Sunday, November 13, 2016

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many years ago, a game called Grand Theft Auto came out. I didn’t remember hearing much about it, but it was successful enough to warrant a sequel, aptly called GTA 2. Then game GTA 3. GTA 3 was the one that got all of the attention. There was violence, sex, crime, prostitution, gang warfare and all sorts of stuff that conservatives didn’t like. The game got a lot of publicity, which generated more sales. Had it not been for this publicity, I probably never would even heard of the game; instead of never knowing about it, I got a copy.

You’d think that with all of the negative publicity, that would have been the end of it, but there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Rockstar games came out with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, set in a fictionalized version of Miami, Florida. Tommy Vercetti has been released from prison in Liberty City and is sent down to Vice City, Florida, to take part in a drug deal for the Forelli crime family. Things go horribly wrong and Vercetti loses both the money and the drugs. To boot, he has a paranoid lawyer named Ken Rosenberg as his contact in Vice City. Both of them go back to the lawyer’s place to sort things out. Vercetti is set up with a place to stay while in town. Vercetti calls back north to explain what happened. He swears vengeance on those that did this.

That’s where you come in; you are Vercetti. You start out helping the lawyer with various things. (You intimidate jurors, for instance.) Eventually, you star meeting other people, such as Avery Carrington, who’s in the construction business. You eventually meet Lance Vance, who also wants vengeance; his brother was killed in the deal that went bad. You’ll meet several major characters that will have missions for you. The characters are represented on the map by either a letter or an icon on a minimap located at the bottom of your screen. Usually, you’ll have more than one at a time, allowing you to alternate if you get bored easily.

As with GTA 3, you can’t save while on a mission. While on a mission, you’ll be given instructions as you go along. If you die or get caught by the police, you’ll fail and have to start over. (You can try as many times as you need to.) As with After you complete a mission, you’ll get a reward. (Remember that the game takes place in the 80’s. You’re being rewarded in 80’s money.) When a person has run out of things for you to do, that icon will disappear.

There are two main islands with three smaller islands. As with GTA 3, you have to unlock certain parts of the map, but this is done much more quickly. Also, the overall area is much bigger. You won’t find yourself running out of places to go any time soon. Also, the number of random people has increased. There are even several types of prostitutes. (Yes, they’re back, but they don’t seem to do much for your health this time.)

You can also buy properties. (Each of the available properties will have a circle with a house in it. You stand in this circle and press tab.) Some of them will have a set of missions similar to the ones that the major characters give you. (Kaufman Cab Company has several taxi-related missions. The Moneyworks location has you getting things like plates so that you can counterfeit money.) Those that have missions will usually generate money once you’ve completed all of your missions. You have to collect this money every day, or else it will max out. Eventually, this gets to be a nuisance. You’ll eventually have so much money that you’ll find that you won’t bother. It would be nice if you could collect all of the money at Vercetti Estates or something.

So far as I know, the Malibu Night Club and Moneyworks are the only ones that are necessary for you to buy. If there’s any mission location that still has necessary missions for you to do, the icon for that location will be present on your minimap at all times. Otherwise, it will only be visible when you approach it. All of the locations that you buy will also serve as a save point and some will even allow you to park cars there. (Once you purchase a property, it will be indicated by a cassette, just like your first property except for those that have missions, such as the Malibu Night Club.) Once you buy a property, it’s yours. I recommend buying as many as you can find. You’ll need as many save points you can get.

As in GTA 3, there are also side missions you can do, such as getting a police car and doing vigilante missions, getting an ambulance and bringing injured people to the hospital or getting a taxi and finding fares. There’s also delivering pizzas, which wasn’t available to you in GTA 3. If that wasn’t enough, there are still rampages hidden throughout the map. Look for the circle with a skull in it and you’re given a weapon (or told to find one) and kill a certain number of a certain type of person. For instance, you may be told to find a car and run over 25 gang members. You may be given a katana and told to kill 20 pedestrians. This point raised even more controversy than GTA 3 because you’re told which gang to kill. (The two main gangs are the Cubans and the Haitians.)

Most of the missions are more than just following the instructions. You’ll be told what you have to do, but you’ll find that the obvious strategy doesn’t always work. You may have to try two or three times to get it right.

To get around Vice City, you always have the option of walking. If you get tired of walking, as I often did, you have the option of stealing a car. There is a huge variety to choose from. (Everything about Vice City is much better than GTA 3.) You have full-sized cars, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and three types of cab to choose from. (Be careful using the motorcycles. If you run into something, you go flying off and get hurt.) Each car has its advantages and disadvantages. (Some are great at acceleration while others handle better.)

There are also helicopters and boats if you are so inclined. I have to warn you that helicopters are difficult to master. However, you will want to get used to flying the helicopter. (What they don’t tell you in the instructions is that you have to use the keypad to go forward. It took me a while to figure this out.) Although the skill isn’t necessary to beat the game, it does help. There are also several side missions that require the use of a helicopter.

