PC Review

Grand Theft Auto Vice City

PC gamers your time has finally come. Rejoice and bask in the joy of GTA.

I first reviewed a certain game by the name of Vice City in early November last year, and was rather pleased to discover that the title was something of an unsung gem. Of course, since my illuminating review that plucked it out of anonymity and into the limelight all you PS2 gamers have no doubt been enjoying its unique delights repeatedly in the months that have past. Well, now its time to share even your most treasured of toys because quite frankly those poor PC gamers have gone without their GTA long enough, which must be especially aggravating given the series first began there. Anyway, its here and you can buy – so on the off chance that you haven’t already, let me explain why you should.

Firstly, GTA Vice City is every bit as good on the PC as it was on the PS2, so if that’s all you came here to find out leave now – oh, just make sure your PCs at least of a reasonable specification – there’s a good lad. Still here? Well for those of you that approach this little beauty afresh (oh what a treat’s in store for you), you’ll be pleased to find yourself playing Tommy Vercetti, a young gentlemen of Italian descent whose just left prison. He (and you) arrive in the sunny-but-seedy world of Vice City, a 1980s Miami where Tommy has been sent by his mob bosses to carve ‘the family’ a slice of the pie.

PC gamers who played GTA3 on the PC will be delighted to know that the plot and it’s narrative have been honed and perfected in Vice City – with the story being told through some excellent cut-scenes, and the missions fitting-in nicely with everything that is going on around our somewhat disorientated hero. Of course, along with this much more involving plot, you’ve still got all the freedom to chose your missions or just wreak anarchy, but you’ll probably be so engrossed in the cinematic action of Vice City that you’ll genuinely want to progress Master Vercetti’s story – rather than be forcibly guided by it.

Couple this fabulous plot with the highly stylised and immersive setting and we’re already off to a winner. Vice City really is a crazy town, and also, from what I can gather a rather accurate portrayal of 80s Miami, complete with all the rags and riches juxtaposition that such a place embodies. You’ve got the cars, the music, the sunshine, the architecture and the tension – in fact Rockstar have got it spot-on. It really is marvellous, though I have heard it said that Vice City can be somewhat confusing and samey as a place – compared to the Liberty City of the previous game. This is of course but a minor point.

Naturally, there’s been quite a few additional changes over GTA3 – and whilst none of theme are revolutionary, developers Rockstar North have refined the original heavenly blend of genres to absolute perfection. Not only do you have the previously mentioned engrossing narrative, cut-scenes and expanding plotlines, you’ve also got an increased police presence, a whole shitload of motorbikes to drive, and a few new moves that can be pulled-off such as leaping dramatically from moving vehicles. Which is rather exciting to say the least.

The motorbikes add yet another level to the already complex options at the players disposal as you can now avoid the jam on the streets below and utilise a conveniently located fire-escape to race across the rooftops of Vice to complete your mission. You can even fire a weapon whilst driving it, should you wish to, and all in all this new element to the game has be superbly realised right down to the subtle balancing acts possible with the controls.

One slight gripe that I might level against GTA Vice City is in the graphical department. Not that the cars or scenery are in anyway a disappointment, quite the opposite, but the actual quality of the visuals can sometimes be a little ‘shabby’. Certainly, there’s a reasonable level of detail, but given the reasonably high system specifications it would have been nice for us to get a few better quality textures (which can at times be fuzzy), and a few less visual glitches. Not that we’ve come to expect massively high standards from console to PC ports, sadly, and at least the controls (particularly the mouse for aiming and shooting) work okay.

Which moves me speedily along to the music. Oh yes. Fans of 80s music rejoice (I did), and relive a forgotten era long before synthesizers became a rather embarrassing irritation. You’ve got Blondie, you’ve got Michael Jackson, in fact there’s hours of the stuff here – all accessible through Vice City’s variety of local radio stations (though BBC Radio Kent this is not), which come complete with the mandatory teeth-grindingly smug selection of DJs. It’s a real joy.

All in all the game, as you’ve probably already guessed, is amazing - and whilst the complex and convoluted freedom the game offers may be somewhat confusing and daunting to those who’ve yet to experience the GTA phenomenon, this is one game that all PC gamers should come to know and love. Even if you do find yourself dieing a few times, this is quite some game and one that other titles will be trying to mimic for years to come. You can even buy property in Vice City as your wealth grows - in some games this would be the whole point – but in Vice City it’s just something you can do for fun and it is this freedom to explore, experience and explode that will surely make Rockstar a few more million fans (and quid) with this conversion.

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