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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Rockstar

 

Developer

DMA

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

- More gut-busting action

- Bigger assortment of vehicles

- A-List voice-overs

- Stellar soundtrack

- Improved visuals

 

 

- Graphics are on the same level as GTA III

- Frustrating controls for secondary vehicles (planes and helicopters)

- Shorter then the first

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PC)

Review: GTA: Vice City (Playstation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (Playstation 2)

 

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Score: 9.2 / 10  

Exploiting the way of “American” vice (no pun intended) could not have been better executed then the satirical humor and action of Grand Theft Auto (GTA). The game was released intentionally to target America as the underpinning of crime, corruption, and arbitrary violence. Little did Rockstar know that the 2D top-down game would become one of the most memorable of all time, as well as one of the most controversial in the latter years. GTA followed with a sup-par sequel that merely regurgitated the action and graphics used in the first. It would take a third sequel, GTA III, to update the graphics engine, gameplay, and overall appearance; though the severe violence continued to flourish and opened the eyes of conservative parents and politicians searching for a reason to ban and restrict violent games. To them, it was the best target. GTA III took the violence, prostitution, and racist humor to a new level, though resulted in laws restricting the game to be sold in some states, as well as creating stricter, more rigorous ratings from the ESRB. That didn’t stop Rockstar from creating another addition with twice the violence, three times the prostitutes, and of course…hot chicks on roller blades.  

gta-vice-city-11.jpg (33347 bytes)          gta-vice-city-21.jpg (36198 bytes)

GTA: Vice City (GTA: VC) unravels in a short but exciting cinematic which sets up the premise and action to expect later in the game. The cinematics are at the same quality as before, though the characters are much more florid and amiable in movement. One of the first things you might notice is the change of attire, cars, and attitude of the city. Instead of taking place in recent time, GTA: VC takes place during the 1980s. The authenticity of the decade is spot on, from the tunes you’ll be hearing to the design of the cars; Vice City quickly shows improvement from the last installment.

The main character controlled is Tommy Vercetti, who is sent down to Vice City by his boss, Sonny Forelli, to retrieve his money from a rival group and return it. When the drop-off isn’t executed as planned, the money is taken away by a group of heavily armed foes (seen in the intro). He is forced to find the traitor and ultimately return his bosses money.

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Like previous GTA games, the missions are carried out the same way in both style and pace. On the bottom-left of the screen is a map overview of the city with certain marked points regarding checkpoints and missions available at the moment. The missions truly outshine the previous version. In GTA III, it seemed each mission involved the same exact setup: Grab a car, get a gun, and shoot people -- Mission accomplished. Vice City has constructed a more diverse system 

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of missions that range from controlling machines other then cars (RC planes and helicopters), using stealth and disguise as a tactic, combined with much smarter AI creating each mission to vary. Along with improving the controlling aspects of the cars and boats, the controls used for flying helicopters and planes are awkward at first. For example, to move a helicopter forward, you must hold the forward button down while pressing another key (on the number pad) to tip the nose forward in order to move while keeping upright in the air. Releasing either key will cause the helicopter to stop moving or descend speedily. A frustrating combination the first few times, once mastered it won’t be a problem.

In terms of graphics, the improvement isn’t as much as one would expect. The visual detail has stayed the same, with a few adjustments in scenery and in some prominent characters minutiae. The game also achieves a cleaner look then GTA III in both frame rate and quality. Most destructible objects, such as light posts, mailboxes, and fire hydrants, are poorly rendered. The rounded shapes of light bulbs are the most obvious and poorly executed, making the shape blocky and something you wouldn’t expect from a game of so much perfection. You must keep in mind though, GTA: Vice City is an action game that delivers so much in one moment, that the graphics are at its ultimate potential via today’s technology.  

gta-vice-city-31.jpg (20659 bytes)          gta-vice-city-41.jpg (35284 bytes)

Perhaps the most entertaining and authentic import from the 80s is the music. While listening to the radio, tracks like “Africa” (Toto), “Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson), and “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” will bring back plenty of good memories. In its entirety, Vice City delivers over six hours of music spread over nine radio stations, each with its own preference making it one of the best soundtracks of all time. Adding even more authenticity is the incorporation of A-list actors pitching their voices for characters. Ray Liotta, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, and Luis Guzman are just a few of the great voice-overs that progress the story during cinematics to create the ideal of sound and quality in games. The story feels richer and better understood then GTA III for the main character has a voice unlike the muted protagonist from GTA III.

Since Vice City didn’t want to tow the same reputation as the others, some strategy is implemented in order to have a better replay value; stopping those from whining about the game consisting of just arbitrary action. Halfway through the game, when you assume all missions are completed, the requirement of utilizing the structures within the city is required in order to spring up more missions. Buying clubs, businesses (taxi companies and ice cream trucks), and strip clubs are required in order to complete all missions. You don’t have to purchase all at the same time, for that would be impossible, but to experience the game to its peak, you should eventually own all of the businesses. This may seem like an easy task, but budgeting enough money for weapons and missions creates time spent trying to gather enough cash. As a result, you’ll find yourself plowing people over on the side of the streets, to later get out and grab their stacks of money. The ownership of buildings is welcomed, though frustrating to those looking for direct action and not willing to spend some time snatching cash.

In its entirety, GTA: Vice City bundles together loads of fun, action, sex, and guns, that is more complete then some games combined. The complete package on almost all levels, it’s no surprise that it’s also the most targeted in political debates on whether or not “violence towards cops (or people in that matter) in video games” should continue being permitted in stores. Until the dreaded day comes (which almost seems eminent) when games will be banned, Vice City offers hours of fun even after its official end. The player can still look for those pesky and well-hidden “hidden packages”, which will eventually unlock secret weapons and vehicles. Or the player can roam around freely visiting his favorite strip club, or driving his beloved taxi picking up eager passengers. Despite the fact that Vice City is ported from the PS2, the new features make the PC version a must buy, even for those who own the PS2 version. The ability to put your face in the game and mods soon being released will create innumerable amounts of scenarios that will have you playing until the release of the next GTA, maybe even further.

- Eric “element” Lahiji

(June 8, 2003)

 

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