It's not often that a game's sequel arrives while the first game is still selling for the full $50 price tag. The grand success of GRAND THEFT AUTO III has put Rockstar in that rare position as it releases GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY. But is this release just a mere add-on to last year's mega-hit? Or is it worth a full $50?
There are some big changes to the time period in VICE CITY. While GRAND THEFT AUTO III was set in current day Liberty City (think New York), VICE CITY is set in the mid-80s in, well, Vice City (eerily familiar to Miami). Your character gets out of jail and is sent down to Vice City to help the family out. Unfortunately, he's set up and loses the drugs and money. Now he has to get the cash back, and he's going to take over the town in the process.
There's a brand new story here, and for the first time, your main character talks (rather than the strong, silent type in III). As usual, you'll be sent on some typical types of missions, but there's a lot of new scenarios now, too. The town is completely new, and there are plenty of vintage 80s vehicles at your disposal. The best addition, though, is the motorcycles, dirtbikes, and mopeds that you can ride around on. There's nothing cooler than grabbing a crotch-rocket and taking off. There are also some missions that take place in the air and on the water. My favorite though: the golf cart chase around a local country club it's classic.
That's not where the additions end. You'll find yourself having to change clothes at the clothing store, buy tools to use as weapons, and buy your own businesses in the city. Owning businesses unlocks a whole new subset of missions for you to undertake. There are also taxis from the hospital and police station to your last boss's place, which cuts down on the time to get back to the mission.
That being said, this still plays much the same as the previous games. There's not really a grand innovation to the gameplay, and the concept of seeing how much havoc you can cause hasn't changed much from the last game. I also feel that while, as a whole, the game looks and plays well, there is a lack of polish. The most glaring and irritating example of this was when I had just completed a mission. I had about 6 health left, and needed to get to a health icon or prostitute. There was a cop car sitting in a corner with its lights on and I figured it'd make the best vehicle. Only the passenger side was available, the front and driver sides were against walls. As I jumped in the car, I suddenly realized that there was still a cop inside and I couldn't slide to the driver's seat. But I couldn't get out and I couldn't drive, the game was stuck and I hadn't saved in a while. I was screwed, and pretty pissed that I had to work my way back through several missions. While it isn't strictly apparant at first, this game was rushed a bit.
That won't stop me from recommending the title, though. The 80s atmosphere, new city, and new missions make it more than worth the price tag. While you might not get as much lasting value from this one as you did from III, the story alone is worth the admission.
Graphically, the game looks very sharp. It's hard to notice how good the graphics are with the motion blur, but by turning it off, it shows how nice the graphics do look. While it muddles the graphics a bit, the motion blur is still one of the best effects in the game. The game does look better than III, and represents Mia... err, Vice City very well.
The sound is perhaps my favorite aspect of VICE CITY. From the opening "MIAMI VICE" style of theme song, to the nine in-game radio stations with tons of 80s hits and talk-radio, to the excellent voice acting, this game excels in the audio department in every way possible. The sound effects of each different engine and weapon are distinct and recognizable.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY lives up to all of the expectations, but it's not perfect. It's got some flaws, but I find it superior to III in just about every way. If you liked III at all, VICE CITY is to die for.