Available on: PC, PS2, Xbox
Developer(s): Rockstar North, Rockstar Vienna
Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
Less than a year after making a critical and commercial breakthrough most companies only dream of, Rockstar Games took their concept loved by gamers and critics, hated by authorities and feared by everyone else, and announced the first of two planned prequels to Grand Theft Auto III, dubbed Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, promoting it as a trip back to the golden temple of sunlight, fast cars and beautiful women; an East Coast metropolis in the 80’s. With a bigger budget and the experience gained in 3D game design, Rockstar Games surpassed all expectations by releasing another critical, multi-million selling success, proving they were here to stay.
Welcome to the 80’s
Ray Liotta : Tommy Vercetti
Bill Fichtner : Ken Rosenberg
Tom Sizemore : Sonny Forelli
Dennis Hopper : Steve Scott
Burt Reynolds : Avery Carrington
Luis Guzman : Ricardo Diaz
Philip Michael Thomas : Lance Vance
Robert Davi : Col. Juan Garcia Cortez
Danny Trejo : Umberto Robina
Gary Busey : Phil Cassidy
Vice City, 1986. Even after serving a 15-year prison sentence for a mass murder he single-handedly committed as a young henchman of the Forelli family in 1971, Tommy Vercetti doesn’t hesitate one moment to return to his old habits. The Forelli family fears that Tommy’s return would bring unwanted attention back to them, so they promote Tommy to bribe him and send him to take care of a seemingly simple drug deal. Tommy’s crew is ambushed and killed. Tommy himself manages to escape with the help of a corrupt lawyer named Ken Rosenberg, but loses both the Forellis’ money and the product. Don Sonny Forelli gives Tommy a choice of coming up with a way to get him his money back, or certain death. With Rosenberg’s help, and by utilizing his own skills, Tommy establishes new connections in the Vice City underworld and eventually turns his back on the family, working for his own good with the goal of becoming the most powerful mobster in the city.
Every aspect of this game is as 80’s as it gets! The graphical presentation is colourful and comforting, mirroring the endless darkness of the previous game – this is just what you see on screen when you watch classic 80’s shows such as Miami Vice or movies like Beverly Hills Cop. Palm trees everywhere, the sun’s virtually shining all the time... Vice City was the first game, not just in this particular series but in general, which you could literally play just to take a drive, listen to some music and admire the sceneries. The basic engine of the game is nearing perfection here. The architecture and vehicle design leave a little to be hoped for, but overall, Vice City is just as beautiful as a GTA game of its generation can get. Moreover, there’s a fine sense of balance. The developers slightly reduced the size of the playable area, but left nothing vital out – instead they added in new vitals, and managed to make the game look and play out better than Grand Theft Auto III.
Don’t get me started with the sound of the game. We have guys and girls that have decades of experience as actors we actually KNOW under their belts. Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Hannibal) plays the lead role of the no-bullshit mobster Tommy Vercetti, Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers, Black Hawk Down) takes on the less loveable role of antagonist Sonny Forelli, William Fichtner (Prison Break) does the manic impressions of Ken Rosenberg, and Philip Michael Thomas, who is the game’s most obvious reference to Miami Vice in person, plays Tommy’s accomplice Lance Vance. Oh, I’m not done, not by a long shot. In addition, Dennis motherfuckin’ Hopper, Robert Davi, Burt Reynolds, Fairuza Balk, Danny Trejo, Gary Busey, Lee Majors and even Jenna Jameson herself make vital appearances. Now THIS is what I call a cast! What other game can you name with an equal amount of stars of this caliber? Absolutely fabulous, and everyone takes their character very seriously. Special praise goes out to Fichtner, Hopper, Reynolds, Busey and Majors, and Liotta, who I now truly respect. Unfortunately, the dialogue itself isn’t quite as authentic as it would soon become – but enthralling, well written, and there is some mild cursing to somewhat balance it out. The characters are very interesting, and another round in Vice City, with some of the same characters, would be nice to witness some day. It seems it’s all about Liberty City nowadays.
