Grand Theft Auto: Vice City  (Sony PlayStation 2, 2002) Reviews
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Sony PlayStation 2, 2002)

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Grand Theft Auto Vice City: Welcome to your new home

Nov 7, 2002 (Updated Nov 7, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:-Advancements in almost every category, same winning GTA3 formula.

Cons:-Those who quickly tired of GTA3 will be in for more of the same.

The Bottom Line: GTA: Vice City is a respectable contender for game of the year awards, you won't want to go without this one.

Finding a way to win
Last year, Rockstar and DMA released a game that forever changed the industry. Grand Theft Auto 3 managed to shine where its predecessors had failed, and in the process, became the year's top seller, as well as a legend. GTA3 was one of the few titles that featured an almost completely non-linear gameplay, along with sporting true endless replay value. It allowed gamers to step away from their hectic lives, full of real work and strict laws, and into a world where death meant a game over screen and a quick restart. When you give people true freedom in any video game, they will be more than willing to open up their pocketbooks and complete a full purchase; and they did, in record numbers. So it came to no surprise that Rockstar began work on a next installment of the new franchise, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Since the announcement of its development, no game on the market has received more hype and research than the new title of the GTA series. Last week, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City shipped to stores around the country, and was met by hoards of gamers across the United States. Is Vice City merely a hype machine that failed to deliver? Or, will a GTA game top the charts for a second straight year? Read in to find out...

The Key Features:
- Graphical enhancements include higher framerate, higher resolution textures, more complex vehicles, and pedestrian models with better skins.
- Vice City is double the size of Liberty City both inside and out. There are many more multi-leveled interior environments for you to explore. Missions take place both inside and outdoors.
- New targeting system makes finding and shooting enemies even easier. It highlights targets based on "priority and not on proximity".
- VC includes more complex missions that feature a greater variety of objectives.
- The vehicle count has been raised to 120 from GTA3’s paltry selection of only 50. 80’s sports cars and even motorcycles inspire many of the vehicles.
- More boats have been added, and water based action has been revamped with an all-new physics system for boats.
- Gangs are more intelligent, causing trouble all over the city so you aren't be the only one the police is searching for.
- The main character, Tommy Vercetti, talks and shows true personality.

Being Tommy Vercetti
All the man ever wanted to do was win respect and prosper in the mob business, was that too much to ask? Apparently, it was. Sometime in the early 70's, mobster Tommy Vercetti(voiced by Ray Liotta of Goodfellas), was thrown into prison for his mob ties. The system tried to get some names out of him, but being loyal to the family, Tommy refused. They hit him with a huge 15-year sentence, which he finally finishes in 1986. After showing great loyalty to the family, Vercetti is given a huge amount of drug money by mob boss Sunny Forelli to "expand" business operations. He is then sent down to Vice City, a southern metropolis loosely based on Miami, to set up "the deal". But things go horribly wrong for him and his absent-minded lawyer, Ken Rosenberg. The poorly executed scenario is a set up, and the drugs and money are gone before Tommy has a chance to do anything about it. Being broke and in big trouble with his boss, Tommy sets out to find his enemies, and his boss’ money.

Those of you that spent a significant amount of time with GTA3 would probably remember the static personally of the main character. He was a nameless man, with no real identity or voice, and to tell you the truth, it was a bit disappointing. In this installment though, Tommy Vercetti is a very dynamic character, who is once again, perfectly voiced by actor Ray Liotta. As petty an upgrade as it sounds, this addition and added complexity to the main character does wonders for the overall story line. Over the course of the game, players will get in touch with both the inner and outer character that is Tommy Vercetti. Often times, developers taint a story line by casting subpar actors to fill the role of a main character. Just as often though, games are produced with no voice acting at all, yielding an almost uncompleted storyline. In this title though, main character and voice actor are a magnificent match. My hats off to Rockstar North for making such a successful match happen, regardless of what it cost them to do so.

Just as it was in GTA3, one of Vice City's greatest assets is the fact that are no real rules. Vice City is the epitome of nonlinear gaming, allowing players do whatever they want when they want. When one of the 100 missions becomes too boring or difficult, you have the ability to let loose, travel the city, and test the bounds of gaming at its finest. There's just something about this title that makes you keep it in the CD drive. In theory, there is an "end" to the game, but the variety of missions, stunts, and the sheer satisfaction of killing makes this game almost endless. Of course, there are also incentives to continue. Progressing through the missions will eventually open up more complex and dangerous missions, new gameplay options, more cars and weapons, and of course, more side missions. In addition to all of this, you only start with roughly two thirds of the overall city unlocked, and must complete around 25 missions to open up the island area(which is closed because storms).

