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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Ah, Vice City. I remember it very well from my childhood葉he long, light-brown beaches, the pastel-colored garages and tenements, the Ferrari Testarossas coursing down the streets, that blond-haired guy with no socks blowing up cars with his shotgun, the serene Jan Hammer music...wait a minute, that was all on that one episode of Miami Vice I saw last night. Never mind.

The Vice City we're talking about here may look a lot like the Miami that Crockett And Tubbs rocketed around every week in the 80s, but there's far more to it than meets the eye. After all, this city's home to the new Grand Theft Auto預 game that not only lets you play the villain escaping those impeccably fashionable cops, but is also the sequel to the highest-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time. Does it live up to the hype? It's fair to say so.

Beat It
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is set 15 years before all the mayhem that took place during GTA3. You play Tommy Vercetti, a punk from Liberty City that just spent the last few years of his life in prison. He's sent down to Florida by his mob boss to scope out the local drug scene, but ends up caught in a coke deal gone bad. Now it's up to him to get both the drugs in question and the money lost in the process, along with the Cubans, Haitians, some guys from up north, whoever it was that tipped the cops off to the deal. What's the point of getting mad, after all, if you're not gonna get even later?

"Did you drop this rifle, officer? No? Do you mind if I take it, then?"
Vice City works basically the same as its predecessor遥ou have free reign around the city (though half of it is inaccessible at the start of the game) and you're basically allowed to do whatever you want. Assuming said "whatever" involves driving cars, stealing cars, attacking people, doing wheelies in the middle of rush-hour traffic, or sending an ice cream truck up a ramp and 200 feet in the air before landing in the ocean.

There are over 80 missions this time around, and they're tied together much more nicely this time around. The endless fetch-n-kill jobs you had in GTA3 are mostly gone, replaced with everything from drive-bys and remote-control helicopter bombings to golf-cart car chases and pizza-boy assassinations. There's easily a hundred hours or so of gameplay here if you try tracking down all the hidden packages and stunt launchpads, but you'll likely add a few dozen more to that figure just by cruising around, checking out the city sprawl (it's twice as big as Liberty City), exploring the insides of buildings, and scaring up the cash to buy strip clubs and condos.

I Ran So Far Away
Now, before I let myself espouse mightily about how addictive Vice City is, it may be best to go over some of its rough spots. Exhibit A: the graphics.

The city looks beautiful, especially at night when it's all lit up with pastel colors, and there are all sorts of amusing touches you only get to see with thorough exploration. However, for some reason or another, Rockstar decided to apply a blurring feature to all the graphics that make it seem like Tommy took some kind of really bad acid. This feature can be turned off, and it's recommended you do so as soon as possible, but the blurring also hides some of the graphic plainness that's an unfortunate necessity of the game's huge environments. The GTA3 pop-in is back, too用alm trees appear in front of you from just a few hundred feet away預nd the characters in cutscenes still look kind of like marionettes with their weird flipper arms. All of this probably won't bother you too much葉he game's just too darn fun for me to care傭ut it's still understandable why Rockstar didn't call this GTA4.

A breathtaking sunset marks the end of another glorious day in Vice City. Tommy is so mesmerized that he moves into oncoming traffic to get a better view. Perhaps he needs some glasses.
With that out of the way, it's time to espouse. Vice City is absolutely packed with new stuff to play with, and almost none of it is boring or badly implemented. Besides the usual new cars, Rockstar has added motorcycles and a helicopter or two to the city traffic葉he former are tremendous fun to drive, and the latter is great for surveying the crime empire Tommy builds up towards the end of the game. Ray Liotta (from GoodFellas) provides the voice for Tommy, and he's spot-on wonderful in the role葉he way he delivers each of his lines, from "I'm gonna get your money back, okay?" to "Hey, I like this shirt," fits in perfectly with his smart-ass street criminal role.

But the best praise should really be reserved for the radio-station soundtrack. This is 1986 we're talking about, of course, so the in-game stations play nothing but your favorites from the age of yuppies and wine coolers. Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, Mr. Mister, Jan Hammer himself葉hey, along with a few dozen others, are all in effect here. If you liked the hilarious radio chatter from GTA3, there's a ton more of that here, too. Make sure you're not in the middle of a multi-car police chase while listening to the Crocodile Hunter parody; you'll likely break into laughter and drive into a light post or moped rider.

Take On Me
When you get right down to it, nothing much in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is different from its predecessor. The aiming system's been improved, and the character models do look a bit spiffier, but that's about it. However, you'd be deeply mistaken if you think that means the formula's stale. The gameplay in Vice City is more addictive than ever, except now there's twice as much of nearly everything that made the first game so great洋ore streets, more cars (and other vehicles), more cool missions, more awesome street life. GTA3 fans won't be disappointed one bit, and those few PS2 owners who never played the last title are in for one of the most time-consuming games they've ever played. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a dirt bike I wanna send flying over this channel...

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Small Screenshot Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Small Screenshot Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Small Screenshot

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