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PS2 Reviews: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City screenshots


The Final Say!


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City -  
reviewed by Alex Gowan & Tory Favro
Review Date: 29 December 2002
Review Score 10/10
Distributed By: Take2 Interactive

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen this is the one we have been waiting for. The question remains; is it worth the hype?  Well, put simply, yes. Definitely.  While it will not get your geek-o-meter peaking as much as your first few plays of GTA3.  Vice City (VC) does have many enhancements over the original to make one of the best games in the world even better. AND it has only been in development for 12 months!

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Features

  • Players: 1
  • Genre: Third Person Action Adventure Crime/Driving/Shooting
  • Sprawling City
  • Fully interactive traffic, you see it, you can drive it - each vehicle handles differently also.
  • Non linear gameplay
  • Rating: M15+
  • Cuban Mobsters and Mafia scumbags!
  • You want more? Just play this game already!

Stuck? Now Available:
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Official Strategy Guide


This is game developer Rock Star North’s 4th instalment in the Grand Theft Auto series. While not being the officially monikered GTA4 that we were expecting, I can assure you this is more than a worthy follow-up to the classic GTA3.

The story  places you in the shoes of  Tommy Vercetti after a long 15 stint in the slammer.  The in-game FMV starts with Sonny, your former Mafia connection, talking about your release from prison, to his Mafia “family”.  He is not happy as this spells trouble for his business.  Sonny, earnestly instructs his pals to treat Tommy like, quote “an old friend and keep him busy out of town”.

The town that Sonny is referring to is of course Liberty City.  He sets about conducting a deal of “A-grade Columbian cocaine” in Vice City. This is done to expand the family’s connections south and set up an enterprise in the “24 carot gold city”(VC).  After Tommy’s lawyer, Ken Rosenberg picks up Tommy from the airport they go to make the deal. 

But when the deal is about to be made there is an ambush and your associates are killed.  Tommy escapes unscathed but the money and the cocaine are lost. The rest of the game centres around trying to get the money and drugs back for Sonny.  Ken Rosenberg the “schmuck of a lawyer”(as stated by Sonny) instructs you to go out in the streets and hunt down those responsible for the ambush.  There are more than the basic story missions to follow though as there are many side missions to take part in which is a great part of the power of the Grand Theft Auto series which has sold more units than any other console game ever to date.

One of the first things that you will notice when buying this game is the instruction manual.  It is way more comprehensive and informative than the manual given to you with GTA3.  As well as the mock-tourism information that you see.  It actually tells you what all the buttons do in a straight forward manner.  The map you find in GTA3’s manual is way too cramped and vague to be of any use.  The map packed in with VC very kindly provides the names of the locations and also the roads to help you get there. 

Credit should go to Rockstar north for providing such a coherent and clear format for all gamers.  No longer do you have to rely on memory of landmarks or the expensive Prima game guides to get you around the city.

The basic game engine has had an overhaul in this outing.  Now you can ride motorbikes, pilot aeroplanes and helicopters as well as vehicles and boats.  The city is quite literally a plethora of vehicles to take out for a spin.  All you have to do is just jump on and drive, and if there is a driver, kick him out and take-over the wheel for yourself.  Thrills are also more immediate as well.  With fast cars and motorbikes being within your grasp as soon as you switch on the game. 

The vehicle physics are outstanding and are forgiving enough to encourage driving around like a lunatic.  The motorbikes are a terrific thrill too and you can do various tricks like wheelies and front wheel stands.  What is more, you can even get monetary reward for doing so. As a motorbike rider myself I can say the feel of the road bike physics, are spot on.  Bikes are indestructible so it does not matter so much (as when driving a car) when you crash.  Although you (your character) are not so invulnerable to spills, so it pays to be careful, although your blazing motorbike can be used to dazzling effect as a missile weapon if you do it right. Get the bike burning, go into a powerslide at the same time you jump off. Give it a try!

Another addition to the already sophisticated graphics engine is that you can now actually beat up cars with a weapon.  After doing a bit of personalised panel beating where you knock off a few parts.  Such as the hood, doors, boot etc.  You can now even make the cars blow up next to a whole traffic jam and set off a chain reaction of explosions!    This new feature is a welcome addition and adds to the enjoyment of the game. 

