Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Holy crap am I exhausted. My eyes, hands, and brain feel like burning noodles. Why? Because for the past several days I have been staying up until 3 A.M. -- only to go to school three hours later at 6 A.M. Once again, why would I do this to myself? Why would I want to put myself through such pain? The answer: Grand Theft Auto Vice City.
Purposely ignoring essential things like sleep in order to play a video game seems outlandish to normal people, but Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is THAT good of a game. Grand Theft Auto III was certainly no slouch either, but if you place both games side by side, Vice City easily blows it away like a napkin caught in a hurricane.
Vice City is even more violent than its predecessor, but what really makes the game so friggin' unbelievable is the sheer amount of depth and variations in the gameplay. In fact, the game is overwhelming in the beginning. Deciding what to do first is almost like a chore. Some people will just jump into doing missions, while others will want to just fool around for the first couple hours. The choices are endless.
This time around, Rockstar has really improve the variation of the missions. Granted, the "drive to point A and eliminate person B" type missions are still present, but everything is mixed up nicely and you'll rarely get bored over repetitive gameplay. For instance, one mission has you flying a remote controlled airplane loaded with bombs to blow up Cuban boats filled with drugs and another has Lance (your partner in crime) piloting a helicopter while you take out thugs with your assault rifle in a first person view. To make things more interesting and complex, Lance will eventually land the helicopter and you'll have to get out and travel on foot to retrieve an item.
Since some missions are longer and more complex, there are more chances to screw up and fail your objective. Luckily, the game usually allows you to accomplish tasks any way you see fit. For example, I kept failing one mission because the enemy always spotted me in his car before I had to chance to get close enough to kill him. So I decided to take a different approach. I purchased a sniper rifle and shot out his tires from a distance. This time when he tried to escape, his vehicle was too sluggish and I was able to catch up and kill him easily. Very satisfying.
One addition to the game that everyone will surely enjoy are the huge variation in vehicles. As you probably know, Vice City is not only filled with cars, but with motorcycles, scooters, boats, helicopters and airplanes. Out of all of them, my favorite new vehicle type are the motorcycles (especially the rice rockets). Not only are they incredibly fast, but they can cut through most corners like a hot knife through poop. The airplanes are much easier to fly this time around and the helicopters take some time to get used to, but in the end, they are equally easy to maneuver.
As for the peds, they are more life like than ever. There is a larger variation (there's that word again) in the type of citizens you will see on the streets and they aren't always walking like in the previous game. If you take a moment to look around Vice City, you'll notice people on roller skates, people sitting down or getting up from benches, people driving their boats around, people enjoying the sun on the beach, cops chasing criminals down the street, etc. You'll even observe rival gangs get into random fights with each other -- even if you don't instigate it!
There are a lot more interior areas to explore in Vice City. You can go into strip clubs, malls, drug stores, dance clubs, hotels, police stations, and more. Some interior locations are amazingly boring, while others are full of activity. For instance, if you go into the dance club, you'll see a large group of men and woman dancing to the music.
To be honest, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City isn't that much better looking than the previous game. However, two things that really stand out are the improved lighting and reflections. You'll often see glare coming off of vehicles around you and when the sun is setting, you'll notice sun light realistically reflecting off of the ocean. You can also see your surroundings reflecting off of other surfaces as well.
Characters models have more detail but they still look awkward at times. Animations during cut-scenes are smooth and they look very convincing. Textures on vehicles and significant buildings look better too. You can still see buildings and other stationary objects from miles away but cars and peds vanish if you stray too far. The point at which they disappear seems to be farther though.
I only spent 6 years of my life in the '80s, so I was little too young to appreciate the music back then. Hence, I'm not a big fan of the soundtrack in GTA: Vice City. Don't get me wrong, I like some of the songs, but the majority of them do not interest me. Of course, this is just my personal taste and I am sure many people will still enjoy the soundtrack that Vice City has to offer. Luckily, Vice City has not one, but two talk radio stations. Both of them manage to provide plenty of laughs.
Other than the music, I do have a few minor gripes about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. First off, aiming in the first person view is a bit on the sensitive side. As a result, it can be quite frustrating when you have to hit small moving targets. In addition, the game still bogs down when there are too many things going on at once. This usually only happens when you get five or six stars, so it doesn't occur often.
Despite some minor blemishes, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is easily the best game I have played all year. The gameplay is refreshing, the graphics are nice, the voice acting is sublime, and the replay value is astonishing. What more can you ask for? Vice City is a truly amazing experience.
Graphics: 7 Sound: 9 Replay Value: 10 Ingenuity: 9
Overall Score: 9.8
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