Grand Theft Auto: Vice City PS2 Review

Life used to be different for us: we did nothing all day except drink incredibly cheap -thus incredibly bad- liquor and watch soap operas; plus there were no girls to comfort us. Then, between Emmerdale and Coronation Street, Grand Theft Auto was released: a game with the same name as a lousy Ron Howard film, but totally different. Oh, and without Ron Howard thank God.
Thanks to evolution we’ve seen some pretty shocking things: man began to walk up straight, man landed on the moon and man created GTA3. It instantly stood up above all games and crushed everything in its path; the most violent game ever became the best selling game on the planet -scientists are still trying to figure out why. Just when the world was almost done shaking because of the impact it made, Rockstar North gave us Vice City…
When we got our grubby little hands on it we couldn’t help but kill a cop and run away giggling like schoolgirls. Somebody who was just walking by asked if we just murdered someone and we were laughing greedily at it. We nodded -of course- in an affirmative way and soon a crowd had gathered to watch this phenomenon.

The stage is set: in some deserted spot in Vice City a deal between a couple of sinister folk is going on. Drugs? You betcha! As you have already guessed things go wrong and one man makes the chase: Tommy Vercetti. The town itself is based on an eighties version of Miami; so expect to see lots of people strutting down the streets half naked, dark and dangerous meanies looking at you; and last but not least: hookers galore. After the failed drugs deal you must guide Mr Vercetti to get the money back for his boss Sonny. Things aren’t too complicated are they? Good! Now Tommy isn’t just going to ring the bell and ask for the dough back, but bashing a few noggins will get it done! To help you in this easy task, an enormous amount of weaponry is littered throughout Vice, and let’s keep in mind the weapons stores. Seems like the eighties were even more violent then today’s bloody society: screwdrivers, butcher knives, hammers, a genuine chainsaw and a katana can be used to rob a person from his/her life. We’ve already performed more decapitations than when Henry VIII was sitting on the throne. Speaking of robbing stuff: with your weapon of choice you can now go into certain hardware stores or supermarkets and the like in order to steal the hard-earned cash from some schmuck behind a counter; nice! Still, although there are weapons aplenty you can only carry one of each kind. For example: you can’t carry a baseball bat and the katana at the same time, or a flamethrower and a rocket launcher.

All the above is not the only way to kill time though. Vice offers some really challenging and truly original missions: whereas in GTA3 they were a little stiff and shallow. They’re also wound into a better narrative told via some very neat cut-scenes. Each of these cut-scenes are constructed by top class voice acting: expect to hear celebrities like Dennis Hopper, Lee Majors, Burt Reynolds, Jenna Jameson and Ray Liotta who really brings the character of Tommy alive. In the beginning you’ll only do some minor jobs for more imposing figures in the crime industry, but as you progress you slowly grip your hands around everyone’s throat and start choking them so Vice is no longer in their power. In the end you have to be the last man standing; and that definitely should feel good.

They say a dog is a guy’s best friend. Actually it’s – next to a trusty gun – a way of transportation. Nothing feels better than cruising around Ocean View in your neatly jacked car where only seconds ago a poor soul was happily driving way under the speed limit. Instead of just dragging someone out of their ride, you can shoot through the actual windows of the car and kill the poor thing. It’s even more mesmerizing to pop tires and hearing that “pssssh”-sound for the first time. Eventually, you’ll crawl into the car and notice that there are two people sitting in it wearing a bikini and a pair of shorts.

You start to do some heavy misdemeanour and the cops begin to chase you. As we’ve said before we’ve killed them, and we’re not afraid to do it again. Only this time our friend Tommy will have to outsmart them with some clever driving. Now the big surprise comes when you see a roadblock and your tires get a few nasty holes. Jumpy sparks emerge out of nowhere and your car starts to slip. You want to bail out -which you can- but you just keep driving because it’s so wonderful to behold. Vice really let’s you appreciate the little things!
Then suddenly a big, sexy motorcycle appears on screen and you can’t help but give the driver of the bike a little push and claim the vehicle as your own. It almost feels like you’re under hypnosis when you drive such an insanely fast bike; but the danger of falling off is far more risky than the safety of your car’s interior. Another advantage while driving a bike is the ability to shoot forward, giving extra action to chases or shooting people for no apparent reason. There’s also a larger emphasis on sailing the ocean; more boats are on display and there are quite a few missions that require a boat…preferably a fast one.

And of course, which you have no doubt read in magazines or on sites, there is airborne capability. The Dodo in GTA3 was fun but it was a pain in the ass to take off, or even to successfully fly the damn thing. Helicopters in Vice are much easier to control and extremely fun to buzz around town with. There’s also a special army chopper, which boasts tremendous firepower, or a water plane that is used to distribute flyers in one of the many missions. Just imagine sitting in any one of these vehicles and listening to one of the radio stations. The 80s truly come alive with genuine bands and acts, such as the likes of Blondie, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Michael Jackson, Wang Chung, INXS, Slayer and many more! Lazlow is also back and now hosts his own radio station: V-Rock. Don’t you just love that decade?

Now the idea isn’t simply driving around and waving a gun: you literally have to take over town. When you’ve done a certain amount of missions you can buy property, enabling you to do even more missions. These buildings also serve as interior locations: after you’ve bought or earned a property you can go inside and take a breather. When you’ve done everything there is, you can start earning money from your business so the more property you own, the more you can grab the bling-bling.

After doing ALL these things, it’s still a matter of: finding secret packages, completing rampages, performing unique jumps and then there are still the many sidequests! Rest assured, Vice City will help you through long winter nights, hot summer days or even a nuclear fallout. It doesn’t have that same “wow”-effect as the previous GTA but it certainly comes close with many innovative elements and stunning gameplay.

As we said at the beginning of this review, our lives used to be different: that big, empty hole has been filled with the hot fire emitting from VC; no more soaps for us and no more watching the damn BBC news with Anna Ford throughout the day. Vice will keep us, and you the reader, warm for a very long time. We still don’t have girls to comfort us though. Oh well, this game has hookers anyway…