PS2 REVIEW: GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY

Without a doubt, Rockstar has another hit on their hands. Rolled off the assembly line and shooting its way into stores as you read this, the sequel (actually the fourth in the series) to the 7 million unit selling Grand Theft Auto, is sure to do bigger business than last years offering. In case you are part of the cynical, you might wonder how a company can make a quality game in just a little over a year's development time. Good question. The answer is: Just don't change too much. Vice City has been labelled by some detractors as "more of the same" but in reality, isn't this exactly what we asked for? We asked for more missions, more weapons, more cars and a bigger place to explore and that's exactly what Rockstar delivered. And they did it with incredible style. Vice City is everything you could want in a video game.

This time around you play as known thug, Tommy Vercetti (voiced by Ray Liotta) who gets himself in a predicament and spends the game trying to get out of it. Tommy isn't just a nameless faceless shmoe like Grand Theft Auto's main character; he has a past, present and future as well as a circle of associates both friendly and deadly. Making the move from Liberty City to Vice City (a Miami/LA kind of town) Tommy must right some wrongs if he wants to survive and what plays out is very reminscent of recent pop culture hits such as The Sopranos, Snatch and of course, even 80's icon's Miami Vice. With a stellar voice cast that includes the aforementioned Liotta, you'll hear veterans Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, pornstarlet Jenna Jameson, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, 80's pop diva Debbie Harry and even Miami Vice co-star Phillip Michael Thomas. The only one missing as far as I'm concerned is Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken. Next time.

The game is set in the 80's and Rockstar has nailed the look, the fads, the clothes and the music to a proverbial "T". It's a neon kind of town, filled with rollerskating chicks, palm trees and a police force that doesn't seem to be on the take as much as you'd think. The Grand Theft Auto games have always been known for their strange and hilarious radio stations and Vice City goes all out in that department. A soundtrack of over 80 hits from the 80's decade, will be a kick in the head with the nostalgia boot for anyone unlucky enough to have experienced them the first time around. Don't think for a moment that we all lapped it up in the 80's. Most of the music on this soundtrack that you grimace at, most likely had us saying "WTF? That song is totally gay to the max!" back then too. Although my initial impressions of that music hasn't changed, I have to admit that it's nice to hear some of those songs again, even ones I would have crossed the street to avoid hearing. It brings back memories of: hair, not being fat, wearing a mint green suit in public and well....I think the mint green suit is enough revealing for one game review. I will say that any game that houses "God Bless Video" from Alcatraz (with Steve Vai on guitar) is decent in my books. Along with the music, be sure to listen to the various talk radio stations. The satire in this game is geniunely funny and it's a testament to how far Rockstar will go to make Vice City a living breathing world.

Gameplay remains true to Grand Theft Auto. Each section of the city is broken up into missions, and contrary to earlier reports, the city's various sections are closed until such time as you complete the missions to open them up. Perhaps much of the fun of GTA or Vice City is being able to play it how you want it. You could play for hours exploring the city, jacking cars and motorcycles, and generally just get a feel for what the game has to offer. In fact, it's not even a bad idea doing this at first, as it will familiarize you with the various locales. The missions this time out, are much more varied than they were in GTA. Although they aren't easy by any stretch, they at least don't fall into routine after awhile. Something new is almost always required of you and that keeps Vice City more fresh and exciting than it's predecessor. Where Vice City breaks free from GTA, is in the ability to purchase properties. Money is a little tighter in VC, and owning a few clubs can make you some decent extra cash. As well, you might be able to buy some little out of the places on the cheap, that will serve as Save Points, garages etc. Hint Hint.

Graphically-speaking, Vice City didn't leap out and grab me, and I found it be less visually stunning than last years game. Once I turned the Trailing to "Off" in the Display area, I found that the haze was gone and the graphics much sharper. If you are looking for more lighting effects, you'd be advised to keep the Trailing set to "On", but for those getting eye strain, take my advice and turn them off. The vehicle damage is much more visually impressive in VC and just like in the real world, the less sturdy a vehicle is, the more damage it will take quickly. In all, Vice City's world is much more impressive than Liberty City; it's much larger and the buildings, neon lights and ability to wander in and out of certain businesses makes the game much more interesting. The one aspect of Vice City which didn't meet my expectations was the game's camera system. It's much more of a hindrance this time around, especially in close combat situations or indoors. I can overlook it somewhat just due to the scope of the game and the short development time it took to put this incredible package together.

I'm very hesitant to slap a 5 out of 5 rating on a game unless it really goes above and beyond the call of duty. Sequels rarely meet my expectations, but Vice City is truly a king among men...er... games. The one thing most critics don't seem to get, is that this game isn't loved because of it's violence. There are many violent products on the market, many of which feature worse language and more adult situations than Vice City. What makes this game so popular and loved among gamers is it's freedom. Rockstar has provided gamers with the ability to do whatever they want to in a virtual setting and it's not all violent. You can drive taxis, deliver pizzas, chase badguys, fight fires, be a paramedic...see? It's not all bad. Yes, it's more of the same and not entirely different from GTA3, but that doesn't matter. It's incredibly entertaining, and that's what counts.

GTA Vice City Preview By Vaughn

Sept. 2002: The screens keep rolling in and so does the info. Vice City will employ over 30 weapons (GTA3 had 15) and numerous new vehicles including more boats, motorcycles and even a helicopter! The release date has slipped one week to October 29, 2002 but we can live with it. Okay, so we can't, but I guess we'll just have to try.

