Gaming Glories: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

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Gaming Glories is a special edition gaming feature that encourages writers to revisit and explore games that have helped shaped their gaming history.


After the grey metropolis that was Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto 3, which was set in 2001, the men and women at Rockstar decided that we needed to go somewhere that had more colour, more character, and more charisma. Enter: Vice City.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the sixth title in the GTA series and the second 3D game in the series after GTA3, was released a year after GTA 3 in October 2002 for Playstation 2. It was developed by British developers Rockstar North and published by Rockstar games. Microsoft Windows players had to wait until May 2003 while Xbox users got it harsh by having to wait until October 2003, a full year after Playstation 2 players.

The gameplay is similar to GTA 3 with a few tweaks and improvements.

Vice City, a fictional location heavily based on Miami, Florida provided the setting- it’s beautiful. The game is set in 1986 and you play as Tommy Vercetti, a mob hit man who was recently released from prison after serving 15 years for 11 counts of murder. Connections, eh? After playing a mute character in the previous game, it was refreshing to control a character who cracked jokes, threw insults and best of all, was voiced by the legend that is Ray Liotta.Vice City night neon shot A decade before, Liotta was portraying famous mobster turned FBI informant Henry Hill in the critically-acclaimed Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas. In that film, Henry narrates in first person mode. In Vice City, Tommy Vercetti also does this. When playing Vice City, you will notice a lot of similarities in the story which mirror films like Scarface and Carlito’s Way especially. Tommy, a man who is quick to anger and violence, a man who takes over all rackets in the city, becomes a major drug lord, irritates former bosses and lives in a swanky mansion surrounded by his dodgy henchmen. Sounds familiar- additionally, the mansion bears an incredible likeness to the one Al Pacino’s Tony Montana lives in in Scarface.

Vice City mansion interiorThe plot of the game is based on quite a few real-life happenings in Miami such as battles between Cubans and Haitians, the mafia-backed drug lords, and the crack epidemic. Whether it be satire or a commentary, the game is an inspiration bred of 1980’s American culture.

Due to the violence and sexual nature of some of the game content, it attracted a lot of controversy. The biggest issue being the now disbarred Jack Thompson, claiming that a man killed his family because of his obsessive playing of the game. (This was ridiculous and the case was eventually dismissed in December 2007.)

Regardless of controversy, Vice City was critically acclaimed. IGN and Gamespot gave it high nines while the Official US Playstation magazine gave it a 10/10. Metacritic gave it a lovely 95/100. It became the best selling video-game of 2002 and as of 2011 it had sold over 20 million copies. That number has obviously increased now thanks to the mobile support and the PS4 remaster.

Aside from Liotta, the game was packed with brilliant voice talent. Tom Sizemore, Burt Reynolds, Danny Trejo, Gary Busey and Blondie singer Debbie Harry- just to name a few!

Speaking of Blondie, the game’s soundtrack was incredible. It had a slew of great artists from the 80s including Bryan Adams, INXS, Blondie, Tears for Fears, Toto, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Kate Bush and so on. Unfortunately due to licensing issues, the two Michael Jackson songs in the game Billie Jean and Wanna be Startin’ Somethin were taken off the soundtrack for subsequent versions of the game. Luckily I still have my original PS2 version.

I have been playing Vice City again recently thanks to Sony and Rockstar remastering it for PS4 and I’m still amazed at its brilliance. I love speeding down the sun-soaked roads listening to the 80s tunes bellowing from my favourite sports car’s radio stations. Popping out of the car and into a pacy speedboat that takes me to the second island which locates the main part of the city, and also includes the airport, docks and army base. Vice City Tommy on a 5 star wanted levelIt’s hard to resist stealing a tank and going on a little rampage through the neon-coloured nights in Vice. There are two basic weather systems in Vice City and, again, it’s pretty much standard Miami. You have complete blue skies and sunshine and then you have the opposite which is thunder, rain and lightning. Safe to say though, Vice City looks gorgeous in either one. There are also 114 vehicles in the game, so have fun trying everything.

You get a real sense of progression in Vice City. Taking over rackets and gaining assets is ridiculously fun. Every racket has its own missions and by completing these missions, you take over the asset and start making regular money from it; you have to collect the money yourself every game day if you want to build up that mogul cash. Vice City film studio assetYou can take over a night club called the Malibu, take over an ice cream factory (which is a cover for drugs), a printing factory (which is a cover for counterfeit notes) and also a film studio (a cover for porn) among varied others.

Sub missions are also available in this game and exactly like GTA 3. They include:

Fire Fighter – Get in a fire truck then click the right stick on your controller and you will access this mission. You drive around putting out cars and people that are on fire. It gets harder as it goes on with more vehicles and more people burning. Your reward for completing 12 rounds of this is that you become fireproof.

Paramedic – Get in an ambulance then click the right stick on your controller and you will access this mission. You drive around picking up injured people and taking them to the hospital. It gets harder as it goes on, just like the fire fighter sub mission, with more injured pedestrians and only three seats available in your ambulance. Your reward for completing 12 rounds of this is infinite sprint, which comes in really handy as Tommy isn’t the fittest chap in the world.

Taxi – Get in a taxi then click the right stick on your controller and you will access this mission. You have to pick up and deliver passengers to their destination with time to spare to earn money. Once you pass 100 fares, every taxi in the game that you are driving has the ability to boost jump in the air. It’s pretty damn fun.

Vigilante – Get in any police or military vehicle then click the right stick on your controller and you will access this mission. You chase down criminals and again it gets harder as the rounds go on as more criminals are out and you are being chased by the cops yourself as you are killing people. It can get intense and be pretty difficult but if you beat the 12 rounds, you’ll get a 50% addition added on the already 100% armour you pickup every time you buy or pick up body armour.

There is also a stadium in the game were you can participate in three events held on different nights:

Bloodring – A destruction derby were you have to avoid drivers to collect checkpoints in order to keep the time from running out on the clock. You win money and two of the cars used in the derby will spawn forever outside the stadium.

Dirtring – You must use a Sanchez dirt bike to do stunts to collect all checkpoints before the time runs out. By doing this, you earn money.

Hotring – A stock car endurance race of 12 laps VS 15 AI controlled cars. You must place in the top 3 to earn money. If your vehicle gets too badly damaged then you’re out!

To sum it up, there are main story missions, asset missions and sub missions. You can try and 100% the game beating all missions and challenges or you can just run around free-roam causing havoc and enjoying the 80s vibes.

This game is now out on multiple platforms. In 2012 on its’ tenth anniversary, Rockstar made it available to play on your iPhone so you can even play it while on the bus. My nine year old self would be floored by that knowledge back in 2002! A prequel was created in 2006 called Vice City Stories and it is pretty fun but nothing tops Vice City, in my humble opinion.

To any of you who are reading this and still haven’t got round to playing it, I say, jump in. You won’t regret taking a little trip to the 80s.

Sonny Forelli: Hey Tommy, it’s Sonny. How’s the suntan?

Tommy Vercetti: I ain’t got no suntan.

Words by Gerard Thornton

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