Whether you’re a GTA veteran, or new to the series, the open-ended gameplay will keep you sucked in for hours and hours.
Knowledge of the past game’s story isn’t necessary when playing Vice City, as it doesn’t kick off right after GTA3. You play as Tommy Vercetti. Tommy, released from prison, is sent to Vice City by a mafia boss, Sonny Forelli, to participate in a drug deal without even thinking of the subsequences. He and the others suddenly get double-crossed, and Tommy barely makes it out alive, leaving getting the money back to Sonny his main objective in the game.
Those who have played Grand Theft Auto before know just how open-ended the game is. Being able to do what you want, whenever you want was awesome in the previous installments, and is even more fun in Vice City, with new vehicles and weapons available. For the first time, you have the ability to drive motorbikes, each having different strengths and weaknesses. The amount of flyable vehicles is a lot bigger than in the previous installment, as well, varying from skimmers to military helicopters. Unfortunately, you still can't pilot planes, although there are quite some of them in-game.
There are around one hundred drive-able vehicles in total in Vice City, from motorbikes and cars to choppers and tiny RC cars. Each of them varies in handling and speed – turn with a fast car at top speed and you may easily spin off at a corner. This can be even more frustrating with motorbikes. Until you get used to the controls, anyway. If you’ve a wheel collecting dust nearby, you might want to try it out as Vice City supports wheel steering. Frankly, although it’s fun driving along the city with a speedy sports car, you’ve to change from keyboard to wheel controls often as you enter and exit vehicles.
You’ll meet lots of different characters throughout the campaign, like Lance Vance, a guy in want of revenge to the double-crossers who killed his brother Vic during the drug deal, or Kent Paul, a youth who works at the music business, yet claims to be a criminal mastermind. At the start of the game, you’ll do dirty deeds for them to get cash, but later into the game, Tommy decides to take over the whole city. These latter missions tend to be the longer and more original ones.
Overall, Vice City has a quite lengthy campaign. It takes around ten to fifteen hours to pass the core missions, but the game doesn’t finish here, as you have lots of side stuff to do – vigilante missions, taxi missions, pizza delivery, and more, each one rewarding you with various abilities after you pass a certain amount of levels. For example, after dropping off 100 taxi fares you’re able to make the taxi jump in the air; reach level 12 in ambulance missions and your sprint will be infinite, and so on. Some of the missions can be pretty tough, like pizza delivery, as it’s easy to fall off the bike, but knowing you get 50 extra health points, it’s definitely worth it.
The packages from Grand Theft Auto 3 made their way to Vice City, too, and they’re still as rewarding as ever, providing Tommy with different weapons, vehicles and armor after collecting each tenth. There is a total of one hundred of them scattered all over the map, resulting 10 rewards after collecting the last one. The latter rewards are the best ones by far, as you get free access to the Hunter and the Rhino tank – the two most powerful vehicles in the game. Collecting all the packages without a map is pretty much impossible, as they’re often in the deepest corners of the city you would never even think to look at - that’s where the map you get with the game comes to use.
Though to pass the game completely, and I mean, COMPLETELY, you’ll have to do lots of things, including the ones listed above, plus many more. It’s tough as hell, but the rewards are more than awesome, including infinite ammo, twice the amount of health and armor, and more. To see your progress with the game, there’s a stat screen available in the in-game menu. Percentage of the game passed aside, it shows some useless, yet fun to read things, as well, like the amount of people you’ve wasted, tires shot, etc.
Sound plays a huge role in VC, starting off with the well done voice acting, finishing with the downright hilarious radio stations. They’re still funny as hell, and make driving from mission to mission much more enjoyable - you’ll find tons of ‘80s music to listen to, featuring Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon”, Blondie’s “Atomic”, and more - each station plays different types of music, and even has its own DJ. There’s even a public radio with its host, Maurice Chavez, who talks with famous people in its show “Press the Issue”, guaranteeing lots of funny moments.
Vice City uses an updated graphics engine seen in GTA3. Sure, the textures aren’t so hi-res, nor are the models too hi-poly, but thanks to the crazy draw distance, you’ll have numerous opportunities to indulge the whole beauty of the visuals. The game certainly looks better than GTA 3 did, having great lighting and cool weather effects. The first city (one you start the game at) may look a bit better graphically, because the whole color theme is more appealing, whereas the second one may look dull - VC’s local gangs abode in poorer parts of Vice.
There are two main gangs in Vice City – the Cubans and the Haitians, which are both easily recognizable by their stick-out clothing and exotic cars. You rarely see gang members cruising the streets one by one, as they mostly appear in groups, and they attack each other on sight. Some of the story missions even involve you being sort of a double agent, as on one mission you may help the Haitians defend against the Cubans’ attack, whereas on the next one, you’re helping the Cubans.
The whole mission design, although not too visibly, has developed from GTA3 - you won’t see the same old mission layout as you did in the previous game as much in Vice City, like picking up a car, picking up an NPC, going to a location, killing some foes, re-spraying the car and getting back to the extraction point. Sure, some missions have this design in VC, too, but they don’t really get too boring. Moreover, as you get deeper into the game’s story, you’ll experience pretty much all the game’s features – there are missions which involve you blow up a building by planting bombs at certain locations of it using little RC planes, tracing a limo using a chopper and taking photos of people from a safe location, etc. The diversity is pretty big, and will surely keep you entertained throughout the whole game.
The save system hasn’t changed all that much from the previous game – while not on a mission, you can save your progress by collecting cassette markers near buildings. Vice City is a big town, hence it sure wouldn’t be too easy having to drive all the way to another corner of the city after every mission. That’s why you now have the ability to buy certain properties. While some of them don’t cost as much, purchasing others will really slim your wallet. Not unless you want to actually pass the game, as having a little amount of properties prevents you from accessing some of the final missions.
So overall, Vice City is an amazingly fun game to play - whether you’re a Grand Theft Auto veteran, or new to the series, the open-ended gameplay, funny radio stations and crazy amount of missions will keep you sucked in for hours and hours. What’s even better is that the requirements for it are extremely low, hence unless you care more about graphics over gameplay, you’ll find VC a great game to try out.