Review by NeoTS

"The World Is Yours"

''Shut up, sit down. I'll tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna find out who took our cocaine, and then... I'm gonna kill them.''
- Tommy Vercetti

The gangster film enthusiast will immediately recognize my title. 'The World is Yours.' This was a common theme in the 1983 classic 'Scarface.' In it, Al Pacino plays a Cuban refugee that finds his way to Florida, and sets up a massive crime empire, dealing with drugs mostly. This game is similar in many ways, and even pays homage to its inspiration. Scarface shook up the world with its graphic violence and incessant swearing. Pacino's character, Tony Montana, displays complete disregard for the law. The movie broke rules, and paved the way for many movies like it. The same could be said of Grand Theft Auto 3. It allowed the player to perform seemingly unthinkable actions, like shooting police officers, stealing cars and even 'mingle' with the ladies of the night. Vice City manages to push this envelope even further. Following its '80's theme, this game has it all: more. More, more, more. More cars to steal, more guns to shoot, more places to go, more things to see... more. There are more than a few homages to Scarface here, ranging from obvious to hard to find. Once again, Rockstar has raised the bar on what a videogame has traditionally been.

While Grand Theft Auto 3 introduced revolutionary gameplay, it was admittedly lacking in the story department. Thankfully, this has been fixed with Vice City, and the result is a classic gangster story with more than a few over the top moments. As it begins, Tommy Vercetti has been released after a 15 year term in prison. Apparently, he was convicted for the murders of a rival gang. His boss, Sonny Forelli, realizes that Tommy will hurt the family if the citizens of Liberty City see Tommy walking the streets again. So, Sonny devises a plan. He knows Vice City is right in the middle of the drug craze, and the money gets to him. He sends Tommy and two other guys down to sunny Florida to ''cut him a nice quiet slice.''

He gives them some money to get set up with, and along with the sleazy lawyer Ken Rosenberg, they drive to the meet, exchanging the money with the cocaine. However, the deal goes horribly wrong. Gunmen emerge from the recesses of the harbor and open fire on them. Tommy and Ken flee the scene, leaving behind the drugs and money. Of course, Sonny is furious with Tommy and demands his money back. Tommy doesn't know how who set them up, but he is determined to find out. Besides, if he doesn't, Sonny is going to make sure he ends up sleeping with the fishes. Through his journey through Vice's crime-ridden underworld, he'll come across an assortment of oddball characters. You'll meet Lance Vance, the brother of the person with the cocaine in the drug deal gone bad. He's out for vengeance, so he and Tommy become uneasy partners. There's Kent Paul, the englishmen who's into everything. All of the characters are unique and make the story that much better.

Any fan of the GTA series will tell you that the heart of the game lies in the gameplay. Vice City hasn't completely revolutionized videogames like GTA3 did, but how could it? It does, however, add several layers of depth that many games would be hard pressed to catch up to. I'll start with the basics. The control remains unchanged, which is obviously a good thing. It's almost unnaturally easy to go from having a shoot-out with the cops, to fleeing in a hot rod, and eventually taking to the open water in a speedboat. The controls are extremely intuitive, even if you haven't played for months you'll find yourself grasping them again fairly quickly. The only aspect where the control changes is when you're piloting the helicopters. Yes, you can pilot helicopters. You can also navigate a large variety of boats, everything from sailboats and rafts to police boats and and speeders. Even the number and variety of cars has been increased. When you drive around near the golf course, you'll be able to drive a small golf cart. You can never have too much fun in a golf cart, especially when you're chasing down a rich yuppie in one. Of course, the biggest addition is the motorcycles. You'll be able to hop on a roaring chopper or a speedy crotch-rocket and cruise Vice City. While you can go much faster, you're more vulnerable to rival gangs members shooting at you, and if you crash you'll fly off the bike and take damage accordingly.

This attention to realism has spread to the psychics engine as well. You can now shoot out windows in cars, and even damage them with your riot weapons like the chainsaw or baseball bat. You can even shoot the pilot of a helicopter through their windshield. Police will throw out chain strips that will slash your tires, causing your car to fly out of control. You'll also need to be careful when it rains, the road will get really slick, and some cars ( especially the bikes ) won't be able to able to handle it. Of course, what would stealing cars be without the ability to create mass mayhem with some insanely large weapons? The game takes the rather small selection of GTA3 and expand it into a full war chest. The shame is, you can't use them all at the same time. The game has divided the weapons into several classes, and you can carry only one weapon from that specific class. For example, pistols, riot, shotgun, rifle... you get the idea. It really doesn't detract from the experience, since all the weapons are great. You can use your standard 9mm pistol if you'd like, but why not break out the Colt Python to kill anything in one shot. Still not powerful enough for you? Try the automatic shotgun. STILL more power? Well, I think that mini-gun will satisfy your destructive needs. Just be careful to not get many stars.

