Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Review

Grand Theft Auto Vice City is a standalone game that takes the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA3) down south to Miami, er, Vice City and back in time to the 1980s.  You get more than just a change in scenery, though.  Vice City adds new gameplay elements to an already excellent game.  The move in time and place also gives Vice City a much richer environment than its predecessor, imbuing the game with even more character.  You get all of the freedom and open-ended play of GTA3, but it now all takes place in what feels like an action-packed episode of Miami Vice - one in which you play the opposite side of the law from Crockett and Tubbs. 

As Vice City opens you are taking part in a big money drug deal when some uninvited guests drop in on the party.  After the shooting stops you manage to escape with your life, but the money and merchandise are gone.  To make matters worse for you, it's not your money.  Your boss is anxious to get his money back and it's up to you to figure out who dropped in on the deal and what's happened to the money.  If you happen to become a major player in the Vice City underworld along the way, you won't have any complaints.  Hey, people should be taking orders from you anyway.

Cruising Vice City.

The gameplay in Vice City follows the same model as in GTA3.  The game's storyline is driven through missions and the cutscenes that play before, during, and after each mission.  You can choose when to attempt a mission, and you usually have a few to choose from at any given time.  There's a large variety of mission types in the game including high speed car chases, assassinations, demolitions, bodyguard work, and even assaults on rival gang strongholds.  The game does an excellent job of presenting you with new and different missions that will make you want to play the game through to the end.  There's none of that "been there, done that" feeling you get with the repetitive and unimaginative levels found in far too many games out there.  Some of the missions can be pretty challenging, but should you fail you can always attempt the mission again or move to a different one without more than a small financial penalty, if that.

Vice City would be enjoyable if the gameplay were entirely made up of the missions, but the game gives you so much more than that.  Vice City is a living city filled with pedestrians and traffic, and you are free to explore it at your leisure.  You can do far more than sightsee, though.  First of all, the game is called "Grand Theft Auto" for a reason.  You can hijack or steal any car you see in the game, from fast sports and muscle cars to delivery trucks, city busses, and even a tank (if you can find it).  You are free to drive anywhere you want - police in Vice City don't mind traffic violations such as running red lights or driving through pedestrian malls - as long as you don't mow down pedestrians.   Start causing too much havoc and the police will progressively raise your "wanted level".  A wanted level of one star will cause any police cruisers or beat cops that see you to give chase.  As your wanted level increases, you will become actively pursued.  Eventually your capture will warrant the use of road blocks, tire-busting spike strips, helicopter pursuit, SWAT teams, and, if you're really notorious, the National Guard.  Evading capture is a lot of fun and pushes your driving and evasion skills to the limit as the police AI is both competent and realistic.  You don't always have to outrun the police as there are other trickier ways of evading capture.  Switching cars, repainting your car, changing clothes, or finding special bribe power-ups are all ways that you can reduce your wanted level.  There's even the tried and true "lay low for a while option", although this is not as easy as it seems with the number of police patrolling the city.  To keep things from getting frustrating, being captured or killed does not end your game.  A trip to the nearest hospital or police station followed by a small fee or bribe and you are back on the streets again, albeit without any weapons that you may have collected.


Also reviewed on:
  •  · PlayStation 2