If Grand Theft Auto III was The Godfather -- a mostly dark look at Mob activity -- then Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is Goodfellas, complete with Ray Liotta as the voice of Tommy Vercetti. Though Vice City hints at the perils of being a Mob boss, the rewards are more of the focus: players will take over Vice City, buy up property, take control of lucrative businesses, and organize a crime ring. It's tons of fun, especially with the addition of a killer soundtrack, motorcycles, planes, helicopters, building interiors, and scads of new weapons.
The genius of Grand Theft Auto III was the free-range game world, which was complemented by the many things to do. The rampages, special challenges, missions, Insane Jumps, Hidden Packages, and many vehicles kept players busy indefinitely. In Vice City, driving around and listening to Michael Jackson, A Flock of Seagulls, or Blondie can be enjoyable even without tackling any of the available missions. Though the GTA III radio was quite good, the Vice City stations are much better. Similarly, the expanded range of vehicles -- especially helicopters and motorcycles -- and building interiors correct the only real shortcomings of GTA III. More interiors in Vice City would be welcome, but the city is huge with plenty of unique terrain. It's a little disappointing that jetliners and more planes aren't available, but the thrill of flying the Hunter and going on multiple Vigilante missions makes up for it.
Exploring Vice City on a PC has its advantages too; several missions, especially the Haitian boat mission, were extremely challenging on the PS2. With the mouse aiming options, however, taking down multiple enemy gunmen can be accomplished smoothly, without relying on the "lock" feature. Flying a helicopter using a keyboard takes some getting used to but, once learned, the controls are tighter and more forgiving than the sometimes exasperating PS2 'copter controls.
The biggest problem with Vice City is the cliché mobster storyline. Sure, things take unexpected twists from time to time, but the basic flow of the story is transparent and not particularly interesting. GTA III offered some twists and a subtle commentary on the criminal underworld with its collection of repugnant characters. Vice City's ruthless Vercetti offers less depth, which is surprising since his character is explained in much greater detail. Perhaps knowing Vercetti's motivations -- money and power -- so simply is a letdown. GTA III's nameless, speechless protagonist was an enigmatic enough to be interesting.
Vice City is an engaging experience, however, and picayune qualms about the story's lack of complexity don't ruin the gameplay experience. On the contrary, the many improvements added to the GTA III engine make Vice City the superior game, with more of everything. Players, like Ray Liotta's character in Goodfellas, may bemoan a return to the life of the "schmuck" when they have to leave their criminal syndicate behind.
Graphics: Excellent, with improved car details, city texturing, and weather effects. The sunsets are gorgeous.
Sound: Brilliant; some of the best '80s music scattered across radio stations, plenty of cheesy '80s philosophy, and some of the funniest fake commercials you'll ever hear.
Enjoyment: With so much to do, and plenty of variety, players can amuse themselves indefinitely.
Replay Value: After the main missions end, there are rampages, car races, hidden packages, cars to collect, and more. Getting a 100-percent completion from the game will take immense amounts of work -- fun!
People who downloaded Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have also downloaded:
Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto 2, Grand Theft Auto, Simpsons, The: Hit & Run, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
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