reviews\ Nov 9, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - PS2 - Review

When it made its debut a long while back on the PSOne, the gaming community never really paid close attention to the Grand Theft Auto series until the third installment was released for the PS2.  With a massive following, Grand Theft Auto 3 managed to hook gamers in with its huge city where you can go anywhere, kill anyone and steal any car that just happens to catch your eye--and to top it all off, the game was just too much fun to put down.   So you can imagine the anticipation of PS2 owners everywhere when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was announced.  Guess what, fellow carjackers, the hour has come.


The year is 1986 and you assume the role of Tommy Vercetti who has just been released from prison after a lengthy stretch.  Once back on the streets of Liberty City, Tommy gets a call from his old boss, Sonny Forelli, in tropical Vice City (okay, it’s Miami, but Vice City sounds seedier) to do a simple drop off and pick up job.  Things go sour when the local law enforcement shows up but Tommy manages to get away . . . only without the money or the merchandise.  Sonny soon starts demanding his money that was lost in the botched job so Tommy sets out on a crime spree.


At a first glance it will seem as if nothing has changed gameplay-wise since the last game and that alone will please many gamers.  Gamers can still move the character around freely through the busy streets and punch and kick anyone you wish.  They can still walk up to a car while the driver waits for the light to change and carjack it with ease and drive it around.  However, in the course of freely moving about the city, you will find that in order to advance the story and earn money, you will have to accept missions from various shady characters. 


The mission structure has been revamped so that missions branch out into several parts.  For example, in one mission Tommy provides protection for a big-time boss as a deal is going down.  In the middle of the deal, the Haitian gang decides to pull a fast one and starts shooting.  Your job is to keep the boss alive while taking out gang members.  Suddenly, a gang member snatches up the money and races away with it on a motorcycle, your job is now to catch the Haitian, kill him, and bring the money back.  There are several unique missions that have you either stealing a tank from a platoon of soldiers or crashing a Haitian gang funeral.


There are lots more vehicles in this game including different boats and the addition of motorcycles--something that was missing in the third game.  The best part is that there are five different motorcycles that range from dirt bikes, scooters, racing cycles and two Harley Davidson-type choppers.    However, the biggest surprise happens to be the fact that gamers can now pilot helicopters and a Cessna-type plane with pontoons that allows the plane to land on water.


Making its return are the several mini-missions you can activate by jumping into a cab, police car, ambulance or fire engine.  The taxi mission, for example, has you picking up and dropping off customers to specific locations for cash.  There is even a mini mission where you deliver pizzas by grabbing a scooter and tossing pizzas at people with arrows pointed at them.  And, of course, there are the rampage missions scattered throughout the game that have you destroying cars or killing gang members using specific weapons before the time runs out.


And speaking of weapons, the game has increased the arsenal inventory to include different weapon types.  You’re allowed to carry various weapons as long as it’s only one of each type.  For example, you can carry around a normal sniper rifle but if you want the more precise and powerful PSG1 sniper rifle, you’re going to have to “trade” your old sniper rifle for the more powerful one.  Weapons can now make specific damage to people and things.  You can shoot out tires, making the vehicle difficult to drive or you can damage a car by taking a bat or other blunt weapon to it.  The targeting system has also changed so your shots are quick and accurate. 


Another change is that gamers can purchase various businesses such as the local strip club or certain buildings such as apartment complexes.  Occasionally you have to go on a mission or two regarding the entrepreneurial investments you make such as the taxi service or the adult film production studio.  When you get the business running, however, the money starts coming in from each business you purchase.  You can also save your game in each location or store favorite vehicles in the same way it was done in Grand Theft Auto 3.


Visually, the graphics in Vice City have been slightly enhanced.   As with Grand Theft Auto 3 where the city is filled with gorgeous details, Vice City pushes the graphics enough to make the details stand out a little more.  Gamers will be in awe at the level of detail found in this huge city with the beautifully designed buildings.  The characters are a lot sharper looking too with hundreds of pedestrians aren’t just wandering around but stop to converse or sit down at the cafes or even sunbath out on the sandy beaches.  This is one great-looking game.


