Now that I’ve logged a fair bit of time with it, here’s my GTA: Vice City “Top Ten (Point Five) Things I Like About Vice City Compared To GTA3” list. It’s long, so I more‘d it.
Ten: Degenatron [link from Kent Paul.]
Nine: Indoor environments. Granted, they’re sparingly used, but even a minimal presence adds to the depth of Vice City. You can go into a dance club and beat up a couple of dancers (and bouncers), or you can work your way into the insides of the Police Department… something the cops really don’t like.
Eight: Wanted levels don’t seem to be restricted to three stars when you are just starting. I’ve managed to get up to five stars already, and I’ve only completed a few missions. One of the cooler things is that when you get to about four stars, the SWAT team starts rappelling down on you from the police chopper in addition to coming at you in their SWAT vans. At three stars and up, you get Miami Vice undercover cops coming after you in their sports cars. At five stars, the FBI comes at you in their “Rancher”s (80s SUVs). I haven’t maxed out the wanted levels yet, so I have no clue as to what the Army has in store.
Seven: You can buy properties and businesses. You get various benefits, like extra places to save, extra missions, or extra income. It’s nothing major, but it’s a nice touch. Besides, you can’t be much of a kingpin if you don’t have El Swanko Rancho.
Six: More melee weapons. The baseball bat was fine and all, but hammers, machetes, golf clubs, katanas, and chainsaws (!) are better… and bloodier.
Five: The story. It’s more focused, the voice acting is considerably improved (I guess it helps to have the likes of Ray Liotta, Gary Busey, Dennis Hopper, etc…), writing is better. Basically, it’s superior in every way.
Four: Radio. Man they loaded up on the licensed music. While it may take away some of the satire that GTA3’s music parodies provided, the licensed music in VC really adds a level of authenticity to the whole environment. It gives you a lot to listen to. My personal favourite station is WAVE; listening to WAVE is like listening to retro night on edge102.
Three: Tire damage. You can now get a flat tire, not that you’d want to as flats seriously affect your vehicle’s handling (naturally). The cops know this, so if you are wanted enough they try to shoot out your tires or they set up spike strips on the road in addition to their road blocks. The cars as a whole are much more damageable, but the tires add that extra zing.
Two: Vast spaces. Despite being more detailed, the environment in Vice City extends just as far, if not farther, than in GTA3. When you look at the map, Vice City doesn’t look that big, but when you drive its streets, you start to feel dwarfed by this massive city. One of the more annoying things in GTA3 was crossing from one area to another, as each time you had to sit through a long and boring loading screen. This appears to be vastly minized. If you drive around with the volume down, you can hear the PS2 chug chug constantly as it keeps on streaming the data. And while there are a few instances where the streaming causes some rendering issues, the fact that you can explore so much without worrying about long loads makes Vice City seem more cohesive than Liberty City.
One point five: Choppers. This wasn’t going to make the list initially because I had not encountered one until today. Flying one of these around really enhances #2 above, as you can see for miles.
One: Cycles. At first I thought that they would just be a cheap add-on, but they really add a lot to the game. There are four types of bikes, and they all handle differently from one another. They’re speedy and dangerous, they fly when you hit the ramps, you can shoot forward with the Uzi, and they are so much more fun to drive than the cars.
All the above things really make Vice City stand out as it’s own game, and not just a mission pack. Of course, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have problems. The following compliment to the “best of…” list is the “Top Ten Things That Annoy Me About Vice City.”
Ten: If you shoot someone’s head, they get decapitated. I understand that GTA is supposed to be over the top, but that’s a bit too much. Should have stuck with the bloody animation that was present in GTA3.
Nine: Speaking of blowing people’s heads off… you can shoot drivers in their car. Cool. If you blow their head off, they open the door and fall out. Stupid.
Eight: That irritating “streak” effect that’s set on by default. Luckily, you can turn it off.
Seven: Having Ray Liotta as the voice of your player character is fine and all for the cut-scenes (I personally would have preferred if your character remained silent, like in GTA3), but it’s annoying for in-game chatter. The little quips he makes when beating up people, stealing cars, or whatever, get annoying real quick.
Six: Fall damage seems buggy. Sometimes I walk down a step and get hurt. Then I fall a couple feet off a ledge and I don’t get hurt. Huh? Sometimes when running I get hurt for no apparent reason.
Five: The slow-mo camera during unique stunts was cool the first time. Please let me turn them off if I want to. They get irritating and make multi-jump stunts more difficult than they should be.
Four: The cops might be slightly more aggressive in pursuing you, but they are just as stupid as before.
Three: Cars seem to vanish more frequently. Often times when starting or finishing missions (or other things) that car that I parked right on the curb disappears.
Two: Instant water deaths. They’re even more frustrating than in GTA3. This one time I was driving a jeep on the beach and accidentally drove a bit too far into the water. The guy just sat there in the jeep and drowned even though his head was still above water. Have him automatically swim to the shore or something. It’s water, not cyanide.
One: You’d assume that Vice City would be less buggy than GTA3, but then you’d be wrong. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve noticed a considerably greater amount of glitches. For the most part, they don’t hamper the gameplay much — camera twitches, cars getting stuck, weird rendering problems. There are, however, a number of “what the fuck?” moments. I’ve had Vice City lock up on me once already (after failing a rampage, the screen turned white with green “Rampage failed” text. Never recovered. Had to reboot.) And during a failed stunt, I was magically teleported a couple of miles. Once I finally made my way back to the crash site, I saw my cycle embeded into the ground. It seems like crashing on your cycle around walled areas tends to cause certain glitchy teleports. I’ve had it happen a couple of times, but never as severe as the above time.