Sept. 2002: We've got more 8 Vice City screens for you including 2 postcards taken from the newly updated www.kentpaul.com. Enjoy! The game will be in your hot little hands October 22, 2002.

Aug 2002 Press Release: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Welcome to Vice City. Welcome to the 1980s. Having just made it back onto the streets of Liberty City after a long stretch in maximum security, Tommy Vercetti is sent to Vice City by his old boss, Sonny Forelli. They were understandably nervous about his re-appearance in Liberty City, so a trip down south seemed like a good idea. But all does not go smoothly upon his arrival in the glamorous, hedonistic metropolis of Vice City. He's set up and is left with no money and no merchandise. Sonny wants his money back, but the biker gangs, Cuban gangsters, and corrupt politicians stand in his way. Most of Vice City seems to want Tommy dead. His only answer is to fight back and take over the city himself.

From the decade of big hair, excess and pastel suits comes a story of one man's rise to the top of the criminal pile as Grand Theft Auto returns to the PlayStation«2 computer entertainment system this October. Vice City is a huge urban sprawl ranging from the beach to the swamps and the glitz to the ghetto, and is the most varied, complete and alive digital city ever created. Combining non-linear gameplay with a character driven narrative, you arrive in a town brimming with delights and degradation and are given the opportunity to take it over as you choose.

As a major gateway to South America and the Caribbean and attracting migrants, Vice City is brimming with diverse characters, so there's a friend for everyone. It is a sociable place and the new guy in town is sure to meet all manner of friendly people in the sunshine capital of America. Athletes, pop stars, real estate developers, politicians, trailer trash, everyone is moving to Vice City to find out what makes it the number one growth city in America. But, as Tommy quickly finds out, trust is still the rarest of commodities.

Vice City offers vehicular pleasures to suit every taste. For the speed enthusiast, there's high-performance cars and motorbikes. For the sportsman, a powerboat or a golf buggy lets you enjoy the great outdoors. For those that need that sense of freedom and escape, why not charter a helicopter and see the beauty of Vice City from the air?

As the party capital of America, you would expect your ears to be seduced by a host of sultry melodies and pumping beats, but the city is truly rocking. You'll be AMAZED as you sweep the through Vice City's FM dial. If you are feeling like trouble, you can tune into some driving rock, or some crucial electro, or maybe you want to slow down with some sweet soul, and there will always be some great romantic anthems if you want to really take your mind off things.

For the action man, or outdoors type, there's tons of fun things to do and adventures to be hadů guaranteed. For the secretive or creepy type, Vice City is full of surprises, a place where you'll constantly be surprised by the vivacious, fun-loving types who live there and the things you can discover.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the most diverse and ambitious piece of interactive entertainment yet created. The game is developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games.

Updated Preview Posted Aug 2002: A spittle of info has leaked out from www.kentpaul.com, the "website" that houses what eventually should resemble the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. We still don't know dick, and what we do know couldn't fill a mouses condom. I like that saying. I think I'll use it more often. Have a gander at the new postcards....we dug even deeper and found just a wee bit more than that.

Updated Preview Posted July 2002: Who is Kent Paul? Who are Love Fist, Candy Suxx, Avery Carrington, BJ Jones, Alex Shrub, Pastor Richards and Jack Howitzer? Do they have anything to do with Vice City? We definitely think so. Here is a posting from Kent Paul: Me! I was public enemy number one, or well, at least number three. But anyway, I digress. There were tons of social problems then. From top to bottom society was riddled with social problems, bribery, car jacking, drug dealing, corruption, black mail, pornography, beatings, gang wars, guns, guns and more guns, fake money, fake breasts, bank jobs. All of these were in fashion in the 80s. Especially in my bath tub!

That postcard looks like the first screenshot of Vice City. Snooping around the kentpaul website we learned that his name is Paul, and he's from Kent, near London. Check it out yourself....

Preview Posted May 2002: With over 6 million served, Grand Theft Auto 3 sounds more like a McDonald's advertisement than a video game, but the numbers don't lie. By the time you read this, the game will have even sold much more than that number and it shows no signs of slowing down. Don't look for it on the Greatest Hits line anytime soon. Why give away what is considered to be one of the next generation's most popular games when people are still paying full price for it?

It's safe to say that right now over 6 million people are waiting with baited breath for any word on the next Grand Theft Auto and let me just say this: Exhale. Rockstar has announced that in conjunction with DMA Design (who was purchased by Rockstar earlier this year and now functions under Rockstar Studios) they are hard at work on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The game will play much like GTA3, but will not only push the envelope of good taste, but the cool gameplay limits as well. Sounds delicious, better start hiding this from your parents now.

Vice City takes place in the 80's and will not only feature a cool 80's soundtrack (from what I was told) but the styles and attitudes of the 80's. Finally, thin ties, cotton suit jackets and red pants make a comeback!! Now I can wear my old wardrobe and not feel like a complete moron. As you might imagine, If Liberty City was fashioned after the Big Apple, Vice City HAS to be fashioned after Miami.

Sam Houser, the executive producer of the Grand Theft Auto franchise and president of Rockstar Games, commented, "The success of Grand Theft Auto 3 has made us very proud, but it has also motivated us enormously. The work currently being done by our development and production teams in Edinburgh and New York is going to surpass the efforts of last year, as we set our sights on making an even more revolutionary gaming experience. This will be reflected in the size of the game, the scope of the gameplay, the extent of the gameplayer's freedom, the quality of production value and the all-important sense of style."

System: PS2
Dev: Rockstar
Pub: Rockstar
Release: Oct 2002
Players: 1
Review by Vaughn
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
5.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
5.0
VALUE
5.0