Last year, Rockstar and DMA shocked everyone with the title Grand Theft Auto 3. Everyone thought of it as just another sequel and the game had no hype whatsoever. People couldn’t be more wrong. Extremely positive reviews started to pop up everywhere and word by mouth spread fast. But the thing that truly won over the casual gamers wasn’t the positive reviews but the news that covered several high profile channels.
People everywhere warned parents about the really gross content of this game. A game that focused on violence, sex, drugs, backstabbing and what not else. It had absolutely no moral. Partially they are right, BUT what they didn’t mention was that Grand theft auto was also a really terrific game underneath. And another thing... The “M” rating is there for a reason you know... It is and was a game that was purely meant for adults.
So the question is: Have Rockstar toned down the “sequel” due to these critics?
Not by a hair.
This, apart from the artistic freedom, is probably the biggest change Vice City has over last year's Grand Theft Auto 3 outing. Lots of new gameplay elements have been put in and they are all great. The first thing you will notice is the addition of motorcycles and other two wheelers. Boats are a common thing now, and later in the game you will have access to both planes and choppers (a commando military chopper equipped with weapons and stuff is apparently unlockable if you get all of the 100 hidden packages in the game...). You might go “ok, that’s cool” about all of this but when you first get to try out one of these two wheelers or such you will know the difference. From my experience I will say that the motorcycle handling in Vice City is better then ANY of the other full-fledged motorcycles games out there. Driving two wheelers in Vice City is pure fun. I love it.
Other new gameplay enhancements seen in Vice City are the inclusion of having the option to jump off a moving vehicle. I have found this new addition to be pretty helpful in some situations (for example if your car is on fire and you need to dump it fast before it explodes or just to drive into an opposing gang which you have a problem with). You will loose some health doing this but it is often quite preferable considering the options.
Vice City also has a ton of new weapons that you can play around with. You have lot of weapons to choose from, but you can only have one weapon in each category. The categories are: Hand, melee weapon, handgun, grenades/Molotov, fully automatic handgun, shotgun, assault weapon, sniper/special weapon. Many will of course moan at this “I want to carry 40 weapons at a time” but trust me; this makes the interface much easier to deal with and the changing of weapons easier.
There are a ton of weapons to choose from (but not from the very start though, you will get increasingly more powerful weapons as you progress in the game). In the melee weapons category alone I can remember these from the top of my head: Knife, hammer, drill, chainsaw, golf club, baseball bat, tomahawk, machete, butcher knife. etc.. So fans of “Guns and ammo” out there, you can rest assure there’ll be plenty to use.
Other things worth mentioning is the new AI. Cops are much tougher this time around (the whole game is actually) and you will find harder resistance from the “law”. Pedestrians also incorporate new AI. Rockstar said that the new AI made them much smarter. I don’t know about that but if they mean more varied they are most certainly right. A definite improvement from the last game.
You can also buy buildings in Vice City. This is something that will become essential for the main game, when you come halfway through. Some buildings will give you a new set of missions and when they are completed, those buildings will start to help you out financially. One example is the “movie building”. If you complete a set of missions, it will lead you to launch your own porn movie and from there on, earn money from the sales (7000$ per 24 hours actually. 1 hour in-game is 1 minute in the real world).
The plot and story of the game is also brilliant this time around. Pure Scarface/Sopranos spin off. Overall I can say that the gameplay in GTA: Vice city rules. Yes, there are still problems with the aiming and the AI, and the overall behavior of the game world can seem a little weird from time to time but these are very little nitpicks and doesn’t take away from the game that it simply plays brilliantly.
The graphics have also improved a bit from last years outing. It will still not win any awards, but it works more than fine. First of all is the view distance. You can now see a bit more into the distance and this just makes the city seem even bigger. Effects like sparks, blood, and raindrops have also been increased. A neat new trick is that you can get drops of water on your camera lens when it is raining (or if you are driving a boat). The same may happen when you are using a chainsaw but this time it isn’t water... Radiosity lighting has also been implemented, which is a very nice ambient effect that has been used a lot in pre-rendered graphics. The framerate is exactly like the last release, even with these added effects.
The biggest change when speaking of visuals is the artistic creativity though. This game is pure 1980’s. Everything about this game just screams the 80’s. If you hate everything about the 80’s you will most certainly hate the style of the game. But if you are like me and look back to the 80’s or just like general music and movies from that time, you will love the look of this game. It’s performed masterfully and it makes a lasting impression of awe.
What can I say? This is the best sounding game EVER, without a shred of doubt. The soundtrack is unbelievable and contains lots and lots of hits from the 80’s. Like in GTA3, these songs are spread over different radio channels (that you can listen to in the vehicles) and each radio station covers one category. Emotion 98.3 covers as you might understand, love songs, while Wave covers, well, wave. My personal favorites are most definitely Flash.Fm (making a comeback from GTA3) and Emotion. They contain a TON of very well known songs. 99 red balloons, Billie Jean, Jan hammer’s Crockett theme, Video killed the radio star, among many, MANY others. The soundtrack alone almost wants to make you cry out of pure nostalgic pleasure. The soundtrack lasts over 8 hours too, according to Rockstar!
Voices and sound efects are also over the top. Guns, cars, everything sound of like they should. The voices are again, like GTA3, simply superb. Ray Liotta (the poor sob who eats his own brain in Hannibal) is perfectly cast as the main hero Tommy Vercetti. Bill Fichtner voices the sleazy lawyer Ken Rosenberg with ease and Phillip.M.Thomas gives a great voice to Tommy’s sidekick, Lance (this role fits him perfectly as he also played the sidekick in Miami Vice). Other voice talents that may turn some heads are Tom Sizemore, Jenna Jameson and Dennis Hopper among others...
This game is BIG. You have lots and lots of different and varied things you can do. The game is as non-linear as you can get while still keeping a very good main story. If you are just going to play through the main story line, and you know just what to do, it will take you around 15 hours. Make that 20-30 hours for the casual gamer. This is easy a 80 hours + game for those willing to hang around and if you want to see every secret that this game has to offer. I would say it would take you somewhere between 100-200 hours to see it all. It’s massive!
This game is most definitely game of the year material. It scores high/perfect in all areas and is pure bliss to play. If you are old enough and you don’t mind dark, dark humor and 80’s nostalgia, then this game is most definitely for you!