Review by Tarrun
"Please, Rockstar, Can't You Force Me To Watch The Embarrassing Stripper Sequence Just A Little Bit Longer?"
After the success of Grand Theft Auto 3, Rockstar did what anyone with such a gem would do and started to create a sequel to their smash hit. As before, there was a ton of hype about the game and many websites and magazines claimed it would be one of the best games of the year. Hoping that Vice City would live up to its predecessor, I bought the game as a Christmas present for myself, and although there are a number of intriguing moments, I don't think that the game is quite as good as everyone claimed it was.
The plot is a mixed bag, it seems to be a combination of The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas, which, for the most part, isn't a good thing. While taking a bunch of gangster movies and mixing them together may sound like a good idea, for some reason it just didn't seem to work out.
In Liberty City around the 1980s, the Forelli gang wants to control parts of Vice City, a new untapped resource that will be controlled by rival gangs if they don't take action. They send recently released from prison Tommy Vercetti to set up a drug deal and start their business. Everything is going fine until a mysterious group crashes the party and kills everyone, with the exception of Tommy, Ken (a lawyer working with Tommy and Sonny), and Lance Vance, one of the two drug dealers who were going to do business with the Forelli gang. Unfortunately, in all of the chaos, Tommy wasn't able to grab the suitcases full of money, and is left up **** Creek without a paddle. Now Sonny wants his money back and is holding Tommy responsible, and Tommy is out for revenge.
One of the things that I thought was disappointing is that only about fifteen percent of the missions actually had to do with the storyline, the others were completely random. Really, you're a rising mobster, why are you being enlisted by a gang of bikers to wreak havoc? Also, there was nothing surprising in the storyline; although it was obvious Rockstar was trying to create a huge twist that no one would foresee.
The graphics also have their ups and downs, but this time it's more of how it compares to the other GTAs to how it compares to other Playstation 2 games. For example, try comparing Vice City to games like Metal Gear Solid 2, Socom, or Castlevania: Lament of Innocence; Vice City doesn't even come close. On the other hand, if you compare Vice City to GTA 3 or Max Payne, Vice City stands apart as one of the better games, visually that is. One of the most noticeable improvements is the different light reflection; sun glares off of cars and the road (Which can cause of lack of being able to see that can become irritating.) and the neon lights at night are straight out of Vegas. The character textures are improved this time around, and you can even see things like Tommy's shirt whipping in the wind on a motorcycle. The surroundings are also an upgrade from GTA 3; there are interactive people and items, and for the most part, it's better than GTA 3's.
One of the most notable things about Grand Theft Auto 3 was the music; there was a wide variety of different songs to keep everyone entertained, not to mention the talk shows filled with strange commercials and oddball callers. How could Rockstar hope to top something that was already so compelling, what songs could they include in a game that takes place in the mid-eighties? The best of the eighties, what else? Artists like Blondie, Cutting Crew, Ozzy Ozbourne, and Michael Jackson are scattered through the dozen or so radio stations, which includes two new talk shows. Lazlow, the real main character of GTA 3, has returned, this time the host of a rock station, along with a few other familiar voices. One of the strange things I noticed was that some of the songs are also featured in Scarface, which seems to only add to the proof that Vice City is a rip-off of a bunch of classic gangster movies.
So, the songs are great, but what about the rest of the sounds? For the most part, the sound effects and voice acting are fantastic; birds chirp on the beach, siren blast from cop cars as they chase around the city, and burnouts as you make a quick getaway from a job. The guns sound pretty cool and equally awesome are the explosions. Vice City features the voice talents of Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, another movie reference!), Burt Reynolds, Jenna Jameson, and many others. The voice acting really helps to draw you into the characters in the game, as each voice shows a sense of emotion, unlike the mute hero from GTA 3. The only problem I had with the sound was the random obscenities Tommy would scream during the game, how many times could one person yell the same phrase before making me beg for suicide? After fans applauded the obscene language of GTA 3 so much, Rockstar went overboard with how much swearing they could add into Vice City. Don't get me wrong, the last thing I want is a dialogue with the words, darn, shoot, or crap used to replace other, more risque, words, but still, it becomes too much of a good thing.
