Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: January 9, 2003
Vice City isn’t Grand Theft Auto 4. It uses the same engine as Grand Theft Auto 3, it employs the same basic mechanics and it progresses the story in exactly the same manner, so it’s unfair to think of it as a sequel. What it may be thought of, however, is one of the boldest expansions ever conceived. Matching the scope of the original game and expanding on the mechanics to include motorcycles and helicopters, Vice City offers everyone who loved the series’ shift to 3D another turn at the plate. This kind of release can go one of two ways, as it runs the risk of seeming stale now that the novelty’s gone. Before we’re done, you’ll know whether or not you’ll want to spend time on these sunny shores.
This time out, your character has a bit more personality than the thug who took Liberty City by storm. You’re still a thug, but this time your name is Tommy Versetti, and you’ve just been released on parole for good behavior – behavior that’ll end the moment your Don sends you south to take a look at the unstable but highly lucrative drug trade moving through the balmy Florida streets of Vice City. The time period is also very different from the modern byways of Grand Theft Auto 3 – you’ll find yourself smack dab in the land of pastel suits, synthesized music and big hair known as the ’80s.
The cultural differences from two decades ago will be immediately apparent, as Tommy’s preferred outfit is a bad Hawaiian shirt coupled with a pair of acid washed jeans. Pedestrians jog by in terrible single-color tracksuits, or roll past on the traditional four-wheeled roller skate, something rarely seen anymore. The first time you hop into a car, however, you’ll truly realize how much effort Rockstar North has put into the timing, as you’ll hear Gary Newman, The Buggles, Michael Jackson, Corey Hart, Iron Maiden, The Cult and dozens of other artists who were in their prime 20 years ago.
The soundtrack is huge, and expands even further when you factor in the many talk radio shows available on both normal talk stations and VC Public Radio, which eschews commercials and replaces them with biting rants about those who listen, but don’t donate to keep the station on the air. Those who enjoyed the talk radio insanity from before will find even more hilarious situations. Examples include the charismatic senator who says, “Crime rates have only doubled if you don’t turn the graph upside down, and as your Senator, I’m the kind of man who can make a quick decision regarding graph orientation…for the future,” or the crazed public activist who’s managed to dig ten feet of his proposed ditch, which will separate Florida from the continent and create a new free republic as it drifts off into the sea.
The deeper setting provides for some serious laughs and heavy nostalgia, but despite all the time spent crafting this period piece, Rockstar North has made some solid additions to Vice City‘s capabilities. The core engine is still the same, but now you’ll have the opportunity to cruise the streets in motorcycles, scooters and modified Harley choppers. Further expanding the game’s inventory, you’ll also be given the opportunity to steal a helicopter for quick travel across the skies of the Florida metropolis.