Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is my first venture into the Grand Theft Auto world, but it will not be my last. I started playing GTA: Vice City on the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) at a friend’s house and on my very first session I was hooked. Several of my larger friends had to come and physically remove me from my seat so that they could play. I knew it was coming out for the PC, and a month or so later at E3 I got my first peek at the PC version, and from that moment on, I could not wait to get home and get my copy.
I had a couple false starts with the PC version, specifically in the area of driving. I was used to playing the PS2 version, and I had some trouble with the controls, but once I got everything laid out on the keyboard just so, I found that I was way better on the PC than I ever was on the PS2.
If you are not familiar with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it uses the same engine as GTA3 (PS2 & PC). That makes this more of an expansion than a new version of the game, thought from what I can find out there are a lot of new features and improved character development in Vice City. Plus, it runs by itself and those of you who never played GTA3 like me will still very much enjoy Vice City. All of the characters are new along with the setting of Vice City, which is supposed to be Miami circa the 1980’s. Some other new additions include usable motorcycles, scooters, and Harley Choppers as well as helicopters.
Tommy Versetti is the main character and he is basically a thug who has just been released from prison on parole for good behavior. The guards must have been blind and deaf. His Don does not want to let him loose on his own turf, so he sends time south to check out the extremely lucrative drug trade moving through the streets of Vice City. Tommy arrives in Vice City wearing a bad Hawaiian shirt and a pair of acid washed jeans. He is picked up at the airport by a low life mob lawyer and taken right to a drug deal. The deal goes bad and the Don is pissed and orders Tommy to get his money and his drugs back ASAP, or he is going to kill Tommy. Thus begins the adventure of finding out who did it and getting your stuff back. I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
The soundtrack in vice city is massive. Every time you get into a car or on a bike a radio station is playing. There are several stations that play 80’s songs and have very interesting commercials. There are also a couple talk show stations with very interesting speakers too, including a guy who wants to separate Florida from the rest of the United states by digging a trench along the boarder. There is even a public radio station that insults its non-paying listeners. PC users can even also add their own 80s favorites by simply placing MP3 files in the MP3 directory. So if your favorite 80s hit is not including in the soundtrack, you can simply add all your favorites. On top of all the radio stations are the insults people throw at you when you almost hit them or ding up their ride. I went back and killed several because of the great insults.
All of the main characters in the game are also voiced by famous actors including Ray Liotta Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Philip Michael Thomas, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, Fairuza Balk, Deborah Harry, Jenna Jameson, Lawrence Taylor and a bunch of others. Not only do they add a bit of star power to the game, but each seems perfectly set for their role and add a lot of depth the game as well. Ray Liotta as the lead is great. Philip Michael Thomas as your annoying side kick is perfect. Jenna Jameson is even cast as the game’s porn star.
The preset keyboard interface is hard to use, but I found that once had to set up my keyboard just like I would for a shooter with all the major controls on the number pad, the game plated great. This was a perfect interface for a PC gamer like me, as opposed to flopping around with the unfamiliar PS2 controls. I was zipping around town making sharp turns and doing drive-by shootings with no trouble at all.
For those of you used to GTA3, the bike will be pretty cool. You’re an exposed target if people are shooting at you, but unlike the car, you can shoot forward as you are chasing after people, which is a very nice feature. That is something that I think I will miss when I go back and try out GTA3.
I don’t want to give away any more than I already have about the story, so I won’t, but I will say that it is enjoyable. The progression is good and at any given time you will have several missions to choose from. You can save the game at any time from one of your base locations, but doing so ends any missions you were on at that point. The missions include anything from stealing a boat to protecting a drug deal, or even whacking somebody’s wife and making it look like an accident.
And can you say challenging.? I found many of the missions to be far more complex than I would have ever expected from this type of game. As the story progresses and you earn money you will be able to purchase new save points which are basically new hide outs or businesses, which will then in turn add new missions related to the business. Over time these businesses will create income for you too.
The graphics in Vice City are outstanding just like they were in GTA3. Rockstar has done a fabulous job of recreating the look of the 80s in all the characters and cars you encounter in the city. Not only do the buildings look different as you cruise around town from the business section to the other side of the proverbial tracks, but the people and cars driving around in those parts of town take on the characteristics of that part of town. You will find bikini clad babes by the beach and hookers all in the right parts of town. A new graphical feature of the PC version of GTA: Vice City is the ability to change the look of Tommy by downloading skins off the Internet too.
I found the pc version of GTA: Vice City to be far more enjoyable then the PS2 version, even without the new features. Being able to add in your own 80s favorites was certainly a welcome addition. Vice City for the PC has not revolutionized the series, but it has made me realize what I missed by not getting on the GTA bandwagon in the first place. The story line of Vice City is great, topped with great graphics and a top of the line soundtrack. I am left with the desire to give Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City more then the allowable 5 GiN gems, but alas I can not. Those of you PC gamers wondering what all the fuss is about, do yourself a favor and give the game a try. Like me, you will be quickly converted.