Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
by Rockstar Games
Without a doubt the highlight of the PlayStation 2s life so far has to be GTA 3. The transformation from the top down to the fully 3D was remarkable to say the least. Never has a sequel bettered it's prequel so emphatically in computer game history. In GTA 3, Rockstar North created a game that showed immense vision and in truth is far in advance of the Sony hardware it was meant to run on. The game sold quicker than hot cakes ever could and immediately it was obvious that this series has the legs to go on for many a classic sequel. The first of these is now with us. Let's take a look at GTA Vice City.
Vice City is set firmly in the 1980s. The clothes, the vehicles and the mannerisms of the characters reek of the 1980s. Immediately this will amaze those who remember the decade and it's films and TV shows. Rockstar North could simply have expanded upon GTA 3 but as their talents continue to blossom it's becoming obvious that these are the chaps who could finally bring true cinematic quality to games software. The cutscenes are a testament to this statement. At times the quality of them (and no I'm not talking about the graphics) is amazing and you can't help but be impressed by them.
The game begins with a scene in Marco's Bistro in Liberty City. Tommy Vercetti (the character you control) is about to be released from prison and the family wants him out of the neighbourhood as he's bad for business. They agree to send him to Vice City to establish a drug operation to bring the family some extra dirty cash. Tommy and his two associates travel to Vice City and are met by their contact, Ken, and arrange to purchase some 'merchandise'. The exchange goes horribly wrong when as the money is being handed over for the drugs an ambush occurs and all but Tommy and Ken are killed. This is where you come in to the game. Tommy has to pick up the pieces and not only get the drugs and money back but get revenge on those who killed his friends.
Of course you don't have to plough on with the story, you can just roam the city, of which a lot is shut off to begin with. GTA 3 was so popular because you could do what you wanted when you wanted and Vice City is exactly the same. The map in the lower left of the screen points the way to the next objective and when you are ready you simply make your way to the coloured zone to collect your mission orders. You can even buy up some of the local businesses, when you've earned enough cash to do so.
Visually it is fair to say that things have improved a bit since GTA 3. The draw distance is greater and the pop-up traffic problem seems to have been sorted out. Of course I could be a little cynical and say that the amount of traffic (and people for that matter) on the streets has been reduced quite a lot from GTA 3 so perhaps this is the reason for the greater draw distance etc. The framerate also seems to be improved, which also seems to have had a beneficial effect on car handling which seems so much smoother this time around. This is more noticeable if you turn the trails (a kind of blurring feature that kind of hides the jaggies as well as adding a distinctive style to the game) off. The vehicles seem to look better this time too and the bikes, cars, helicopter etc., that you can drive all look good.
Generally the game is great in it's provision for deaf gamers. There are a couple of areas that could have been improved upon though. First of all the cutscenes isn't subtitled by default, these have to be enabled. If you are familiar with GTA 3 you'll know that the first time you begin the game it goes straight into the introduction and thereafter it immediately loads your saved game. Vice City is the same in this respect. The first time you'll load the game the introduction will not be subtitled. What you will have to do is to skip the introduction and enable the subtitles and then start a new game. It's a small thing but enabling the subtitles by default would have prevented this problem. Once enabled though the subtitles make the game great for deaf gamers. The only other verbal information that is missing is the comments that you get from passers by in the street. These are only usually one or two word comments and have no bearing on the gameplay. All tutorial tips are given in text so you'll have no problem getting used to the game.
Vice City was never going to have the dramatic impact of GTA 3 because GTA is the game that it's compared to and that is a tall order for any software title. However if pushed for an answer I would say that Vice City is the better of the two. Sure the game is still not for those who are offended by the criminal flavour of the game but for those who can ignore the theme and enjoy the gameplay. This is going to be one of those titles that people write about when a history of gaming is compiled.
Overall Game Rating: 9.6/10 Vice City does the unthinkable and improves upon GTA 3. Without a doubt the current benchmark title for the PlayStation 2.
Deaf Gamers comment: Some minor niggles but generally excellent.