Now this is a series that has come a long way, I remember the original GTA being unveiled and thinking what a fantastic idea it was, an idea cemented when I got hold of a Playstation demo. Oh the hours I spent laughing my head off as I sent a school bus careering down the highway, skidding madly out of control or scaring people into running into the path of an oncoming train… The freedom to just drive around and create chaos as you wanted was a whole new experience. GTA3 took things to a whole new level though and is a perfect example of how graphical improvements can create whole new gameplay possibilities.
Vice City takes the brilliant fun of GTA3, puts Duran Duran on the tape player, grabs a Mr.T style oxy-acetylene torch and welds great big cheesy shoulder pads onto the originals free-form structure. You’re probably aware that the game is set in the 80’s, the setting is milked for all it’s worth and it works beautifully.
If you have played GTA3 you will know basically what to expect from Vice City (and if you haven’t, check my review of that for more details), the tried and tested idea of obtaining missions from gang lords and slowly working your way up the ladder is still in place, but this time the story is much tighter and more enjoyable. The characters really come to life through some superb Hollywood voice acting, including Ray Liotta of Goodfellas, one Cuban fat bloke (complete with Hawaiian shirt, mobile phone the size of a brick and a VCR that’s big enough to house several hobos) in particular has made me laugh many a time with his… colourful language.
I loved GTA3, but I will be honest, I never finished it, I found the city to just be too big, it was hard to keep track of where everything was. The yuppie honey-pot that is Vice City feels smaller than Liberty City, it is far more condensed, important locations are easier to find, and the city seems livelier and more natural. There are only two main sections to the city as well, with a few little islands between them, overall this is a great bonus as you spend more time having fun rather than trying to remember the road network. Thankfully, the paper street map you get with the game is now viewable on-screen, but it is curiously not able to be annotated. I have noticed a distinct lack of hills though, Vice City is very flat and I miss the huge inclines of Liberty City.
As well as the glitzy new location, there are plenty of new tools too…it is now possible to go ‘Patrick Bateman’ on someone’s ass with a whole host of new melee weapons including screwdrivers and a brilliant chainsaw, plus there are a few new guns to play with. Vehicular entertainment is even more diverse that GTA3, there is now the fantastic inclusion of motorbikes though, I can’t stress how much fun they are! Real break neck speed is available, you can weave in and out of traffic, fire your gun but all the time risking a dangerous crash…even more fun is ramming someone on a bike off the road… The taxi, vigilante and ambulance missions are all still available with a brand new pizza delivery moped thrown in for good measure.
The vehicle dynamics have been developed as well, now a bit of strategy has been thrown in as you can shoot out tires and you can take out a person who is inside a car. This is all very Mafia, but it’s a shame you can only shoot sideways when in a car, unlike that gangster masterpiece. The tires add a surprising amount of chaos to some car chases though, you can never predict when someone’s gonna get a lucky shot on the back wheel of your super bike and send your flying over a wall!
There is a greater importance put on your money this time round, in GTA3 it was simply a score, you never ran out and it seemed like you were collecting all this cash for nothing. Well Vice City allows you to buy property, these serve as save points throughout the city, but the more expensive properties offer things such as a garage to store vehicles or special missions if you happen to buy a special building, like a strip club for instance.
One thing I am annoyed about though is the water…why the heck do you die as soon as you land in the water?? It is so, so frustrating to see your character flounder and drown when he is about a foot away from the edge…I’m sure people could swim in the 80’s.
GTA 3 brought us an immeasurable amount of pleasure through the radio system…several different channels of chat, music and brilliant adverts…Vice City really does not disappoint and I’m quite happy to say it’s the best game soundtrack ever. This time round you get real bands, it reads off like an 80’s super hits collection, you got Michael Jackson, Run DMC, Iron Maiden…all linked through some very funny DJ’s. The chat shows are up to scratch too with some cracking callers; I particularly enjoyed the one from a very paranoid man worried about a possible Russian invasion. There is so much variety it works like real radio; you are genuinely pleased when a song you like comes on…it might have been nice though to give you a giant walkman though so you can listen to the radio on foot.
I am somewhat disappointed that some graphical glitches are present though, some still present from GTA3. Specifically I am referring to transparent boxes being seen on car headlights where the 3D model has been tagged to emit light, these should not be visible…there is also problems with some transparent textures cutting through the 3D scenery to show the sky behind them. These are problems with the engine, not graphics cards; I have seen them on both ATI and Nvidia cards. The rest of the visuals are quite pleasing though, some DX9 effects are present on some dazzling car headlights and there are some very nice shiny Harleys out there to ride around on.
Vice City is a very easy game to recommend, it has a good story, strong characters and above all, it is great fun to play.
Overall Score: 90%