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Theft Auto Double-Pack
Score: 9.5 / 10
Even none-gamers have heard of Grand Theft
Auto (GTA). In most media reports, it’s usually in mentioned in the same
breath as “the game direct from Satan’s cubicle in the 10th level of
Hell” and “the reason America’s youth is going down the toilet.” GTAIII
has been grabbing headlines on a regular basis since its release on the
Playstation 2 a couple of years ago, but you can expect another wave of
notoriety as GTAIII and its “sequel” GTA Vice City debut on Xbox – a
2-for-1 package that is sure to be a hot seller among Xbox owners.
In both games you assume the role of Tommy Vercetti – albeit in two
different eras and locations. While in Vice City (circa. the '80s),
you’re Tommy in a bad Hawaiian print, sporting a pointy moustache, and
armed with a variety of firearms to deliver justice – justice in the
sense of “gangland bloodletting.” In both games, Tommy’s objectives
don’t stray far from gangland hits and driving getaway cars. Yes, you
plough through pedestrians with your
‘jacked ride and shoot indiscriminately at cars and passers-by, but
that’s never where the action is concentrated. As part of the mafia,
it’s your job to get in, get out, and get away without drawing a lot of
attention to yourself. Performing “obvious” criminal acts, like beating
up innocent people, will get the police, FBI and, ultimately, the Army
hot on your tail.
Each mission you take on
has a goal. How you complete that goal is completely up to you. Neither
game has the open-endedness of, say, Morrowind since the objectives are
doled out in a linear fashion (for the most part) but how you get from
point A to point B is entirely up to you -- no designer "telling" you
which way is the right way. This makes it almost necessary for you to
become intimate with the layout of both cities so you know where the
shortcuts and hiding places are.
The objectives range from simple to a test of your dexterity and
patience, but they usually involve some kind of nefarious behavior.
It should go without saying, if you have a strong moral and/or religious
center, stay away from these games! Even then, you’d probably enjoy
bombing around both Vice and Liberty City (circa. 1990s) in a wide
variety of sports cars, trucks, and emergency and commercial vehicles.
Vice City has more vehicles at your disposal (including boats), but
you’ll still spend a lot of time on-foot. In fact, walking and running –
being active – is encouraged. (Score one for GTA!) The more you make
Tommy run, the longer he can do so – perfect for those times when you
need to sprint from a bad situation, like when your car is about to
explode. Conversely, you can use your super-fitness to catch the cars
you want to ‘jack.
Each game gets a bit of a graphical upgrade over the originals – I know
the movement of individual fingers will blow everyone away! All sarcasm
aside, both games look great, with the broad strokes and small details
both excellent. There are complete day/night and weather cycles that
provide an extra level of grittiness (or realism) but what GTA may be
better known for is the in-game radio stations. From talk to rock, GTA
has something for everyone. (Vice City even has a boxed soundtrack
available at retail.) It’s so good, that I occasionally found myself
just cruising around the city listening to the radio, particularly the
talk radio in Liberty City. (And if you want, you can use the tunes
ripped to your Xbox.)
But as enamored, as I am with the ability to live out the fantasy of
being a career criminal, there are still problems with both games.
To save your game you have to make it back to your hideout. So instead
of just saving the game after a mission is finished, you’ll have to
drive across town and enter your hideout before you can save. You can
also store a car in your garage but it just got on my nerves having to
drive all the way back just to save.
The combat is a little on the weak side, especially in comparison to
games like True Crime: Streets of L.A. or Dead to Rights, which really
do strike a good balance between gunplay and fisticuffs. I mean, the
control during combat is adequate but I died more than few times under a
flurry of bullets fired from off-screen. Some of this can be alleviated
by changing the camera angle -- the overhead view being the most useful.
Another problem is when you screw up a mission (by dying, getting
busted, break the time limit, etc.) you have to backtrack to where you
received the mission, instead of just hitting a “Retry Mission” button.
Although some might say having such a button would upset the “organic”
feel of operating in a living world, I say it would be more enjoyable.
Besides, it makes about as much sense as someone giving you a mission
But those issues are but pale shadows to how well done the rest of the
games are. Definitely for the over 18 crowd, GTAIII delivers a great
gaming experience, and at a 2-for-1 price… well, it’s a stupendous
dollars-to-gaming ratio. If you have never played GTAIII or Vice City,
now’s the time.