#512 Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Posted: 26th December 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

390th played so far

Vice-city-coverGenre: Action
Platform: PS2/PC/Xbox
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games

The Grand Theft Auto series comes in at specific points for us – when we’re approaching the 100 mark, or a few times on it. With ten of them on the list, it’s the natural point, while they’re important enough for us to want to spread them out and look forward to.

Vice City is the first non-numbered GTA game in the list, and the first that is more than an expansion pack. Made with the same engine as Grand Theft Auto III, it tells the story of another body involved in criminal pursuits, in a different city and a different time.

Our Thoughts

Because of how the list works, we rarely see multiple examples of the same series. Even when we do, it’s rare that the different entries share such similar gameplay – series like The Legend of Zelda or the Mario series diverge enough in gameplay and concept that while there are similarities, the gaps are too big too much seems to diverge intentionally. On the other hand, while some may want to debate whether all ten games of GTA listed should be on there (some really are expansion packs, which we have an issue with), one of the things it does do is show the evolution of a series and, due to the influence of the games, the evolution of a genre. That means that while you see the flaws, at this point we also see a succesful series slowly being put together. It’s a list that few other game series could get away with while still seeming interesting and different in each installment.

While I’ve seen bits of the later games – mostly really Peter playing GTAV soon after its release – and I’ve seen notes on the different entries go around, for the most part the games are new to me. This also means that a number of changes made between games are as surprising.

The first big thing that jumped out at me – worthy of comment after about ten minutes of playing – is how much more character the game has. There’s a few things where this comes out, but this is most notable in the characterization. Most important, the PC is far better developed. Rather than just a silent protagonist, he comments on proceedings, looks for helps, and makes cutscenes more than a talk from a gang boss. It’s not that major yet, but already adds a lot more flavour and interesting characters to keep track of to the game.

It feels like this extends to the rest of the game too. It takes place in a notably brighter environment, with a more colourful world and more interesting architecture as you expect from a big city. Riding around the world is already interesting for that alone.

What certainly aids here is that the game is intentionally and obviously set in the eighties. It comes back in the dress and music, but seems to have had an effect on the style as well. Because it’s distant, and because of the way we remember the era, it’s not as gritty as a game set in a more modern era needs to be. Instead, thanks to a bit of self awareness and playfulness, the game can occasionally play with your perceptions of the decade and get a bit of humour out of it.

Then there’s the other touches where the game adds to that. Losing your notoriety can be done by going to one of your safehouses and changing your outfit (these are pre-defined, not the mix-and-match from some other games). It works on its own level, already having some extra fun with conventions. Even the in-game sections (sort of) have it – when being caught at a weapons deal, they start running and you’re chasing some weirder characters, and the original GTA3 doesn’t feel like it would ever have a mission requiring you to infiltrate a building site with a small helicopter.

If there’s one criticism I have for the game, it’s the difficulty. Obviously, you gain notoriety, and fair enough, that’s something you need to deal with. Compared to other games in the series though, it can feel a bit too much, too soon. For anything that happens, you seem to be immediately surrounded by police cars, and considering the additional damage you need to do to get away from them, and their ferocity in chasing you down, it seems impossible to lose the notoriety. In fact, no matter what, it seems near impossible to get away without being arrested – and losing all your weapons and a lot of money. While realistic, it is also frustrating (and feels ‘unfair’ from a game perspective), and the loss of weapons, already difficult to get early on, feels like it can easily end a game. It was such an incredibly harsh penalty, I resorted to cheating the level away if it got too bad. It simply seemed to save a lot of bother. Unfair? Maybe, but too much too soon, you know. It’s a balance they did better with in later games.

But god, it really makes me want to pick up the next game. Looking forward to next year!

Final Thoughts

Of all the Grand Theft Auto games on this list (which is pretty much all of them) it was a chance to return to Vice City that I was looking forward to the most. This is in part because it is the only one of the 3D games not to get an HD revamp (GTA VI to be set in Vice City please!) but also because, of all the games, this is the one I feel has the best atmosphere. Grand Theft Auto III was basically ‘present day’ as are IV and V, but Vice City went full blown into the 1980s.

It is for this reason that I think that Vice City is the best GTA game made taking into account technology available at the time. By this I mean that if the same idea was made at the same time as GTA V it would have come out as the superior game. Yes at times the difficulty level can feel a little bit lop-sided but overall this is an amazing game which rewards players not too spoiled by the current dumbing down of difficulty.

  1. […] my own rollercoaster in Theme Park. There is one game, however, it was a real treat to see again: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I still hold out hope that we will one day see an HD remake of Vice […]

  2. […] a good core gameplay while the 3D games have slowly been hammering out some control issues – Grand Theft Auto Vice City was already a step up from Grand Theft Auto 3 – and I understand San Andreas is no exception […]