There are a total of nine different radio stations active in the Vice City area. The music in the game ranges from the obvious metal to classic rock and new wave to salsa, disco and even old school hip-hop. Of course a talk radio’s still in too, actually two different ones. The soundtrack is HUGE and spans over seven CD’s of music... incredible. You want names? Well, let’s see... how do Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, A Flock of Seagulls, Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, REO Speedwagon, Toto, Cutting Crew and The Buggles sound? I know, sounds like... the 80’s! Seriously, the soundtrack is one of the best and most diverse I’ve ever heard in a video game, if not THE best, taking into account every rhythm game ever made. The radio commercials are even better than before, and thanks to the advanced sound design and a larger soundtrack, the jokes and playlists aren’t nearly as repetitive, and they even change altogether during the course of the game.
|Bikes. We love 'em, we've got 'em.|
|Tommy's laying down the law.|
The game is extremely non-linear, even moreso than the previous game, and you can take time off the main storyline any time you wish – to do something else to get money, pleasure, both or whatever, and this opportunity is a huge part of the Grand Theft Auto experience in my books. Nice to see that Vice City takes full advantage of it. In addition to the Taxi Driver, Vigilante, Paramedic and Fire Fighter oddjobs already implemented in Grand Theft Auto III, we have a few more oddjobs I won’t give away, and of course, “minigames” as well as the classic Rampage sequences, in which the goal is to kill as many gang members or civilians, or destroy as many vehicles as prompted, within a time limit. Simply put, the game is huge, yet not quite as difficult as Grand Theft Auto III. That’s a very weak “quite”, because it really isn’t that far from the previous game’s level of difficulty.
|Beating boat challenges takes some HUGE |
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City does have its very minor faults, in both audiovisual presentation and gameplay. Also, there are definitely points in which the difficulty borders on impossible and downright frustrating with no signs of actual difficulty; the few glitches, clumsy gameplay and Tommy’s sheer incompetence play their parts in this. Despite all this ranting, Vice City is one God damn excellent sandbox game, which has an awesome, authentic 80’s feel, significant freedom given to the player, more candy to the eyes and ears and a better interface than its predecessor.
Graphics : 9.1
Sound : 9.7
Playability : 9.0
Challenge : 9.2
Overall : 9.2
GameRankings: 94.47% (PC), 94.26% (PS2)
Thanks to the Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar Games is no stranger to courtrooms. One of the most famous trials took place after the release of Vice City, when Haitian and Cuban ethnic groups accused the company of racism and demanded a new edition of the game in which the sequences with Haitian and Cuban gang activity would be radically modified at the very least. The lawsuit resulted in a new, “censored” version of Vice City, which was released in 2004.
Vice City’s infrastructure is based on that of Miami, Florida. The game’s title derives from Miami Vice, a classic 80’s TV show portraying the daily lives of two detectives. Philip Michael Thomas played one of the detectives, Ricardo Tubbs, and in the game, he’s cast as Lance Vance. Both characters, although they’re on opposite sides of the law, share a similar backstory.
The Commodore 64 demo in the very beginning of the game is real.
The character of Ken Rosenberg is based on David Kleinfeld, a character in the movie Carlito’s Way, played by Sean Penn.
The Rockstar Games logo is hidden into several locations in Vice City. It even appears as a constellation.
The game makes many open, quick references to pop culture and media of the 80’s, including movies (Red Dawn, To Live and Die in L.A., campy horror), music, clothes, cars, computer and video games, and politics.
The cab company Kaufman Cabs is namely a tribute to comedian Andy Kaufman, who was a regular cast member of the classic sitcom Taxi.
No Escape and Cop Land are missions in the game, but also names of movies that star Ray Liotta.
In the opening of the game, Tommy Vercetti is picked up from Escobar International Airport to secure a cocaine deal. Pablo Escobar was an infamous cocaine trafficker, active throughout the 80’s.
The game’s storyline is a loose emulation of the movie Scarface. The movie’s soundtrack was part of the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto III.
The cardboard targets on Phil Cassidy’s shooting range depict characters of Grand Theft Auto III.
The first names of the members of the fictitious hair metal band Love Fist are all slang for “penis”, except for vocalist Jezz Torrent, whose name can be interpreted as jizz-torrent, “the flow of semen”.
Donald Love from Grand Theft Auto III does a cameo as real estate mogul Avery Carrington’s apprentice. He doesn’t say a word in the game, though. Phil Cassidy, previously known as Phil the One-Armed Bandit, is one of the most important characters in the later parts of the game; the loss of his arm is explained. Lazlow Jones makes a voiceover appearance as the DJ of V-Rock, a hard rock/heavy metal radio station, and some minor radio personalities make a comeback. Diaz mentions El Burro.