Monday, 1 September 2008

GTA Retrospective IV - Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

  • Game: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  • Console: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
  • Developer: Rockstar North
  • Publisher: Rockstar Games
  • Released: 2002
You can imagine the board meeting at Rockstar when they were wondering where to go with the next GTA game - there they all are, sitting in their Skull Thrones™, sipping their newly drawn virgin's blood and having a cash-money fight when all of a sudden Little Timmy, the work experience lad, chimes in: "Imagine GTA set in the 80s. You know, with an 80's soundtrack. Neon, lycra, spandex, baby blue and pink everywhere, with Bros pumping out of the radio and everybody out rollerskating. It'd be awesome."

*awkward silence*

After they'd come back from sticking poor Little Timmy's head on a spike outside Rockstar Towers, Dan Houser (the Vice President, no less) addresses his slavering pack of barbarian programmers: "I think Little Timmy was onto a winner, actually, but let it be known that it was my idea and not some snot-nosed little git who interrupts my blood-sipping session! Although, let it be known that I never mentioned Bros. I mentioned Scarface, I mentioned Goodfellas and I mentioned Miami Vice." He said it and it was good and GTA: Vice City was born.

To differentiate the game from GTA III, Vice City was set in a sunny clime, rather than the wet and windy of Liberty City. Look, palm trees!

Released merely a year after GTA III, Vice City took GTA to a bygone era, an era some love, some detest, but most can never forget: the 80s. What seemed like a strange idea at the time became quite possibly the best GTA game released and, at the very least, the most unique. But what Vice City did best is capture the 80s perfectly. The soundtrack is spot-on, with tracks by A Flock of Seagulls, Michael Jackson, Judas Priest and Mr Mister amongst others (including some of the Scarface OST) to really capture the sounds of the 80s, as cheesy as that sounds. It's almost like a tribute to everything about the 80s, only one where you can bludgeon hookers to death.

GTA: Vice City still did what each sequel before it had done and that's improve and add to the gameplay. The lock-on weapon system was much improved, yet still not without its issues. Bikes were added, as were helicopters, and for the first time, players could buy property and make money from it. Also new for the series was a proper leading man, with a name and a voice. Tommy Vercetti, voiced by Ray Liotta, was the GTA series' first proper protagonist, and he came with his very own personality and back-story. Vercetti used to work for the Forelli Mafia family in Liberty City before going to prison for 15 years for his involvement with fifteen contract killings. When Vercetti gets out, the Forellis send him to Vice City to act as a buyer in cocaine deals. When he gets to Vice City for his first pick-up, he is ambushed, his bodyguards killed and both the cocaine and the money are lost to his attackers. He gets away, however, but is tasked by Sonny Forelli to retrieve the money and the cocaine and to kill whoever it was that set him up.

The above screenshot just screams 'EIGHTIES' at you.

GTA: Vice City
was heavily influenced by Scarface and the mansion Tommy comes into ownership of about a quarter of the way into the game is almost a direct copy of Tony Montana's mansion, including the famous upstairs office where Scarface comes to its thrilling climax.

GTA: Vice City was incredibly well received. It garnered almost universal acclaim and, as of March 26th 2008, has sold 17.5 million units, according to Take-Two Interactive. Vice City is seen by some as the defining point of the GTA series, much more-so than its predecessor. It shows that Rockstar can pull off setting, story, gameplay and size in one easy bound. The fact that it was made in not much over a year goes to show just how talented the people over at Rockstar are. However, the next game would build on Vice City's success in more ways than one.

Coming up: GTA grows to the size of an entire state in GTA: San Andreas