One of the only major problems I had with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the difficulty level; the game just wasn't that hard. True, it makes up for it in length, but I still would've liked a challenge. Also, the difficulty depends mostly on whether or not you use the immense amount of cheats available. I never cheat in games, so that's how I'm basing this part. But even without cheating, the game has nothing to make it difficult. There are very few instances were you are ever in danger of death, and about seventy-five percent of these rare occasions can be easily avoided by using a sniper rifle. Obviously, Rockstar thinks the people buying their games are ten-year-olds who like to blow stuff up because it looks cool and whose philosophy is that the more bullets the better. I've watched my cousins play the game, running into every situation like they were playing Goldeneye, and that's the only way I could see Vice City being even slightly challenging.
The gameplay, for the most part, is done fairly well; the exception to this might have something to do with the few million bugs that are littered through the game; the worst being the one that freezes the game, forcing you to start over from whenever you last saved. Another memorable bug is a save point halfway that screws your game up, which forces you to restart from the beginning. It's unacceptable for a game that was in development since GTA 3 came out to have bugs like this. It's obvious that Rockstar wanted to put Vice City out while everyone still was interested, and didn't care how many problems were left in, since they knew people would buy it anyway.
That aside, however, Vice City's gameplay is a lot like its predecessor (Who didn't expect that?), meaning that you have the complete freedom to explore and discover things on your own. While there are missions that are apart of the main story, which include working for a corrupt lawyer, an ex-Colonel, and a drug lord, there are also sides missions that range from protecting a rock band from a psychotic stalker to helping a taxi firm defeat their rival company. Also, in one of the beginning missions, Tommy swipes a cell-phone from a dead butcher and can receive instructions from contacts that don't like to meet in person. (In reality, it just takes the place of the beeper from GTA 3.)
The missions themselves are pretty bland, but to be honest I bought the game expecting that. Most of the missions follow one of these patterns: Chase [name] and kill him, protect [name], drive to [location] and kill everyone there, or beat [name] in a race. Ninety-nine percent of the missions follow one of those patterns; sometimes it gets really wild and they combine a few of them, and I know what you're thinking. So wait, you're telling me I have to drive to [location] and then protect [name]? I'm not sure I can handle that! While there are a couple of missions that I really enjoy playing through, noticing these patterns are too easy, which makes the other seventy-three missions exactly like the few I enjoy pretty boring. The side missions; the fire fighter, vigilante, hospital, and taxi missions have returned, this time with a new addition; pizza delivery missions, which, beside being a change from the normal run-and-gun style of the rest of the game, yields certain rewards for completing them.
Besides the side missions, there are also the collectibles and mini-games, which include the classic hidden package hunt, the rampages, a shooting range, and street races. The races are pretty varied, while there are the regular ones where you can choose whatever cars you want; there are others that take place strictly on BMX bikes or motorcycles. Also, an added feature in Vice City is the Arena, which has three different games depending on what day it is; including a NASCAR style race, a timed collect-the-rings BMX thing, and a demolition derby.
Winning these races and the other games are rewarded with cash, which is useful beyond buying weapons like in GTA 3. Now Tommy can buy properties, ranging from a condo to a small wooden shack. Out of the dozen or so properties that you can purchase, about half of them are businesses that can begin to make you money once you complete a few missions about them. Some of the businesses have three or four actual missions (Like forcing stores to pay protection.) but other are slightly different. For example, the car dealership has street races and the import/export garages, while the boatyard starts making money once you complete a checkpoint race around the numerous canals of Vice City. Two of the most odd missions, if you can call them that, are business missions. The ice cream factory has you sell drugs from an ice cream truck while avoiding the police, which becomes increasingly difficult due to the fact that your wanted stars increase as you sell more and more to the Vice City druggies. The other mission takes place in the strip club you can buy, where you must sit and watch a stripper until you've spent $500 (Unfortunately you spend about one dollar per second.). But that doesn't seem so bad, right? Hey, got some time to kill, watching a stripper sequence, I'm sure I can think of something to do
Unfortunately, a stripper on Rockstar's lame graphics doesn't look very erotic, and the dance they do is simply embarrassing to watch. I could've thought of at least a dozen other missions to do besides watching a mentally challenged stripper dance around a room like an idiot for ten minutes in a room that appears in some of my vomit-inducing disco nightmares. I can't understand why the hell Rockstar put something like this in, was it because of the amount of feedback from GTA 3 about being able to pick up prostitutes? Please, Rockstar, leave the pornography to the Internet, and start thinking about ways to keep your games from sucking so much.
