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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review

Let's hit the beach in Vice City, in this latest game in the Grand Theft Auto series.


Review by Tracy Bosworth
Published 19th October 2003

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

  • Developer: Rockstar North
  • Publisher: Rockstar
  • Release Date: 16th May 2003

The sun soaked, litter ridden beaches of Vice City have finally opened to PC gamers in another episode in the long series of Grand Theft Auto titles. If you’re new to Grand Theft Auto you might like to know it all started off with GTA 1 and 2, an addictive yet controversial game when you controlled a 2D criminal as he roamed through the streets stealing cars and doing jobs for gangster bosses. The series was brought to a new level in 2001 when the streets of GTA  turned 3D and the robotic character we had come to know and love was turned into a lifelike yet silent escaped convict and the cars actually resembled earth-like motor vehicles!

Needless to say, the freedom and varied gameplay of GTA3 made it the biggest selling game of all time and those of us who didn’t have an adequate PC at the time simply bought one solely for this game. The game is set in the sun kissed city of Vice City which uncannily resembles the not so fictional city of Miami. The year is 1986 and Tommy Vercetti has just completed a 15 year stretch in prison for the crimes he committed for the mob. As a thank you gesture for not talking the mob send Tommy to Vice City where he is given his first jobs to complete. However trouble in paradise appears when Tommy is ripped off when a drug deal goes wrong and Tommy finds himself in danger from just about everyone imaginable. If he is to survive he has to take over Vice City and run things his way and since it’s the 80’s, he intends to do it in style!

GTA3 must have been a pretty difficult game to succeed for the developers of Vice City yet they managed to put a host of new features and style into an already near perfect game. Firstly the original setting of GTA3, Liberty City was a large environment with fast moving highways to bumper to bumper side streets, a nice varied setting which suited the game perfectly. This time we have the enormous setting of Vice City to roam around. From its sunset beaches to its tall sky scrapers and flashy buildings, everything about Vice City is style. Hawaiian shirts and flashy sports cars have also been thrown into the mix along with a 7 hour 80’s pop soundtrack featuring the likes of Michael Jackson and Ozzy Osbourne.

Also new to Vice City are motorbikes and a varied set of them too from super bikes to motocross style scramblers and of course the humble moped plays a part in the stylish travel of Vice City. The various bikes are fairly difficult to control at first as one small crash will have you hurled down the street and your bike in a heap in the middle of the road but once you get used to the feel and control of them they make an excellent addition to the game allowing great speed and road agility, perfect for the cop chases! Also in the line of impressive vehicles are the various flight bound ones such as helicopters and planes allowing you to see the city from a bird’s eye view and also enabling you to land on the top of various high buildings.

Characters in the game seem a lot more living then they have in previous GTA’s from the frantic lawyer friend Ken Rosenberg (who looks and acts remarkably similar to Sean Penn’s character in Cartlito’s Way) to the sleazy porn director Steve Scott. Your character, Tommy is now much more alive too with somewhat of a personality and an Italian-American voice, he is no longer the silent and mysterious criminal that he has come to be known as.

As in GTA 3 the missions are not the only things to keep you busy, if you steal an ambulance, police car or fire engine YOU become the emergency services taking people to hospital and catching those nasty criminals and what’s more, you get paid for it too. You can also of course take a less dramatic career change and become a taxi driver, earning money for picking up and dropping off passengers or even a pizza delivery man. Still not satisfied with the various money making opportunities in Vice City? Then maybe Businessman is for you, Vice city allows players to buy various businesses within the city from strip bars to apartment buildings. Tommy can also enter various buildings such as the mall and hotel making the overall environment huge.

The setting of Vice City is a colourful one and thankfully the games graphics are superb. Environments are clean and crisp and character models are nicely detailed and well animated. Vehicles are also not short of detail with the sun reflection giving the true impression of shiny bodywork and when riding at high speeds on the various bikes the characters shirt will flap in the wind making a highly impressive visual effect. One drawback with this effect however is that the game does not discriminate against the characters with, quite frankly, unflappable clothing! On one missions for example you are required to pick up a young woman who happens to be wearing a dress strapped over her back baring her shoulders, remarkably her shoulders do the flapping as they ride through the wind! Apart from this and the fact that the graphics are starting to look a little old graphical errors are minimal.

The games audio provides all the sounds you would expect to hear in a busy city such as heavy traffic to the occasional shouts of obscenities from the various pedestrians walking the streets. The soundtrack delivers some classic sounds from the 80’s with instantly recognisable hits such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean‘, Bryan Adams ‘Run To You’, Motley Crue ‘Too Young To Fall In Love’ and Iron Maiden ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’. The various radio stations also provide amusing listening with the OTT adverts to the various listener phone-ins.

Grand Theft Auto 3 was an excellent game which pleased most who played it! In fact did it ever receive anything in the way of a bad review? That said when Vice City came about the developers faced a mammoth task of succeeding GTA3 and with Vice City it seems like they passed that test with flying colours. Grand Theft Auto Vice City offers something for everyone from the casual gamer to the hardcore GTA follower and as far as we can see, it has been well worth the wait.

Review Score: 9.2/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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