Moving from one controversial franchise to another, I played the original GTA when it came out on the PC and hated it. I’m just not a fan of the overhead view and the controls were awkward. Fortunately, they took the themes that made the game mildly interesting and recreated them with GTA3, a game that would in essence, inspire a new genre and spawn thousands of clones. Riding the wave, Vice City was the first release after 3 and it combined everything that made GTA3 a great game with the pure awesomeness of the 80’s. Rockstar is a fitting name for the company.
The game is littered with references and homages, an apartment building has a room with bloody bathroom and a chainsaw in the tub, a Scarface nod. Miami Vice references here and there, it’s like a game based on all of the cool parts of the 80’s (or maybe it’s just the clichés.) You play a dude voiced by Ray Liotta who gets out of jail and connects with a clone of Sean Penn’s lawyer character in Carlito’s Way. Everything is bathed in neon as men in pastel suits drive past you in a white Ferrari clone with a blonde in the passenger seat. Until you stand in front of the team and jack the car, shoot the dude and drive like a maniac with the blonde in the passenger seat who escapes when you finally crash.
The graphics are solid but you get a bunch of glitches here and there; camera issues, slowdown, the ability to walk through walls, etc. Controls are decent but sometimes it’s difficult to survive in a gun fight because the controls make it difficult to quickly switch between targets, I found myself picking off random pedestrians while a dude was standing right in front of me shooting. Of course that person is usually a cop because I will sometimes avoid a mission and just try to rack up as many wanted stars as possible.
Voice acting is always solid with GTA games and the characters and story are strong, some of the missions are a bit crazy at first and it takes a few retries but it all fits into the game, nothing feels monotonous or redundant.
I mentioned the soundtrack for Driver: Parallel Lines being strong but this one might be the greatest of all time. Multiple in-game stations with various genres and all its pure 80’s music, I think I can easily say that it is the greatest video game soundtrack of all time. Easily. I just drive around cruising, listening to the music while swerving wildly as I try to control my car. Yes that’s how I play GTA: Vice City, avoiding missions just so I could listen to the stations and accidentally run over the goofy walking people. Actually what’s up with that? Why do the people walk like they have some sort of physical ailment? Weird.