What are stars? Wanted Stars let's you know how much the police want to stop you. One star means you've committed a minor felony, and the cops probably won't even look at you. Two stars, you'll get a squad car that won't leave you alone. Four stars, and a SWAT teams shows up. If you're crazy enough to get up to six stars, you'll have the army on you, complete with machine guns and tanks. You better start running. And thanks to all the odd jobs you can perform, you may just be able to get away. Hop in a police car and press R3. This allows you to play the Vigilante missions, and if you complete it, your armor will increase. You can do this kind of mission with taxis, ambulances and even a pizza scooter. While the story missions take up a good chunk of the game, you'll also be able to compete in missions similar to the ones above. Returning from the first game are the Unique Jumps and Rampages, and of course the Hidden Packages are back as well. You can take to a dirt course and try to beat your time with the dirt bike. There's plenty of stuff to do if you don't feel like continuing with the story.

While GTA3 was the same gameplay, the whole way through, Vice City adds something to this and the game changes the way you play. At a certain point, the story missions will stop coming, and, as Tommy Vercetti, you'll have to build your criminal empire. How does one go about building a criminal empire? By Buying. You'll have to make purchase buildings and businesses, complete missions for them, and then they will make money for you. While money was not important in the first game, you get less of it here, so all the money you can get is important. You'll also be able to purchase additional hideouts for yourself, some fancy apartments, some dirty holes. This is a great way to avoid the police. Instead of driving your way halfway across the city just to save your game, you'll have a hideout right around the corner. This is an excellent way to expand gameplay, and it adds yet another layer of depth into the already deep game. I think it's worth noting that the rest of the game remains the same as GTA3. You won't find much else new, so it may not hold your attention as long. Still, with new additions like this most gamers will be playing this game for months on end.

The graphics are important to any game. Vice City has, well, unique graphics to say the least. At times, they are so beautiful they will take your breath away. Other times, you'll wonder if you're playing a PS2 game. My main complaint is the lack of other vehicles on the road. What's the fun of fleeing the cops in the midst of rush hour traffic when there are no cars on the road? A few glitches that surface really ruin the feel sometime, but they're few and far between. Other than that, the feel of the lush Florida city is very well done. Everything from the neon lights on the main drag, the palm trees lining the streets, the rain drops hitting the screen, the glare of the sun as your tooling around the bay, to the haze that covers the beach on a sunny afternoon. But while the city itself looks very good, and has a general atmosphere, it can get boring. Some of the surroundings seem somewhat repetitive, but it doesn't detract from the overall feel of the city. The game uses a feature called 'trails' that seems to blur your surroundings. While I would normally consider this a bad thing, it works very well for some reason. It makes the feel of the city seem realistic, covered in the haze that a busy Florida city would be covered in. The character models look real nice as well, and Tommy has more than one outfit to change into. He has a leisure suit, a tropical shirt, and even a jogging suit. There are all sorts of pedestrians, from fat old guys laying on the beach to girls in bikinis rollerblading along the sidewalk.

And we come to one of the best parts about this game, and that is the sound. Where else can you listen to Slayer while being chased by the cops? Since this game is set in the 1980's, all the music on the radio stations is authentic '80's music. Just as in GTA3, there are a variety of of stations, each one plays a different kind of music. You can listen to classic rock songs like 'Sanctuary', 'I Wanna Rock,' and others. But of course, you're not limited to rock. There's songs by Flock of Seagulls, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and many many more. The variety should be more than enough to please anyone. However, a lot of gamers may be turned off by this '80's theme, since this was not the music they grew up on. To answer this problem, Rockstar has included two chat stations, which are hilarious as Chatterbox in GTA3. This still may not please everyone, but you can turn the radio off. If you're still not satisfied, I'm not sure what else to tell you.

Apart from the music, the ambience is really good as well. The cars sound better than ever, and hearing your tires getting shot out adds to the sense of tension. If you go down to the beach, you can hear the waves crashing and the wind blowing. Go to the airport, and you'll hear planes taking off and landing. Walk around the slums in Little Havana, and you'll hear gang members calling after you. The pedestrians still have their hilarious comments, even the cops say things that will make you pause the game to catch your breath. Of course, this game has some of the best voice acting ever. It brings in Hollywood actors and otherwise, like Dennis Hopper, Tom Sizemore, Gary Busey and even Jenna Jameson. And of course, Ray Liotta himself does the voice of Tommy. It doesn't get much better than that.

This is easily one of the best games for the PS2. It should be an obvious addition to anyone's library. In all serious, this game could last for years. There is always something to do, whether it be just cruising in your convertible or leading the cops in high speed chase. You'll find it hard to get bored with, and it is a lot of fun, which is what videogames are all about. It may not have been as revolutionary as GTA3 was, but it had impossible standards to live up to, and it did. It pushes the envelope once more, and thats all you can ask of a game. In this game, the world, or at least Vice City, truly is yours.

Gameplay- 10/10
Again , this gameplay is unequaled. It's a completely unique experience to be had.

Graphics- 9/10
Not as good as some of the other PS2 games out there, but it still creates a great atmosphere in sunny Vice City.

Sound- 10/10
It has the best '80's music there is, plus some of the best voice acting ever. You can't go wrong with Ray Liotta.

Replay- 10/10
Honestly, there is no limit to this game. You could play it for years and years and never get bored.

Final Score- 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/16/03, Updated 07/18/03

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