Grand Theft Auto Vice City

Review

posted 11/7/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Last year, Rockstar and DMA unleashed Grand Theft Auto 3 onto the unsuspecting populous. While the first three entries in the series had managed to garner a cult following, the series never achieved the mainstream success that it enjoyed last November. The series had finally hit the big time and in the process, solidified its position in the overly crowded marketplace. It breathed life not only into the Playstation 2 but also into the entire gaming world, causing other companies to commission titles that will include similar ideas and themes. Being that they were first out of the gate, the masters of the genre have set out to dominate the marketplace for a second straight year. A lot of pressure has been placed on the shoulders of this talented team of programmers to deliver another surefire hit. How did they do? Let’s just say they’ve got ice water in their veins.

GTA 3 has often been seen as the pinnacle of gaming. It was showered by critical acclaim from all of the top sites and media outlets and for good cause, the game was just an amazing experience that successfully broke the shackles of confinement that had haunted video gaming since the day it was born. Though the game had quite a few flaws, gamers were willing to persevere these shortcomings, a testament to the game’s addictive nature. There a question that is often asked yet rarely answered, how does one improve upon perfection? Enter Grand Theft Auto Vice City, the prequel to last year’s game that improves upon its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way.

Since this is a prequel, it takes place well before the events of GTA 3 and though the game isn’t exactly story driven, it’s still nice to see the designers are committed enough to fill gamers in on the past of their favorite mobster errand boy. The ordering of the games is very much akin to Grand Theft Auto and GTA London in terms of succession and timeline. The game now takes place in Vice City, which is basically a spin off of Miami Vice that thankfully omits the presence of Don Johnson though the music and cheesy threads remain intact. Instead of taking place in a sort of modern day alternate universe, we enter the time machine and are thrown back to the mid 80’s, back when Flock of Sea Gulls was tolerable and the boys wore more makeup than the girls.

The game begins with a startup sequence of the old Commodore 64, a nice touch that will probably go unnoticed by half of the people that see it. Afterwards you’re treated to a nice sequence of cutscenes, leading up to a drug deal gone awry where Tom, our protagonist, barely manages to escape with his life. After dealing with his mob boss, Tom sets out to find the bastards who set him up and of course, recover the lost goods. This time around, we learn the origins of our main protagonist. As opposed to GTA 3, more emphasis has been placed on the development of Tom than the rest of the mafia. He has now been given a voice and plays a much larger role in the grand scheme of things than just that of an underling. Voiced by straight to video actor Ray Liotta, he’s chocked full of attitude and he’ll express his feelings on the situations at hand. The end result is a character that is much deeper and multidimensional than before, causing the gamer to actually take a vested interest in the person and the actions and events surrounding him.

Of course the rest of the characters are voiced by some of Hollywood’s top vocal talent, including Dennis Hopper, Tom Sizemore, Burt Reynolds, Phillip Michael Thomas, and Gary Busey. Perennial porn star, Jenna Jamison, also lends her voice to the cast as well as former New York Giants great, Lawrence Taylor, but their roles are significantly less than those of the top billings. Again, the story is told through a series of excellently produced cutscenes that feature interaction between Tom and the rest of the characters. Like last year’s game, each of the lines are delivered with amazing feeling and accuracy, almost as if each of the characters are living and breathing beings. Again, this makes for memorable characters that hit closer to the player as he starts to relate to them and their lives.
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