The weapons have been added to this time around in the sense that there are a lot more of them. There are seven categories of weapons: Hand-to-hand, melee, handguns, sub-machine guns, automatic, heavy weapons, and grenades, and in each categories are several options. Should you stick to your trusty pistol or go for a revolver, baseball bat or a machete, rocket launcher or flamethrower? While some of the choices actually matter (The pistol is weaker but can fire faster while the revolver is slower but packs one hell of a punch.), others are based simply on which looks cooler (Come on, anyone can see that both of those assault rifles are exactly the same, except the Ruger is orange.).
Tommy controllers pretty well, although the way he runs in pretty awkward, but he has some new moves, which includes the ability to duck behind cars/crates/et cetera. Also, with the addition of motorcycles and bikes, Tommy can fire a gun forward while in motion. While this does come in handy while chasing down someone, the bullets fire very unsteadily and about one of every twenty of them will connect. Motorcycles also have a major control issue, it's almost like driving on a sheet of ice; either it will turn too much, or won't turn at all. Another addition besides motorcycles is helicopters, which has been on every fans mind since we found that one on top of Kenji's casino in GTA 3. Besides the advantages to cross water in one, helicopters can also be used to murder a large group of people by flying low to the ground with the rotors facing down. Yes, it sounds pretty lame, but for the first few times it's pretty damn fun.
And to allow even more freedom to explore, there are a lot more buildings that are available to enter besides Ammunation and the select few others that were in Grand Theft Auto 3. There's even a large mall that's filled with different shops, although most of them aren't accessible. Nonetheless, it's a good place to decide to go on a killing spree because there's a slim chance of a cop car being able to fit through the double doors to run you over.
Staying on the subject of homicide but diverging slightly, the consequences of your law-breaking ways come in a lot swifter and more aggressive then they did in GTA 3. And there's a small glitch that doesn't help this; when you look in an out of the rear or side views, the characters can change. Now, if you're committing a crime, let's say a drive-by, and you switch back to the regular front view to make sure you're not about to crash into anything, a cop might suddenly appear right next to your door and bust you.
Like it's predecessor, there is a plethora of extras littered throughout Vice City, from street races, hidden packages, RC races, taxi missions, and the other missions that you don't need to complete to finish the story. And if nothing else, those massive killing sprees are pretty cool for a while. And as an incentive to complete the game and get %100, Rockstar actually added rewards for finding and doing everything, unlike GTA 3. Now, completing the game grants myriads of rewards, from a new t-shirt (I completed Vice City, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt) to infinite ammunition for all of your weapons.
There are a lot of games that seem pretty bad the first time you play it, but eventually you accept their flaws and begin to like them more. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the exact opposite to this, after replaying the game I realized how shoddy it really was. There are way too many bugs in the game not to be able to ignore it, and a lot of the game is just GTA 3, but one step too far. People liked the prostitutes in GTA 3, so we'll put strippers in Vice City; fans liked all of the swearing in GTA 3, so let's have every other word out of Tommy's mouth be a swear so he sounds like a seventy-year-old barfly. I guess with the addition of motorcycles and helicopters, Rockstar thought that people would love the game, and from all of the other reviews, I guess they were right. Maybe it's just me, but I'd like a game that doesn't freeze randomly or have fifty missions that are exactly the same. Rockstar knows how to make a great game, we've seen it in Grand Theft Auto 3 and Max Payne, but Vice City was obviously rushed and in turn isn't as memorable as some of their other games. Sure, the music is great and the graphics are a step up from GTA 3, but does that really make it acceptable? Of course not. Hopefully, Rockstar will realize this before the next addition to the Grand Theft Auto series is released.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 12/08/03, Updated 07/25/04
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