The mission structure of VC is much more epic and esoteric in execution. One example of this is when you do a hitman job for a Texan called Avery Carrington.  The mission has you, Tommy, going and obtaining some golf clothes, driving down to the golf club, stealing a golf buggy, travelling to the driving range, taking out the perpetrators bodyguards and attempting to take out your target.  But before you ask “how is this epic?” Your would-be victim jumps into a buggy and takes off with you hot on his trail.  He drives around and he and his henchmen try to ram you out of contention.  If you do not kill him early it will turn into a car chase out into the city streets and the mission does not stop until you either lose him, kill him or die yourself amongst a few other possibilities…. Whew!.  So that is what I mean by epic.  As a result of these lengthy missions they are much more difficult and can end up in some nasty controller hurling at the TV.  If you die or get busted, it does not matter as much as it did in Liberty City.  The reason for this being that when you get out of the cop-shop or hospital there is a taxi conveniently waiting for you to take you back to the beginning of the mission you had just been on.

The really exciting parts though are the flying sequences where you can soar over the city, take in the lovely view and gun down your adversaries like in the movies. There is even the ability to buy real Estate which sets up more side missions such as pizza delivery runs and ice cream selling.  This adds to the interactivity of the city and depth in the gameplay. 

There was one unfortunate inconsistency observed in the game by this reviewer, and that is, while you can run over pedestrians, knock over fire hydrants and traffic light posts- you cannot plow straight into seating at malls and restaurants. Attempting this even with the largest of vehicles will result in just some damage to whatever you are driving. The tables and chairs will not so much as budge an inch. They are just blatantly there for looks!  Regarding how much development time Rockstar North had, they did do pretty well to make the city as interactive as it is. 

Other new innovations in the game are; being able to walk inside buildings such as police stations and save points. With the camera following your character inside the building.  Fans will be whirring and there is the ambient chatter of the radio in the background.  This adds to the already flourishing character of the game and to make it a more immersive and involved experience.

The city is teaming with life.  There are many kinds of pedestrians to witness, whether they be prostitutes mincing around, scantily clad beach babes on rollerskates, gang members, policeman walking the beat or just the run of the mill town folk.  These characters seem to have a mind of their own too.  You will see police running after criminals and if you wait around long enough after a murder you will see ambulances arrive at the scene. It is incredibly detailed and will take months to see all animations available.

The graphics in VC reach new dizzying heights for the PS2 in comparison to GTA:3.  There are more lighting effects and even the characters seem to have a higher polygon count this time around.  Tommy Vercetti’s head actually looks like it has not been clobbered by a base-ball bat and the other characters look greatly improved also.

There are sunsets which seem to bathe the whole screen in a golden light.  Sun reflects off cars to create a nice glow.  Other aspects include trees that actually look like real trees.  They may seem a little papery up-close but do look mightily impressive from a distance.  They even sway in the wind and on stormy nights the whole city seems to shake with thunder and the rain effects looks better than ever.  Beads of water even collect on the screen to create a more plausible effect.

Now the sound is absolutely awesome.  This is the best in game music ever heard in gaming history and yes I have played a few in my time. For us older gamers (I am 24 - Alex, 30 - Tory) there is a lot of 80’s music to get all nostalgic about.  Some hits include “Billy Jean” by the no nose, masked one (Michael Jackson),  “Broken Wings” by Mr Mister, “Waiting for a girl like you” by Foreigner, “Missing You” by John Waite, just to name a few.  The radio announcer is always a great laugh and never fails to put a big stupid grin on your face.  The horny Indian man Fernando Martinez is back for this 4th offering. One of the funny remarks he says “that song was like a beautiful woman or a group of hairy ugly ones!”.  There are a variety of radio stations to suit each taste from pop, talkback, techno, Rock.  You can not help wondering where Rockstar North got the financial backing to provide these awesome 80’s songs but if you dig the tunes, you can buy them all from Sony music.

Sound effects are tres cool as well.  Even the more crappy cars have a nice quasi v8 engine sound to them.  Pedestrians sound sensible.  One of the best features though and I have been waiting a while to say this one.  Tommy actually speaks and yes he sounds very cool.  This is much needed improvement over the previous version. The lines of dialogue recorded for this game outnumber the lines for GTA3 by several thousand and it's worth listening in on any conversation you hear in the street as some of them are hilarious.

While there is the odd glitch and fault (see aforementioned fault).  This game is a masterpiece by any means and is thoroughly recommended to most gamers.  While the content is slightly controversial re: carjacking, ram raiding, killing, taking drugs etc it is obvious it is aimed at the mature gamer.  The do anything, anytime does hold a lot of appeal and is a great stress relief.  Get a parking fine just get into the game and ram a police car. Tired of waiting in traffic jams in real life then travel into oncoming traffic in the game but because there are no repercussions you can be totally irresponsible (only in the game of course).  Gamers have been dreaming about these sort of games since the conception of computers so stop reading this review and go get the game.


- Alex Gowan & Tory Favro

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