Can Rockstar Games successfully up on the overwhelming success of GTA3? According to Starfury, yes they can!
Welcome to Vice City. Welcome to the 1980s.
Having just made it back onto the streets of Liberty City after a long stretch in maximum security, Tommy Vercetti is sent to Vice City by his old boss, Sonny Forelli. They were understandably nervous about his re-appearance in Liberty City, so a trip down south seemed like a good idea. But all does not go smoothly upon his arrival in the glamorous, hedonistic metropolis of Vice City. He’s set up and is left with no money and no merchandise. Sonny wants his money back, but the biker gangs, Cuban gangsters, and corrupt politicians stand in his way. Most of Vice City seems to want Tommy dead. His only answer is to fight back and take over the city himself.
Vice City is a mock-up of Miami from the 80’s. It is full of bright colors, glowing neon, corrupt politicians, and ethnic gangs. The population on the street can range from bikini clad women basking in the sun to police dressed up in brown and tan. The architecture fits the mold of a Miami-esque city, with tall buildings towering over the downtown district to the condos at the beach.
Typically, the game is played from an over-the-shoulder third person view. While on foot, Tommy can run, jump, duck, sprint, and of course, shoot up everything in sight. The player can also interact with the multitude of various vehicles. Not only have the number of cars been increased, but the player now gets access to motorcycles, boats, and helicopters. Also, cars have weaknesses that they didn’t have before. You can blow out the tires to cause the vehicle to lose control, and you can snipe through the windows to rid the vehicle of its occupants. A welcome addition is the ability to bail out of a moving vehicle if it has been damaged. You take some damage yourself, but it beats getting wasted by blowing up in your car.
Speaking of wasted, you can die many ways in Vice City. A major danger is water. Your character can’t swim. Fall off into deep enough water, you die. Of course, you will probably be killed by gang members or police before that happens. As the game progresses, they get tougher, and are better armed. When you die, you end up at the closest hospital, sans weapons and some cash. If on a mission when you died, a taxi cab will be waiting for you, so you can complete the mission with little time lost.
The game is mission based, like GTA3. Missions range from delivery boy to rock star baby sitter to assassin. As the player completes missions, other opportunities unlock in the city. These can be missions, vehicles, or property to buy. In this game, the player can own property. This is where you can stay, save games, and store vehicles. A few of the properties will generate money, if you complete their associated sub-missions. The sub-missions are quite varied in their requirements. One such mission requires the player to deal a certain product from an ice-cream van. Another requires you to pay money to watch a stripper before opening up the strip club’s true potential. There are some fun sub-missions involving RC vehicles.
Most of these missions, however, will put you on the wrong side of the law. An on-screen indicator tells you how much trouble you are in. The more trouble, the more stars on the screen. One or two stars aren’t that serious. Over two, and the police start calling out more powerful backup. You can get chased down by Crockett and Tubbs wanna-bes, have your tires taken out by spike strips, or have SWAT from the police helicopter rappel down onto you. More than four and you’ll have the feds and even the army coming after you. Watch out for the Apache gunship and Rhino tank!
There are new and varied weapons this time around. No longer can you carry everything, you have to settle for one weapon in each of the many classes. You have pistols, shotguns, SMGs, rifles, heavy weapons, grenades, and melee weapons. Nothing like going to the hardware store, buying a screwdriver, then poking someone’s eyes out with it.
The environment is more interactive in the fact that you can enter many of the buildings in the game. You have to for a few missions. The buildings are laid out well, and appropriately decorated.
Load times are almost non-existent. Traversing the bridges between the two islands takes usually less than a second. Entering and exiting buildings, less than that! This game is a remake from the PS2 version released last October. Having played both, there are some definite improvements in the PC version. The control scheme is much more advanced. You can play with keyboard, mouse, and controller at the same time. The key mapping is vast. However, you do lose the analog control of the PS2 controller, making finite maneuvers and flying much more difficult. The graphics are better, as I’ll discuss on the next page. Game modification has been made easier, as attested to in the GTA forums. Also, a replay feature has been added that can show you the last 30 seconds of the game. Great for capturing those unique jumps and insane stunts.
The graphics have been improved over the PS2 version. The resolution settings will go as high as your monitor can support. The graphic palette has been increased to 32-bit. The view distances are adjustable and have been generally increased. Also, the number of polygons per model has been increased as well. The game camera can be changed, while operating a vehicle, for a nice cinematic effect.
The story portion of the game is usually told through in-game cutscenes, all from the game engine. Rockstar spent a good amount of time capturing the look and motions of the models. The lip-synching is pretty darn good as well.
There are also some very nice, minor touches as well. When it rains, you can see drops pool up on your screen, then roll down. Blood splatters the same way.
The game is gorgeous and performs superbly on a good gaming rig. However, there are some graphical issues. There are some issues with the view distance. While the background and permanent items are viewable in great detail, temporary items such as cars and pedestrians do exhibit a lot of pop-up. This is a problem when you look one direction, see a stationary car, turn, then turn back and the car is gone. Very annoying when trying to complete the car stealing sub-mission. Also, if you turn the Frame Limiter option off, some permanent items will not draw-in until you are right on top of them (such as bridge barricades). There is also some slowdown when particle effects come onto the screen, especially from helicopter wash kicking up dust. The 2D sprite-like images for some of the brush and bushes looks quite bad. Finally, I think that some of the auto models aren’t as sharp as they could have been, especially the Countach clone (Infernus).
The music is righteous. For anyone the grew up in the 80’s, just having all those great tunes to listen to will take you back. The radio stations are broken up by topic, such as rap, new wave, rock, Spanish, talk, etc. The music was licensed from actual artists from the period, and a separate soundtrack is available for the game. You can also insert your own .MP3s into the game, which form their own station. One of my personal favorites from the GTA3 series was the talk channels. However, they seem to be very mundane when compared to what else is on the radio.
The voice acting is superb. Many famous actors lent their talent to this game. Tommy Vercetti is voiced by Ray Liotta, who did a fantastic job. Some of the other great voice actors include: Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Burt Reynolds, Danny Trejo, Gary Busey, Lee Majors, and returning in a very much “Tubbs” role, Philip Michael Thomas. The game sounds are good. The weaponry tries to be as accurate as possible, sound-wise. A better selection and variety of engine sounds are present in this game as well, especially for the motorcycles. Ambient sounds are there, but you’ll probably be so busy driving and shooting that you won’t even notice them.
Vice City is not for everyone. The GTA series is adult oriented, irreverant, and violent. Aside from a few graphical detractions, if you like driving fast, shooting quick, and enjoy a good bit of adult humor, you’ll love Vice City. If you played GTA3 on the PC and liked it, get this game now.
Recommended System Specs
800mhz P3/Athlon 128MB Ram 8X CD Drive 915mb HD space (1.35 for full install of audio as well) 32mb video card Direct X Soundcard Win 98/ME/2000/XP DirectX 9.0