Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review

GTA: Vice City is the sequel to the smash hit of last year, Grand Theft Auto 3. Most of you have probably already gone out and picked up this game, but Console Gold can still deliver a review for it, right?

Vice City revolves around Tommy Vercetti, a man who just got out of prison in Liberty City. His boss, Sonny Forelli, moves him to Vice City because he’s no longer one of the top men in the Forelli family. So, Tommy goes off to Vice City to expand the family business. He meets up with a lawyer and they go to do the usual drugs for money hand-off. It goes wrong and the money is taken. Sonny gets pissed off over this and Tommy says he will get the money for Sonny and to just give him a little time. This is where the story begins.

Vice City is in many ways an extension of Grand Theft Auto 3, which is probably why it was not given the Grand Theft Auto 4 title. The gameplay mechanics are foundationally the same, but some things have been spruced up. One of these things is the inclusion of a better target lock technology. By hitting the R1 button you can lock onto a target to fire at. To go through the targets you hit L2 or R2 while the R1 is still down. This is very helpful when you are hugely outnumbered in a room. This is far better than GTA3‘s target system. They can probably refine this more though.

The graphics this time around are brighter and better than GTA3. Vice City is the polar opposite of Liberty City. There are tons of lights, nice beachfront areas, palm trees and a general brighter life than in the dark trenches of Liberty City. Of course all is not bright in Vice City. There are many gangs and many factions that you can piss off. Vice City is as much a cesspool as Liberty City was, except this time you are not the only criminal on the street (there are other people who steal cars and shoot people on the street) and the city is far bigger. One of the greatest things about the game is that Vice City is so large and that you have access to a large part of the map in the beginning of the game. There are storm warnings that block some of the bridges, but after a bit they subside and you are able to go anywhere. There is a lot of space to travel in this game for all your different missions.

Speaking of the missions, they seem much more varied in this game than in GTA3. Heck, you can even deliver pizza in this game! In this game you even have help sometimes in key missions. Your friend Lance Vance will help you a lot during the game and other people help you as well, especially in huge shoot-outs. The whole package feels so much larger with the missions. Just like GTA3, some of the missions can be very tough, although in this game some of the missions can be rather lengthy. There are a lot of tough missions in this game, but do not get too frustrated.

Another key thing that brings this game up a notch from GTA3 is the inclusion of the ability to purchase property. There are places around Vice City that have a circle with a dollar sign inside of them. This is property you can buy with the money you have. The only minus is that you have to acquire the first property before you can get any other property. Buying up property not only gets you new missions, but it also gives you storage places for cars and save points so you do not have to drive all the way across town to save the game like you may have to do early in the game.

I cannot go far without talking about the vehicles you can use in this game. There are automobiles, motorcycles, helicopters, boats, RC vehicles and one plane to control in this game. My favorite names in the game are the Faggio (a scooter-type vehicle) and the Sanchez (a dirt bike). In the realm of cars there are tons of sports cars in this game. Be careful with the sports cars though, their handling is a little tough. My favorite sports car with good handling is the Cheetah. It is the least likely to fishtail when breaking while at full speed. The helicopters are easily the most difficult vehicle to pilot. It is quite realistic in how it moves (via my time with helicopter simulations on the computer), but things just seem a little clunky. Helicopter travel is easily the best way to travel long distances though.

Gun setup is a little different in this game. You have different classes of weapons. You can only have 1 weapon in each class. Therefore you can have 1 shotgun and 1 pistol, but not 2 pistols at your disposal. Ammu-Nations are well stocked around the area though and there are some missions where one weapon would be a better choice to use than another weapon in the same class. There are a lot more weapons in this game than there were in GTA3, yet another example of bigger and better.

Finally we talk about the music and the sound. This is easily the best soundtrack every in a video game. I grew up in the 1980s (ages 4-14) and I have an older sister that still listens to 80s tunes a lot. It is great to hear all of these 80s songs on this game. Rockstar went many extra miles in getting the rights to all these songs along with Sony. I love the Vrock station the most, but the commercials are still as hilarious as ever. The funniest thing is that there are 2 Michael Jackson songs in here and he is currently suing Sony over racism. The sound of the game, especially in DTS, is exceptional. If you have a DTS system, you should listen to this…it is monumentally better than the stereo mix. Only problem is that you have to choose “Use DTS” every time you load a game. The key with the DTS is that there is no center channel, so basically it is a 4.1 system instead of a 5.1 system.
Note from Short Take: I complained about the close-up camera and my dislike of the camera options in my Short Take, but since then I have gotten used to them. I still think GTA3 is slightly better in this option, but that game did not have as much graphics to portray as Vice City does.

I will get railed on this, but since I have a different way of assigning points (do them in multiples of 5 or 10) than when I first started writing reviews, this game gets a lower graphics score than its precursor. I do want to say that the graphics are better in this game though. Vice City is just brighter and larger than Liberty City was. The cars look sharper and you can actually see yourself in the car as you drive. There is some clipping here and there, but the draw-in is much better in this game than in GTA3. You can see far more ahead of you than you could in that game. The sound and music are top notch in this game. The soundtrack alone gets Vice City a perfect score. The extra miles Rockstar went to get actual 80s songs by actual 80s artists is amazing. It reminds me of my childhood years when I used to watch Transformers and stuff like that. The sound is also top notch, especially through a DTS receiver. The DTS option is far better than the stereo option if you are capable of it. The control is better here than it was in GTA3. The targeting upgrade has helped this game considerably. It is still not the perfect set-up for you being in a room with a ton of enemies, but it is a heck of a lot easier to live through a shootout in this game than the last one. The controls are basically the same as GTA3, but with the ability to pilot helicopters and planes there are a few new controls to learn as well. You will find out early on how difficult piloting a helicopter is when you do a mission with an RC helicopter. The control is easy to pick up though. Same gameplay mechanics as GTA3 with things thrown in here and there. The missions are much more exciting and your character actually has a voice and is not a nameless character. The game is still very non-linear. If you do not like one mission you go to another of the places you can get missions from and continue on. This is the biggest strength of the Grand Theft Auto series, the ability to choose where you are going to go next. Although the missions are set out in a linear way (i.e. beat one mission to go onto the next one under the same person giving out the missions), you have the option of which person (or also property in this game) you are going to do the next mission at. This is a long game, longer than GTA3 because there are far more missions in this game in a far larger area. If you enjoyed GTA3 you will enjoy this game. There may be a preponderance to say this game has nothing significantly new in it, but looking at the bigger picture it actually does. The property idea alone is a new idea. I find that people have a crutch where they like to rail against sequels if they do not have enough new versus the game(s) before them. Super Mario Sunshine felt this and I think Vice City is feeling this now. This game is just too big to fling aside in my opinion.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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