Another great improvement seen in the newest GTA Installment are the more complicated, more complex, and more involved missions. If you remember correctly, almost all of the missions GTA3 involved your nameless character carrying out a one-part chore. At times, it was delivering a prostitute to a nightclub, or maybe killing an important figure. Regardless though, many of these required one, sometimes simple, sometimes difficult task. In Vice City, on the other hand, there is a quite a variation in mission difficulty and complexity. One of the more memorable missions takes you to the local country club, to chase down in a golf cart, and ultimately, put a hurting on one of the members. On the other side of the spectrum though, was a mission where Tommy had to break into a high security compound, find a friend, help him break out, and then exit safely with him, eventually traveling to the local hospital through mass traffic. Its the sheer volume of these deep, multi-part missions that makes GTA: Vice City unlike any other action game on the market.

As if the new multi-step missions weren't enough, Rockstar North also decided to add a few new and exciting features into Vice City. The most prolific of these features is definitely the new ability to buy real estate. After completing a good number of missions, building up some prestige, and amassing a decent amount of cash, you will have the option to buy a piece, or multiple pieces of land, hopefully en route to establishing a profitable business. Your options include a kicking Vice City nightclub, a developed taxi company, and a towering mansion. All of these buildings serve a dual purpose too. Each piece of real estate that you own can serve as a garage for one, or sometimes many, of the various cars you will end up acquiring throughout the game. Along with functioning as a garage, many of these buildings will become save points as well. The whole saving system is actually quite flawed. In order to save your progress, you must drive, fly, or walk back to one of these "save points". If your nearest property is miles away, that's just too bad. I personally think that it would be nice if it would automatically save your progress after each mission, or if you had the ability to at any time on the menu screen. Is the system functional? Yes. But, is it perfect? No. The last thing that is impressive about the buildings is that you can actually walk into most of them. Many of the buildings, including the police station and the clubs, can be explored from the inside. As a matter of fact, some of the missions even require you to be inside. There is a short 5-10 second loading time when trying to get inside, but overall, it doesn't hinder your experience.

Finally, the AI and realism factors of Vice City have also been quite polished. First off, the average citizens of Vice City are more lifelike than ever before. Their dialect, movements, social interactions, and look have been elevated to the next level. In addition to that though, law enforcement has been tweaked and improved. In GTA3, the cops had one and only one target; you. But, in Vice City the police are also after Cuban and Haitian gangs, as well as run of the mill street criminals. You can even be awarded for helping a cop catch a thug. Truly, stopping crime can be almost as fun as doing it! In this installment, is also much easier to be caught by the police. In the past, you could be arrested for beating cops, killing pedestrians, blowing up cars, ECT. Now though, you can also get in trouble for speeding, and carrying a weapon in the presence of an officer too. Lastly, all of the cars in GTA: VC can be destroyed piece by piece, and everyone in this title can be killed. That alone makes Vice City worth the price of admission.

Colt 45 and 2 zig zags, baby that's all we need!
As we've already seen in many of the game's aspects, the weapon selection in Vice City has also undergone a massive upgrade. This title sports a huge variation of guns, including the aforementioned colt 45, 2 different Uzi's, a couple of machine guns, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, and more. Along with those though are some mad explosives, such as the TNT and the Rocket Launcher. Notably new the to the game as well is a wide variety of melee weapons, including a golf club, screwdrivers, a michette, a hatchet, and even a chainsaw! Sadly though, the chainsaw isn't quite as cool as most of you are currently imagining, but it is a nice touch. Along with a score of new lethal objects is an all-new classification system. Weapons are categorized into small groups, such as the melee weapons, explosives, and handguns. In the game, Tommy can carry one of each type of weapon, and no more. In addition to this classification system, the targeting engine has also been totally re-done. This new targeting system, the priority system, enables gamers to aim at the more important enemies first, and the enemies of lower importance last. The aiming system is a little slow and sloppy at times, but it is definitely better than that seen in GTA3. Once mastered, it works out just fine.

Road, water, and air rage
There's simply nothing like cruisin', and you'll be doing a lot of it with the huge number of vehicles in GTA: VC. If you thought the vehicle count of 50 in GTA:3 was huge, you may be surprised to see well over 100 hundred objects of transportation in this title. Among these is a large selection of cars, which include "knockoffs" of many 80's style popular automobiles. This list includes in a Suburban look a like, an almost exact Porsche match, a Corvette style speedster, and a Lamborghini copy. The best thing about these different cars is that each one feels a bit different than all of the others. They can all pull off different kinds of stunts, they feature varying top speeds and acceleration, and each has an individual handling style. Since Vice City is a coastal metropolis, you can also expect to see a wide variety of boats. From speedboats to huge yachts, Vice City shows off an impressive variation of water transportation, each one handling differently than the last. If that isn't enough, there are also almost a dozen new motorcycles. Surprisingly, a few of the bigger motorcycles actually sport some of the highest top speeds in the game, and watching your player fly off of his bike is absolutely stunning. Lastly, there are also a good number of airborne vehicles in Vice City. These include a couple of different helicopters, and even a plane that can take off in water.

