacts, while always having the option to do a mission whenever you want. Most of the time, missions will be the last thing you'll want to do, as cruising the streets is always a blast.

Complaints came from numerous people as the game was released; that it was too hard and cheating was the only decision left. This is far from the truth, as many missions are easy, and even if you do fail the first time, it will only take a few retries to beat the mission. The story is progressed in a very non-linear fashion, as many contacts are available at once. Buying businesses (the eight possible ones, seven hideouts are available as well to make up the 15 properties) creates even more contacts, and each one can have up to four more individual missions waiting to be completed.

One change that does make the game more realistic, is the fact that now our main character can only hold 1 type of each weapon (35 weapons total, 8 categories). This isn't really a problem, although I couldn't really careless if it did make it more realistic or not, because sometimes you just want two types of Uzi's. The game isn't even realistic in the first place, I mean, who secretly deals drugs out of a Ice Cream Van right beside a cop's headquarters? Ugh, bad example… this world does have some crazy people.

Although the graphics do improve on GTA3, they still don't match with other games like GT3. However, that's a given, as it proves that well designed cars aren't the only things necessary, a whole world is. I couldn't ask for more from this game, as cars look absolutely stunning. The downgraded versions of cars are exquisite, and it is interesting just to see the changes from the other game. Palm trees lining the strip with dusk setting in, the neon lights turned on on all the buildings lining the road, all add to a magnificent atmosphere.

The game's publisher, Rockstar, did promise that the city would be 2.5 times bigger than GTA3s. I was glad to see that it actually is, although almost a third of the right side of the city (a city is divided into two sides) is actually just beach, which is equivalent to a blank, empty desert. Buildings around town are much more diverse in this game. Alleyways also populate the streets in extreme amounts, and can be lifesavers when trying to dodge those pesky cops.

A great idea in this game was to actually license real music from the 80s. You may be thinking, when you see the artists and songs on the different stations, that a better choice of song could have been used from that particular artist. That may be true; yet the songs are still all great, and will appeal to anyone. There are all different types of stations, including pop, new wave, rock, rap, ''emotion'' style, techno, and even a Spanish station. Music not your style? Two types of ''talk'' radio stations are there ready to be listened to, without Lazlow this time though, who makes his appearance on VRock: the rock station (duh).

Voice acting has gone to new heights, with popular actors lending their voices to the likes of Tommy Vercetti, and other characters, such as Candy Suxxx. Pedestrians on the street don't mind talking up a storm with each other, and cursing at others when gang wars start. Tommy will also mutter comments to passengers when stealing their cars, most of which at least results in a chuckle. Cars engines all sound authentic to the real life counterparts, although none of the cars in the game are licensed. It is easy enough to see which car it is modeled after though, as they're almost duplicate copies. The sound of heads getting sliced by a samurai sword is always funny, preceded by a blood-curdling scream.

It's a change that was well needed from GTA3: the money system. It had absolutely no value in GTA3, except from buying guns, which you hardly ever needed. Doing missions now get you between $1000 - $10000 on average, instead of ridiculous amounts like $50000 for each mission completion in GTA3. Now, to get your 100% completion, you have to buy a total of 15 properties. Half of them are hideouts, where each of them include a save point, and some a garage or two. The most expensive one, the Hyman Condo, has 4 two-car garages, and has a helipad on the top, which continues to have a Helicopter waiting for you there.

Instead of buying the low-cost hideouts, you can opt to save your money and buy businesses. It will take some time to afford all of the businesses, because some can cost as much as $120 000. Each time you buy a new property, you must complete its missions to get ''Asset Completed'' and make it count towards your 100%. The missions required to complete each property do vary, as one will have you delivering 50 ''ice creams'' in a row on the streets, or having to complete several missions for the previous owner, or even having to spend a minimum of $600 dollars on a topless dancer.

Motorcycles seemed like a fairyland dream that would never happen in the GTA world. But, being the groundbreaking series that is redefining gaming, one game at a time, they have included motorcycles. Not just a motorcycle; 4 different types. This includes a Harley style, dirt bike, moped, and speed bike. There are at least twice as many cars in this game as the last, and one of my favourites has to be the trailer that has a ramp on the back. You can set it up anywhere you want, gain some speed on another car, and hit the ramp and fly.

The Dodo was one of the most amazing things in GTA3, and also one of the most difficult to fly. Now, Vice City includes not only a plane, but also a seaplane! It only becomes available to you once you hit the 70 hidden packages mark (hidden packages, 100 in total, are scattered throughout the city in hard to find spots). There are also several different types of helicopters waiting to be flown and each handle differently. They become available to you fairly early as well. The Hunter, a helicopter only available much later in the game, lets you do Vigilante levels from the sky!

All the cars and helicopters handle extremely simple and have a very small learning curve. The helicopter, considering all the factors, such as direction and altitude, is relatively easy to fly. Basically, the only problem I faced was trying to fly the mini plane, the RC Baron, which seemed to swoop up and down a bit too much. To pull stoppies on the motorcycles is incredibly easy as well, but wheelies are another story. It takes 5 seconds before it will count it as a wheelie bonus, and you have to take advantage of the pressure sensitive buttons to hold on to that wheelie as long as possible.

Getting 100% may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish in this game. Without using cheats, FAQs, or guides, I guarantee 150+ hours of gameplay. To hit that 100% mark, you'll have to complete all the main missions, side missions, 100 hidden packages, 35 unique jumps, 35 rampages, buy all 15 properties, and much, much more. Of all the things to complete, the 100 hidden packages will definitely be the hardest, yet the most rewarding once you complete it.

The statistics page is even more in depth than in the last game. It includes your criminal rating, percent completed, game time elapsed (well appreciated), and over 100 more different statistics. There are even ones like Fishes Fed (fell in water), and Favourite Radio Station. There is also a new type of Criminal Rating statistic, but it measures how much you had the cop's attention on you. Wheelie distances, time, least favourite gang, and pretty much anything you could think of is included on the page.

The Grand Theft Auto series has completely redefined what is known as replayability. You do missions with who you want, when you want. The rest of the time, you can simply do whatever you want around the city. I found myself spending too much time just fooling around, finding rampages and hidden packages, buying business and completing their missions, looking for unique jumps, and cruising around the city in helicopters and motorcycles. It's frustrating when you want to advance in the games missions, but continued to get distracted by the countless other things available to you to do. Looking for a challenging game that'll keep you busy for awhile? There's no better choice on the market than this game.

There was no doubt this game was going to be a hit, an instant best seller. Does it live up to the hype? It surpasses it. Vice City has every element of gaming you'll love, primarily the cars. Hundreds of hours of gameplay is a given, and you'll have a blast playing with friends. There is no multiplayer mode, but you're playing in a world that seems so alive, it doesn't really matter. Any PS2 owner, at a reasonable age, has to get this game. No questions asked; it is one of the best games available for the console at this time, and is a strong contender for game of the year.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/02/02, Updated 12/02/02

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