Auto 3 was a stunning display of ingenuity, story telling, and
interactive freedom. Critically and commercially, GTA 3 was a
blockbuster. The fact that it virtually came out of nowhere only adds to
the legend and the mystique. A sequel was preordainedseveral in all
likelihoodand the fact that Sony secured exclusive rights to the series
was a spectacular score in the incredibly competitive console
warswhich, contrary to what Sony will tell you, are anything but over.
consideration of GTA 3 shows two equally notable truths. First, its
capacity for violence is unparalleled. Its not even close. Policeman
look at you funny? Take a flame thrower to him. Bored? Open fire on the
crowed, wait for the Ambulance, shoot the driver, and go for a joyride.
Alternatively you might pick up a hooker and pay for some fun. If its
too expensive, you can beat her to death and get your money back. This
is just the surface and a detailed account of potential decadence is
beyond what I can (or desire) to accomplish here. The second notable
aspect is the incredible freedom of GTA3s Liberty City: the city was
alive with interactive pedestrians, vehicles, crime, corruption, more.
To some extent there was freedom in developing the storyline and to a
larger extentand this is perhaps more importantthe illusion of freedom
was present. While you couldnt change the nature of the city or the
narrative paths open to you, you could close off paths by your choice
and the tantalizing possibility of a story with so much freedom that you
could literally choose your own way through story seemed just out of
reach. With the announcement of GTA: Vice City, I was most intrigued
wondering which of these two selling points would be expanded. And now I
fitting in some way that the decade of decadence comes so vividly to
life in Vice City. The 80s motif is phenomenalthe
music most of all. Its an amazing achievement that Vice City was
able to secure a virtual whos who of 80s music--seven hours worth on
Vice Citys radio. Talk radio is back, of course, and public radio makes
an appearance. Both are relatively successful with their satire and less
than subtle jibes at American culture.
are vastly more weapons this time aroundmore handguns, shotguns,
machine guns and so forth, but he biggest addition is the expansion of
melee weapons. In addition to the bat and police baton you can use a
hammer, a sword, a screwdriver and a chainsaw, among others, to inflict
gory carnage at will. The ability to use these weapons to trash carsfor
intimidation, destruction, or funis an improvement in immersion, as is
the ability to shoot out the tires of vehiclesand have them shot out on
no licensed vehicles, but identical substitutions for popular 80s cars
abound, especially sports cars. New to Vice City is the ability to use
motorcycles and scooters of various sorts. This adds a more maneuverable
and more dangerous alternative into your escape plan.
increase in wheeled options is nice since youre going to need them.
Vice City is twice the size of Liberty City. Many familiar shops return,
but there are new ones as well. The ability to make a quick stop in the
clothing boutique is nicea change of threads is cop camouflage,
lowering your wanted level if it isnt too high. There are hardware
stores with a variety of tools for sale. Theres nothing that needs to
be fixed, but if you need a screwdriver to stick in someone, youre in
luck. The ability to enter buildings is also greatly expanded. This has
two positive effects on the gameplay, first by increasing the
interactivity and living illusion that is vice city and second by
further increasing the size of the city. On the downside, the feature is
highly selective, and most buildings are in no way accessible. On the
upside, you can buy certain propertynightclubs and so forthto make and
launder money because this time youre not just trying to be big; youre
trying to take over.
Yet as successful as all this is, in the end its a shiny coating
over something thats deceivingly hollowmuch like the 80s themselves.
interactivity of the story was what I really wanted to see improved and
at its best it stood still and at its worst it has began to backslide.
There are no branching paths or real choices to be made and thus no
consequences for either your decisions or your methods. While GTA III
also lacked branching storylines, it had the ability to close off
certain paths by making certain decisionsthe beginnings of an
interactive narrative. Yet Vice City, which should have expanded this
idea, has back-peddled, abandoning even this rudimentary nod to freedom
and consequence. There also should have been more freedom in negotiating
individual missions. For example, one mission has you racing other boats
to receive a drug shipment. I find Im not much of a boat pilot. Logic
would dictate that I use my strengths to compensate for my weaknesses.
Maybe I want to stand on the dock with the sniper rifle I just bought
and shoot the rival drug dealers as they race by, and leisurely proceed
to my destination. Or maybe in the midst of the race Id rather toss a
grenade into a rival boat and sink it instead of race it. But I cant. I
have to get in my boat and complete the mission in the only way allowed.
Some missions allow more freedom than others, but ultimately Vice City
doesnt do enough to accommodate creativity (or viciousness, as in the
larger, narrative driving scale, Vice City is content to give you
"freedom" to do whatever you want, while propelling you on what amounts
to a guided tour. In Vice City there is an abundance of things to do in
your free-time, at your own pace, but as for moving the game forward
were still just turning pages. GTA III offered a tantalizing glimpse
that suggested something better but this promise largely goes unrealized
in Vice City.
at stake here, it seems to me, is something very important. What hangs
in the balance here is an adventure of vision. And this adventure of
vision is in danger. What I wanted was an evolution and what I got was
more clubs to beat hookers with. I am worried because this road goes
nowhere. If this is the path of industry evolution, where do we go from
here? What will GTA 4 do? What will the competitors dare to do, to carve
out a chunk of the GTA fortune? Rape simulations arent in a game yet...
sure a lot of gamers will complain that Ive been too hard on Vice City,
and when they say that Vice City is a brilliant game, they are of course
right in many respects, but my criticism still stands. If it makes any
difference, I am critical of Vice Citys shortcomings because I love
this industry and I love the art it produces, and I fear it is choosing
a path that is not in its own best interestthe short term financial
you enjoy Vice City? Yes, assuming you liked GTA III; Vice City is,
after all, more of everything the same, bigger and more. The 80s theme
livens things up even for those saturated with GTA III; on the other
hand, there certainly isnt anything here we havent seen beforefor
better and for worse.