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SummaryA landmark title worth of critical and popular acclaim - rises above its flaws
The GoodGrand Theft Auto: Vice City is one of the games that has helped push video gaming into the mainstream consciousness. While some of the attention has been placed on the game's mature themes, the lion's share has been a positive focus on the unique gameplay (unlike some past "violent games" like Night Trap and Mortal Kombat).
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is not a true sequel to Grand Theft Auto III. Rather, it is a sort of "new campaign" - it uses the same game engine as GTA3, but is not a mere expansion pack. Rockstar has confirmed that not only is there another similar "side-sequel" in development, but there is also a TRUE sequel that will bear the name Grand Theft Auto IV. Therefore, anyone referring to Vice City at GTA4 is incorrect.
Vice City is a free-roaming 3D game in which players cruise a fully-modeled city (patterned after Miami circa 1985), taking on missions from various employers. The game features a somewhat linear storyline, but there are tons of optional side-missions that aren't required to complete the game's storyline. Most players will play through the majority of the side-missions. Best of all, if there's a storyline mission that is just kicking your butt, there's another mission to go play, and you can come back to the hard mission later.
Most people have heard about the basic premise of the gameplay by now. Your character, Tommy Vercetti, gets around town by stealing cars (usually by carjacking unsuspecting motorists), and pedestrians can be gratuitously run over. Vice City law enforcement will pursue those that go on law-breaking sprees (both inside and outside of missions), making running from the police a common theme of the game. Players have a "wanted level" (1 to 6 stars), which increases as one's disregard for the law becomes more blatant. Police officers can be shot and run over, which generally serves to raise the wanted level quickly and make the player's job much harder - on that token, the game discourages cop killing. Yet, most missions involve breaking the law in some form, so VCPD will always be close behind.
With voice actors that include "real" Hollywood talent like Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, Tom Sizemore, Bert Reynolds, Luis Guzman, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, and a score of others, GTA: Vice City is helping to usher the days of awkward game voice acting (think Resident Evil) into the past. Though attempts at fusing real actors into video game voice acting roles has not always been successful in the past, Vice City comes out glowing. These actors truly bring the game alive.
Just as good as the voice acting is the music. Drivers in Vice City have a number of radio stations to choose from. Unlike GTA3, Vice City comes with a full block of real 1980s radio hits - from Michael Jackson to Iron Maiden to A Flock of Seagulls. The game's soundtrack has been released on a 7 CD box set, and it is a best-seller with good reason. The music does more than anything else to bring the 1980s vibe alive. Everything old is new again.
The BadVice City's 3D world really pushes the PlayStation 2 beyond its capabilities. The game looks and runs much better on the PC - even Grand Theft Auto III looked much better on PC than Vice City does on PS2. The first thing to do is turn the awful "trails" graphical feature off - they're annoying (to me, at least), and turning them off helps a ton for PS2 players.
Game control could be a little better in the on-foot areas. While the car control is very good, gun combat on foot can definitely be awkward. A number of other 3rd-person games have managed to implement much more natural control schemes. Rockstar would serve themselves well to take note and rip some control ideas off.
Also, the game is not without some bugs. Though they aren't frequent, I had a few crash/freeze bugs hit me during my hours of gameplay. Reports I've read from other people lead me to believe that it's not a unique case of my game copy and/or PS2 hardware.
Some critics have dissed Vice City as being nothing more than a GTA3 rehash. While the gameplay is largely similar, Vice City comes out as a much better game, thanks to all of the production values that bring the city and time period to life. There also aren't a ton of games in a similar style - and most of the others are direct clones of the GTA formula. One must wonder what formulaic archetype the favorite genres of these critics could be reduced to.