‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’ adds Miami spin to classic game


Photo Courtesy of Steam

A screenshot from the video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” is shown above. The game released on October 27, 2002.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

This summer I set out to binge the early-era titles of Rockstar Games, the blockbuster studio behind the Grand Theft Auto series. Well, my plan was attacked on two fronts. The first being the old-era titles being the source of a rumored remaster in the fall of 2021. The PlayStation 2 classics are now reportedly in the rating phase of being released on modern hardware according to multiple news outlets like Kotaku. So when this news comes after purchasing/completing the original version of Vice City, the 2002 entry that had its PS2 version ported directly to PS4, I gave a sigh of future buyers-remorse as I know I will end up buying said remasters, given how much I did enjoy Vice City. But in the sigh is also the regret in playing the PS2 version, as the hard truth is it might not have been the best way.

For context, “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” is a 2002 open-world crime simulator that takes the elements of the groundbreaking GTA III and adds an ’80s Miami Vice aesthetic. Following the character of Tommy Vercetti (played by Ray Liotta himself), you rise the ranks of the mob in classic GTA fashion or mission hoping to colorful cast members, all stereotypes of ’80s action and crime movies.

The story is very simple but well executed, it being a by-the-numbers mob tale of rising the ranks, converted to video game fashion. Tommy is a capable character, packing all sorts of guns and weaponry (most of which is best acquired via cheats, most of which have to be dug up from 2000s forums on the internet). There are dozens of ’80s stylish rides to steal and drive, in a city map that is small but very compact in its design. Unlike the later GTA V, you can drive to your destinations in quick time rather than taking over-10-minute highway trips – quality over quantity, as some say.

The issues, however, do spawn mostly out of age. While the game was very graphically impressive for 2002, it really is rough around the edges in modern eyes. Worse by how later PS2 games as soon as 2004 upgraded visuals so much it looked on par with early PS3/Xbox 360 titles. That would be forgiven as with all old games if the gameplay held up. While not awful, it really makes for a difficult experience in the wrong way. The lack of checkpoints in missions makes failing a pain, as you have to not just do it all over but trek back to the mission starter from the hospital, as well as buy your guns and tools again (I eventually gave that part up and spawned guns with cheat codes at every death). Dying fast after just a few seconds under fire doesn’t help either.

In the end, where Vice City truly shines above all its competition in the series is the soundtrack. Rockstar pulled all the effort possible to make this the best soundtrack ever. It is a dreamy version of the ’80s where every song on the radio is a hit – Michael Jackson, Bryan Adams, so much electro-pop that makes you want to not get out of your car and play the game, just drive along the ocean highway and vibe to chill tunes. It is genuinely an S-tier soundtrack that will both give you the familiars as well as get you hooked on great new songs.

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All in all, Vice City is a flawed classic. A product of its time, and a time machine to a better time. It should be played, or at least kept on your radar for the remaster.

“Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” is available on IOS, PS4 and PS2.

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