The Grand Theft Auto franchise is about having the ability to free roam in a world with no limitations, hijacking cars, running people down, killing them with assorted weapons. After the immense success that was GTA3, Vice City had a lot to live up to. With hundreds of thousands pre-orders, a few months after release numbers were already in the millions, thus making Vice City the most successful game of all time. But did it live up to all the hype; this review should help you answer that question.
With Grand Theft Auto 3 revolutionising the freedom to explore in video games, vice city has certainly improved on that. Vice City is huge, three times the size of Liberty City from GTA3, but now not only can you drive or walk anywhere, but at your disposal are hundreds of different cars, motorcycles, helicopters, boats and of course the mighty army tank. Set in the 80's, the world of Vice City is divided into two main islands, with three smaller islands in between. Starting on the eastern island, you play the character of Tommy Vercetti, free after 15 years imprisonment. You are thrown into a story of gangs, corrupt politicians, and betrayal. The first few missions involve you getting to know the city and people, as you progress it is most likely that you may end up killing these people.
There are many main story line missions and in addition to, side missions where you can try your luck putting out fires, being and ambulance driver, being a pizza delivery boy, and chasing down the criminals as you take the seat behind the wheel of a cop car. If these side missions are not enough, there are still more. You can enter events in Vice City's own stadium, such as a demolition derby, or a checkpoint race on a dirt bike. Many other checkpoint races are scattered around Vice City and are accessible by entering certain helicopters, bikes, boats or cars.
The police AI in has been hugely improved from GTA3, now police will run after other criminals on the streets. The criminal wanted rating is worked in levels; at level one and two you will have cop cars after you, at level three the undercover cops will chase you down, and so on until level six when the army will come after you with their tanks. You can also buy & run your own businesses in Vice City such as a car showroom, ice cream factory, film studio, strip club and the list goes on. Each of these businesses will give you certain missions, such as doing illegal street races for the car showroom, or flying over the city dropping the latest porno movie flyers for the film studio. These all earn you more money.
What would a world of crime be without weapons, and in Vice City there are lots of variety to choose from. As you start out in the game weapons such as knives, baseball bats and handguns will be at your disposal, however, as you progress you gain access to weapons like the mini gun, sniper rifle, katana and grenades. Weapons can be bought from the local Ammu-Nation stores scattered around Vice City as well as in Vice City's very own shopping mall. As well as the new weapons, Vice City brings a new lock on aiming system, where weapons with auto-aim will lock on to the biggest threat first. No more problems with the auto-aim locking onto innocent pedestrians in the middle of a gun fight. When pedestrians do get shot though you can expect a commotion, the dying pedestrian will spurt out blood and will fall dead to the ground. Stick around long enough and you may see an ambulance rushing to the scene of the crime, to try to resurrect the dead, more often than not they will. Defiantly a problem when trying to kill police which keep getting brought back to life by the paramedics.
The graphics in Vice City are improved over GTA3, and the vehicle models look very sharp. The 'Trails' feature though is overdone, making everything seem a little too blurry, luckily this can be turned off. The character models are average, but a little more work could be done on faces. One of the biggest downsides to the game lies with the graphics, or lack of. Whilst speeding down a road, the road may sometimes not appear giving to impression youï¿½re driving on air, although this may not specifically be a fault of Rockstar's, due to the limitations that the PS2 has, and not being able to process the information quick enough, it is still not acceptable in a game of this calibre.
Defiantly one of the biggest highlights in Vice City is the sound. It has nine radio stations, with two of those being hilarious all chat stations. Lazlow is also back from GTA3, this time though he hosts VRock. The radio stations have a wide range of licensed music including songs from Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne and Run DMC. In addition to all this music, the pedestrians have thousands of recorded sayings, and Tommy, voiced by Ray Liotta (known for his role in Goodfellas) will also yell the occasional insult towards them. Other voiceovers include those from Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Lawrence Taylor, Miss Cleo and Jenna Jameson.
Overall Vice City is a huge game, allowing the player to go anywhere and do anything. With hidden packages to find, rampages to pass and hundreds of missions to attempt, Vice City will have very long lasting appeal to gamers and will be on the shelves for a long time to come.