Graphics: 8/10-Someday, they'll perfect these too
Just as we've seen with every single title in the GTA series, the graphics in Vice City aren't the games strongest suit. Thankfully, Rockstar has made some pretty significant graphical upgrades throughout the years, most notably when they changed from the "Frogger Overtop" view to full, solid 3D graphics last year. While the changes this time aren't quite as evident, they are moderately substantial. First off, the polygon count for the surrounding characters has been massively upgraded, making most street pedestrians look like real people rather than moving blocks. Also, the lighting effects have been altered for the better. GTA3, which was centered in a New York based Liberty City, had quite a dark, gloomy graphical view to it. This time, however, the tropical Vice City is portrayed as very vibrant and colorful. Add this into the fact that this game is set in the neon, colorful 80's, and you have yourself quite a lively color scheme. Lastly, the draw distance in Vice City is one of the largest that you will see on a PS2 game. In this title, especially when you are up above the city in a helicopter or plane, you can literally see for miles, and that feeling is quite exhilarating. As I stated before though, the graphics aren't perfect. The textures could still use a lot of work, and the player models are no where near perfect yet, although both aspects have been improved. Plus, you will see some minor framerate problems from time to time, especially in dense traffic, where the game will slowdown to below 30 FPS, but this is rare and won't effect the experience too much.

Audio: 10/10-If I could give an 11, I would
Regardless of how you feel about the 80's, you would agree that the era of big hair and neon was also an era of revolutionary music. That said, GTA: VC contains more than 10 hours of fully licensed music and well over 100 different songs. When push comes to shove, this music selection is almost essential when it comes to driving. As you flip through the various radio stations while driving, you'll hear classics from Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne, Rick James(Ghetto Life Baby!), Lionel Richie, and Motley Crue. Rockstar apparently thought that this music was so good that they decided to compile their songs and sell them as part of a 7-disk set. I sure as hell won't be paying $50 for a 10 hours of 80's music, but I'm sure that there are people out there who will be interested. Also, the voice acting and sound effects are top notch. Along with Ray Liotta, the actor who plays Tommy Vercetti, you'll also hear Luis Guzman of Boogie Nights, Frank Chavez, Lawrence Taylor, and porn star Jenna Jamison. As for the sound effects, the bangs, booms, and the sounds of burning rubber are perfectly orchestrated. To top it all off, all of the sounds of Vice City are available in full-fledged DTS quality sound.

Controls: 9/10-1 point from perfection
Sure, the control scheme of Vice City is essentially the same as that seen in GTA3, but it has been slightly fine tuned. First and foremost is all new priority targeting system,(which I mentioned in the weapons section) which allows you to scroll through targets easily based on their prestige. It has a few problems too though. At times when many enemies are present, it can be difficult to find all of the enemies that are actually firing at you, and sometimes, you will die because of it. In order to avoid some of this fire though, Rockstar has established a crouching system. Using L3, players can duck and crouch behind cars, boxes, and essentially all other objects seen in Vice City. The rest of the controls are also pretty smooth, from the controls of vehicles, to basic movement, to high jacking cars. The controls do take a small portion of time to get used to, but the learning curve on them is pretty basic. Most gamers should be able to play well after about a half-hour, especially after being helped in the beginning stages of the games.

M stands for Mature
Just as a quick disclaimer, parents everywhere should take extreme caution when purchasing GTA: VC for their children. Those of you who have seen GTA3 can expect more of the same, and sometimes worse. Between the mature seems, gang content, prostitution, violence, and sheer gore of melee weapons, this one is just too much for younger kids. Personally, I wouldn't recommend this title for any pre-teen, and being as though I'm pretty liberal when it comes to the censuring of games, some parents may not even want this one in front of their 14 year olds. I won't tell you how to take care of your kids, just know that I warned you.

Overall: 9.5/10
Sadly, this game isn't quite as revolutionary as the last. While it does have some new content and slight improvements, it remains very much like GTA3. Luckily for Rockstar though, being very much like GTA3 isn't a bad thing at all. From what I understand, GTA: Vice City has already been selling like hot cakes across the country, and I would be willing to predict that Vice City will be on top of the gaming sales charts for a good number of months. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has been the year’s most anticipated game, and it surely has answered the hype, more than likely being the year’s best. It's great gameplay, almost endless reply value, superior audio, and above average graphics make it one of the elite. Unless you didn't like GTA3, or you're unfortunately too young, there is no reason why you shouldn't have this game.
Thanks for reading,

Recommend this product? Yes

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