While I’m on the subject of cars, you have a better radio selection, including two talk stations. Rockstar games was able to use a lot of 80’s music for the game, including “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and the German version of 㧏 Red Balloons”. Again, PC users have an advantage over the PS2 users in that we can have an MP3 station. I’d suggest listening to all of the radio stations. The credits listed a lot of people involved into putting the stations together and they did a great job. I hope that they’re reading this because I’d like to be able to tell them how many hours of enjoyment I got out of the stations. (Actually, everyone involved with this game did a great job. Players that pay attention to details will get a lot of enjoyment out of Vice City.)

Your selection of weapons has improved, also. You now have several blades to select from. The down side is that you can only have one of each type of weapon. For instance, the baseball bat, chain saw and blades are included in one type. If you want to change that type of weapon, you stand on the new weapon in that category and hit tab. (I liked it better the old way, too.) To scroll through your weapons, you can use the mouse wheel.

Speaking of weapons, Vice City, like Liberty City, has hidden packages. As the name would indicate, they’re hidden. For every ten packages that you get, a weapon will appear in one of three locations: Your original save point, one of the buildings that you buy and Vercetti Estates. (The property that you buy is the one with roof access. As for Vercetti Estates, you get that later in the game.) This is another area that the helicopter comes in useful. Some of the packages require a helicopter to access. I highly recommend getting at least 70 of the hidden packages. (The last 30 lead to vehicles.) The first ten, if I’m not mistake, leads to body armor. The next set of ten leads to a chainsaw. After that, you get other weapons like guns.

There are also weapons scattered throughout the map. You’ll come to learn where these are. In any mission that you do, you will be given access to weapons if you need them. There are also stores like Ammu-Nation, where you can buy weapons if you want. I absolutely loved the katana, which was only available in one location. Unfortunately, I had to give up access to it in one of the missions. (Oh, well. It’s just a game.)

As you play, you’ll learn different things that you need to play the game. The wanted level is one of the first things you learn about. You have anywhere from zero to six stars, indicating your wanted level. With one star, police will only chase you if you happen to come across them. With six, the army comes after you. There are three ways to get rid of stars. You’ll see circles with a police badge in side. This is referred to as a cop bribe and will reduce your wanted level by one. (Learn where these are.) If you have either one or two stars, you can get a change of clothes to get rid of your wanted level. These are indicated by circles with a blue shirt inside. Finally, any level can be made to go away by visiting a Pay-And-Spray, which gives you a new coat of paint and a new engine. The disadvantage is that you can’t use certain cars, such as police cars. The alternative is either getting busted or dying, either of which will cost some money and you’ll lose all of your weapons.

The graphics and interface are very similar to GTA 3. Those that have played it will take to this game very quickly. If not, you might want to mess around at first to get used to the controls. You don’t have to have played GTA 3 to play this one nor will playing this one ruin GTA 3 for you, should you decide to try it. (Actually, having played Vice City first, GTA 3 might look like a stripped-down version of Vice City.) My only major complaint is that there’s still no multiplayer. I’m hoping that San Andreas has this problem solved in the PC version. I really want a multiplayer version of GTA.

I would suggest watching “Scarface” before you play. You’ll be amazed at how many similarities there are. Everyone that I know of that’s played this game and watched “Scarface” agrees that the makers of this game must have been a fan. (Those that have played GTA 3 and seen “Scarface” will notice a marked similarity between the soundtracks.)

Now, you may be wondering exactly how similar Vice City is to Miami. After all, I’ve spent most of my life here. I have to say that I’m impressed. I even recognize a few of the landmarks. Washington Mall is similar to Bayside Marketplace. North Point Mall, with its cheesy muzak, reminds me of Aventura Mall. If you’re willing to take a boat out, you can find Stiltsville near the marina. (For those that don’t know, Stiltsville is the name given to a collection of houses that were built out in the water. They’re propped up by wooden stilts. They gained notoriety a few years ago because the city wanted to condemn them and tear them down. I highly recommend that you visit this area.)

Another point of interest is Sunshine Autos. If you go behind and below the showroom, you’ll find a place to bring stolen cars. You’ll be given a list of six cars at a time. There are four lists, which you can either get from friends or find online. If you find a car on a list you’re not on yet, you can use the garage to save them, assuming you’ve purchased the property. You’ll also find drag races that you can enter. This is great practice for one of the missions that I found extremely difficult. Towards the end, you have to race someone so that they’ll be your getaway driver during a bank robbery. Despite all of the advice and tips, they only way to win this race is to simply win it. No amount of trickery or cheating seems to help.

I hope that I covered enough. I couldn’t possibly do the game justice with words, even though this review contains over 2,000 of them. As I indicated before, it pays to pay attention to the details. There are a lot of jokes dealing with the 80’s and with Miami. There are all sorts of scooters, which are still popular on Miami Beach. In the intro, you’ll also see a screen that resembles the Commodore 64. Also look for stores like Gash. The real fun of the game is in such details. You can go through the missions and that may be enough for you, but you’re missing half of the fun. All I can say in closing is that you shouldn’t buy into the negative hype. After all, it’s just a game.

No comments :