Aside from the stellar visuals, the game also possesses the perfect example of how sound in a game should be handled.  The game practically surrounds the player with sound whether is the rumbling engine of a passing motorcycle, the distant honking of a van right around the corner or the often-hilarious quips thrown at you by a passerby.  The voice acting is also handled by a much broader lineup of veteran actors such as Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Gary Busey, Tom Sizemore and Ray Liotta as the main character Tommy Vercetti.  There are nine radio stations filled with everything from the local talk show to Latin jazz.


Vice City is addictively enjoyable to the point that gamers will be gladly sucked into the world of organized (and disorganized) crime until the very last mission.   Often comical and always brutal, this is a game that isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty and gamers will absolutely love it for that.  Do not miss this game.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.5
The controls are similar to the third game of the series with the exception that now you can crouch by pressing the L3 button.  Another added feature is that you can bail out of a car; this is especially handy in case a vehicle is in danger of exploding or if you need to launch a car as something.


There are also several rampage missions found in the game aside from the regular missions and side missions.   If you happen to die during a mission, a taxi cap will be waiting for you outside the hospital to take you to the location of the mission you attempted for a small fee.


Graphics: 9.6
Vice City is also a remarkable looking game with plenty of attention-grabbing details found throughout the city.  In the classier section of town you’ll find luxurious hotels with beautiful neon signs that light up with in different colors and the upscale dance clubs filled with the cities most beautiful people.  Scattered throughout the city are the bikini-clad sun worshippers to the retired old folks that have come to the city to play golf in the country club.  The level of detail on each character, especially the main characters, is outstanding.


The cars are also nicely detailed with the hot Vice City sun gleaming off the windshield as you approach them.  Again, the damage done to the vehicles is realistically done to perfection--only this time damage can be done to the wheels.  Explosions are also more impressive than in the third game with car parts turning into deadly projectiles.  And there’s a nice effect added here--when it rains, drops slide down in front of you as if you’re a cameraman capturing the action.


Sound: 10
The sound in this game is a true gem, one that gamers will appreciate for its humorously mature dialogue, celebrity voices, great 80s soundtrack and perfect sound effects.  First, the voice acting is in a class of its own thanks to the talented actors--Ray Liotta’s voice can be found throughout the game and not just in the cut scenes.  Top it off with the dozens of pedestrian remarks (some of it in Spanish) and the sounds of the vehicles passing by and gamers will see how the game immerses you into this world.


The nine radio stations in the game also offer hilarious commercials and talk shows that really get way out of hand.  You’ll find some licensed tunes from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star.”  There is also Latin jazz that offers mambo from artists such as Tito Puente’s Orchestra to classic rap from Run DMC. 


Difficulty: Medium
The life of crime sure does pay, but there’s often a consequence for every criminal act and the local law is always around.  This time, however, the police are a lot smarter and do a better job of putting up roadblocks (spike strips are even used) or chasing you with their squad cars.  When the star level reaches beyond two stars, FBI vehicles will attempt to stop you as well.  And to make things much harder, SWAT teams come grappling down from helicopters armed to the teeth with heavy firepower.


As far as the missions are concerned, there are a number of missions that put up quite a challenge--especially those missions are timed.  At one point in the game, you accept a mission to hunt down seven people scattered throughout the city and are given five minutes to kill them all.  This might sound easy but the people you are sent to take care of do not plan to just stand idly by and let you kill them--they give chase on cars, wasting the time limit.  Starting a mission over especially if the mission requires multiple tasks to be performed might frustrate some gamers.


Concept: 10
Many gamers will love the fact that the game hasn’t been completely altered, in fact, the game feels more like an add-on to the third game . . . with the exception that the timeline here before the events of Grand Theft Auto 3 and that the main character is also different.  Adding a new location that is just as huge--if not bigger than Liberty City--and new vehicles-types will not fail to delight.  There are also various secrets (extra phone missions) and things to do (such as entering yourself in a dirt bike obstacle course show or a stock car racing event in the city’s arena).


Another change is the fact that gamers now have access to various interiors including a massive shopping mall complete with stores you can visit and other buildings such as dance clubs and restaurants.  Tommy can even visit a clothing store and pick up different clothes that fit a certain circumstance (in order to get into an exclusive party, Tommy has to wear a suit).


Overall: 9.8
Destined to be a classic for years to come, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a wild ride into the criminal underworld and gamers will love every minute of it.  Vice City manages to push the envelope, testing the limits of how far a game can go while still being addictively entertaining in the process.  


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