Developer(s) – Rockstar North
Publisher(s) – Rockstar Games
Programmer(s) – Obbe Vermeij & Adam Fowler
Producer – Leslie Benzies
PEGI – 18
Following on from the immensely successful Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar decided to take the Grand Theft Auto franchise back into the 80s, and to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, making for one of the most critically acclaimed games of the sixth generation, winning several gaming awards and being so far the only Western game to appear on Famitsu’s top 100 video game games of all time, ranking at number 76. Though I don’t consider games in the Grand Theft Auto series to be among my favorites, some of them are still very much worth playing, and Vice City is no exception.
Graphics – 8/10
Being a lot more unique than any of the previous games in my opinion, as well as providing a very realistic and vibrant take on the 1980s (giving players the option to ride vehicles like mopeds and Cadillacs), the in-game world is also very loud and colorful in stark contrast to the gritty atmosphere associated with most of the games in the series to come both before and after it. By proxy, a lot of the architecture in the game seems much less tacked on than in many other installments, making the scenery stand out to an even greater extent.
Gameplay – 9/10
Though gameplay remains largely the same, with players being given the option to either advance the storyline or wreak havoc and get into as much trouble with the police as they possibly can before a full-scale manhunt breaks out to the point of the authorities having to chase you down with squad cars and helicopters whilst they’re riding a tank through the streets (speaking from experience), the major improvement to gameplay made with Vice City was the option to build an empire; to seize each establishment available to buy, and make as much money from doing so as possible. This aspect would be expanded upon even further in San Andreas, giving a Grand Theft Auto game more of an RPG feel to it, but in Vice City, it was like a breath of fresh air to me, since at this point, I was becoming somewhat weary of many of the series’ stables after the last three games.
Controls – 8/10
Unfortunately, I’ve always found issues with the Grand Theft Auto control scheme, and Vice City is no exception in this respect either. Typically, problems arise whilst trying to aim with guns and trying to throw grenades. Another gameplay mechanic I’ve always found to be over-ambiguous is the ability to shoot guns from vehicles since it’s even harder to aim under those circumstances. It’s never a good idea to build upon existing control mechanics if the fundamentals haven’t been perfected yet. I can’t say whether or not if these aspects have since been improved on following the release of Grand Theft Auto V, but at least other than these issues, there aren’t any others in Vice City.
Lifespan – 9/10
To accomplish everything in the game should take about 40 to 50 hours, which at the time was extremely impressive for a game of its kind. Around the time of its release, the only games to last as long as this did were usually RPGs, and for an action-adventure title to last this long was unthinkable. Ever since there have been many other games made in the same vein; some of which being among my own personal favorites, such as Just Cause 1 and 2 as well as Batman: Arkham City.
Storyline – 7/10
Compared to every other Grand Theft Auto game I’ve played, I’d say the story in Vice City is by some distance the most interesting. It follows Tommy Vercetti, a loyal member and recently promoted capo of the Forelli crime family, who is sent to Vice City to oversee a major drug deal. The deal goes wrong as the buyers are ambushed, with Vercetti and his associate Ken being the only two survivors of the attack. Later, Tommy informs don Sonny Forelli of the situation and vows to recover both the stolen cocaine and money and kill those responsible. Tommy’s vendetta unfolds into a series of more convoluted events and circumstances, and makes for a classic gangster story reminiscent of the likes of Scarface and Goodfellas, made even more authentic by a pretty impressive cast of voice actors, including But Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Danny Dyer, Gary Busey, Danny Trejo and Ray Liotta providing the voice of Tommy Vercetti.
Originality – 6/10
Though this game does ultimately play out like every other game in the Grand Theft Auto series, the developers managed to keep things fairly fresh by including a different art deco for the scenery and style, improvements to gameplay, maintenance of the long lifespan associated with Grand Theft Auto III and a half-decent story. There have since been many Grand Theft Auto imitators (Just Cause even exceeding the quality of it in my opinion), but the 3D Grand Theft Auto games were worlds apart from the original three PlayStation games, and this game is, in my opinion, the second-best out of them behind San Andreas.
In Summation, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is undoubtedly one of the better entries in the series, and introduced enough changes to hold my interest for quite some time. It would also go on to influence a great deal of some of the best games of the seventh generation, but it is also a gaming experience that still holds up to this day.