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December 24, 2002
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/12/2002Take 2Rockstar North1MA15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Actual in-game graphics.
One of the biggest surprises this year has been the phenomenal success of Grand Theft Auto 3. Dispite never being reduced to a lower Platinum price the game has remained in the Top 10 games for almost 12 months now. Actually. it's not so much of a surprise when you look the size, quality and openness of the title. While the game was a critical and commercial success Rockstar North, the developers, weren't happy just to create a couple of new missions and call it a sequel. No, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a completely new game, set in a different time period (the 1980's), and has a completely new style. Actually, it's amazing to think that development of this game has been completed so quickly, and with such stunning results. With so much hype, and over 5 million pre-orders, this game had live up to expectations - and it does.

Much effort has been put into the games storyline which is along the following lines. 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 (where Grand Theft Auto 3 was set), 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.

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Check out the 1980's shirt.
Set in the 1980's Vice City sees Tommy Vercetti having to complete numerous missions to earn money, weapons and respect. When you start the game you will undoubtedly spend quite a bit of time cruising around one of the numerous cars or motorcycles jsut enjoying the scenery. Getting one of these vehicles is an excitement by itself. By standing next to a stationary vehicle and hitting the triangle button you can perform a "car jacking", but if there are any cops around they'll spot you and start chasing you down. The way in which the cops chase you is interesting. Performing a robbery in front of a cop earns you a one star warrant meaning they will be looking for you, but not aggressively so. Punch a cop and the warrant may move up to two stars, shoot some cops and it will leap to 4 stars etc. The more stars you have (maximum of six) the more aggressive the cops will be in hunting you down. These ratings are removed in several ways. The first is by finding hidden tokens throughout the game to reduce your status by one star. Another way is to go into a garage and get a makeover on your car while your level will also decrease over time.

Actually driving the cars is a very enjoyable experience. Most of those available are very powerful, or very fast and will have you on the edge of your seat. I did feel however that the collisions were a little unfair at times. Merely scrape another car and more often then not you would lose total control of your car. Cars aren't the only vehicles on offer. During the game you will also have access to boats on the water, golf buggies on the golf courses, helicopters and airplanes. However it's the inclusion of motorbikes, and the hilarious moped, that really makes this game stand out. Sure it's a lot more damagin if you collide with somthing but the thrill of going flat stick down a road is well worth the risk. Oh, and did I mention pulling wheelies?

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Cop cars, you'll see many of these.
The actual missions assigned to you are all tremendous fun. From running down the pizza delivery guy on his bike, to assassinating people, creating riots and having to take on a gang. If you get busted by the cops, or die you will be returned to a hospital or police station, lose all your weapons as well as some cash. It's pretty harsh so you really have to plan the missions and make sure there aren't any cops around. Speaking of the missions by sticking with the 70-odd main missions, and that alone, you should get about 60 hours of gameplay from this title, but check the stats page, and you'll see that only about 1/2 the game is complete. There are so many secrets to be found that this is easily a 100-hour plus game. Definitely value for money.

As you would expect from a game on such a grand scale there are a couple of areas that could/should have been changed prior to release. Perhaps my biggest gripe is the lack of vehicles on the roads. If your vehicle is trashed and you need a new one you often have to run around for some time before finding another vehicle. Compared to The Getaway there is a serious shortage of traffic for such a busy city. Another problem is the small inconsistencies. Early in the game you have to kill someone on the golf course, but aren't allowed to take any guns onto the premises. Funnily enough you can walk through the entrance with a chainsaw in hand without a problem. The hand-to-hand combat is also a bit clunky. Tommy isn't as responsive as you would hope, and it sometimes costs you a couple of punches to the head and vital energy.

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Some of the many neon lights.
I would have to say that the graphics are the most disappointing aspect of GTA: Vice City, but are still quite wonderful overall. Unfortunately, Rockstar North haven't eradicated all the camera angle problems from Grand Theft Auto III. At times you'll be fighting someone in the street and will end up behind a tree or wall with the view being obscured. The game also has some clipping and collision detection problems. It's not uncommon to see Tommy's body half way through a wall.

Having said that the developers have created a city with more colours then ever seen in a video game. The lighting, buildings, people, cars all add up to create a vibrant lively city which is a joy just to drive around in. The time of day also changes as you play the game so the city always looks different from moment to moment. The actual car models themselves are detailed enough, but also suffer damage from collisions before bursting into flames and exploding. Sensational. The animation on Tommy and other characters in the game won't win any awards, but it's functional enough. Finally the cut-scenes, which run for well over an hour - three times the original game, are brief, but to the point and look very nice indeed. Fortunately the developers have also fixed many of the frame rate issues with the previous game making this a much slicker experience.

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The sun starts setting.
Using DTS sound this game is simply phenomenal when played through a decent set of speakers. The first thing that hits you is the terrific radio stations which play when riding in a vehicle. In all these radio stations have over 100 music tracks includig hits from Michael Jackson ("Billy Jean", "Wanna Be Starting Something"), Run DMC ("Rock Box"), INXS ("Kiss The Dirt"), Ozzy Ozbourne ("Bark At The Moon"), and Nena ("99 Luftballons"). It's an impressive list and will have you going very retro. If music isn't your style you can flick the radio to one of the chat stations with many humorous topics such as why nudity should be banned and why computers are evil.

When it comes to the voice acting Rockstar North have gone all out. Tommy Vercetti is voiced by Ray Liotta while other characters are voiced by legends such as Burt Reynolds, Lee Majors, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, and (for the older guys especially) Jenna Jameson who voices Candy Suxxx. It's an impressive line-up that works splendidly well in the game with some wonderful one-liners from the characters. Speaking of one-liners, just wait until you hear the pedestrians or victims of your car jacking.

Fortunately, GTA: Vice City is one game that not only lives up to the hype, but also manages to surpass it. The game is much larger and more engrossing then the previous title, and manages to create an open world unlike any other in a video game. Yes, there are a couple of small niggles, but this is the essential purchase this year. If you don't already have it, what are you waiting for?

GRAPHICSNot as jaw dropping as some new games, but better then most.
SOUNDDTS Sound, over 100 1980's music tracks and very solid effects.
GAMEPLAYCamera still annoys at times, but the gameplay is very addictive.
VALUEOver 50 hours to complete the missions, but you'll spend time cruising.
OVERALLI have no doubt that this is the title of the year on the Playstation 2. GTA: Vice City is colourful, fun, exciting, lengthy, brutal, detailed, and most of all engrossing. As a Playstation 2 console exclusive this is the best advert for the console this Christmas. Phenomenal.

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