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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto

So, I’m standing at this counter right, just trying to get food. The loser scum behind the counters got a real attitude with me, and tells me to come back later while he sits on his ass. I turn around, really pissed off at this point right, and I pull out my Kruger. I lay holes in him, and everyone else in the mall. That’ll show them. The neat thing is that I actually did that. No, I’m not a psycho mass murderer; I’ve just been playing the latest Grand Theft Auto, a series often criticized by the media for its violence and themes. I shouldn’t like it. But, for some reason the primal instinct in me takes over and consumes me, creating the urge to go out and kill dozens of innocent civilians while running away from the police.

GTA: Vice City is the epic tale of Tony Vercetti, a tough as nails East-Coast gangster who’s been in the pen for the past 15 years. His fellow Liberty City gangster Sonny Forelli decides that business needs expanding, and Vice City is prime territory for his business. Since his good friend Tommy is in need of business, he assumes that he learned no values in prison, and sends him down to get a jump start on their start-up drug business. Like any good drug related entertainment, two things must happen. Number one, it must be set in the 1980’s. Second, the initial deal must go sour. In case you didn’t figure it out, Vice City begins with both of these things happening. The 1980’s were a time where greed, lust, and inhibition ruled the day, and Tommy is all wrapped up in the middle of it. Sonny is pissed off that his money was taken away from him, and more pissed off that Tommy has no idea who took it.

So basically, Tommy is somewhere between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he’s got no money, no friends, and no protection. One the other hand, he’s got one really pissed off gangster who wants his money back or Tommy’s head. Since he doesn’t want to you know, die, he decides that it’s best to find some business to conduct and privately search for the one responsible for his problems. So Tommy sets out, and finds a good lawyer friend, a past friend of Sonny’s named Ken Rosenberg, a nervous wreck and a sham of a lawyer. He admits that he couldn’t intimidate a child, and with all the mafia related business that he’s gotten involved with has caused him to lose sleep. He sets out helping Tommy meet Vice City’s finest of the bottom of the barrel. Tommy soon makes dozens of friends and enemies, all while enjoying the fineries and libations of Vice City.

The plot is basically an exploitation of every eighties stereotype there is. Our anti-hero Tommy is clad in an ugly teal shirt from the get-go, women are scantily clad (not that they aren’t now), and the cops are corrupt. There’s nothing like stealing a motorcycle from someone and then watching the cops beat the crap out of the victim. It makes you feel really good inside. The plot is told through a series of missions that Tommy completes to earn cash from the head-honchos of Vice City so that he can earn enough cash to become one of those honchos himself and get out of his troublesome situation. The missions themselves come in a wide-variety, much more varied at least than GTA3. While the star of GTA3 never said a thing and did everything he was told Tommy is full of life, vibrant, and argumentative. And he doesn’t take crap from anyone. A lot of Tommy’s missions require you going some where and killing someone, but there are quite a few original missions, one of my favorite being going through the mall and smashing out a bunch of store fronts because the owners refuse to pay their protection money. You also have access to a wide-variety of missions thanks to a strong cast of fellow criminals.

Some people have complained that Vice City is more of an expansion pack to GTA3 rather than a worthy sequel. However, there are many differences between the two. First off, let’s talk character development. While there was none really in GTA3 and I cared very little for the characters, they’re brought to life in Vice City, thanks to some high-quality voice acting by stars such as Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, and the foxy Jenna Jameson. Secondly, you can actually enter some of the buildings, and even more interesting is the ability to purchase buildings and reap profits from them. The music and atmosphere are also set into an eighties environment, including tracks from Michael Jackson, Blondie, Luther Vandros. Most importantly, the vehicles are all set to the time period as well, and new additions of mopeds, dirt bikes and motorcycles are welcome and beneficial.

There are a lot of things that bothered me with Vice City however. The most annoying thing is the lack of any substantial play testing of the game. The final product ships with more bugs than a two-dollar prostitute, ranging everywhere from graphical problems, camera issues, and general errors that should have never left Rockstar’s offices. This one time, I robbed this girl of her moped, and for some odd reason, I drove down the road with her standing on my head. I don’t very much understand the physics behind this. There are also some problems with skipping, when exiting the vehicle, I often have to wait a good 20 seconds before I actually get out, and instead have to listen to skipping music and the sound effect over and over. Lastly, I don’t understand why cars explode after they flip over, and why as soon as Tommy goes into the water he dies. They’re mostly minor annoyances though.

Graphically, Vice City is much more bright and colorful than the dingy streets of Liberty City. The graphics are very similar to that of the PS2’s, however they look much better in high resolution. The character models are very well done, and animations are solid. The only thing that bothered me is the general blocky look of them, but this is ignorable. The NPC’s are fairly well done, though there is a general lack of variety among them. Often times, you’ll see a group of nine or ten of them together and they’re all the same model. One unique thing is that you are able to change Tommy’s clothing for certain missions, like wearing golf attire to complete a hit at a golf course. The cars and motorcycles all look great too.

The audio is very impressive. I already mentioned the cast of the game, and all of them are well suited for their parts. All of the actors become and personify the character they are supposed to be, and do it exceedingly well. The music, also mentioned previously, is a collection of hits from the 1980’s, but the feature I liked the most was being able to play my own MP3’s in my car while playing the game, instead of the soundtrack.

Despite all the bugs, Vice City is easily one of the best games I’ve played this year. The storyline adds a lot of life and pizzazz to the series, and I hope Rockstar takes it to the next level in the next iteration of the game. I’ve finished up with the main story of the game, and am still only something like 20% complete with the game according to the stats, and I have no desire to quit yet. There are lots of missions still left for me to complete, lots of things to discover. The thing about Vice City is it’s never the same as it was when you left it.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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