After the success of Grand Theft Auto III, it was only a matter of time until Rockstar Games added a new chapter in the GTA series. The first time I was made aware of Vice City was with a simple teaser trailer. One view and I knew I had to have this game.
At first, it simply looked like this would be Grand Theft Auto III with the backdrop as Miami in 1986 as opposed to New York City of the 2000s, something most gamers would have been fine with. But low and behold, Rockstar basically took nearly everything in GTA III that was great and found ways to improve upon them.
The improvements start right off the bat with a new main character Tommy Vercetti. While Vercetti does bear a resemblance to Claude, Tommy is anything but a carbon copy of GTA III’s protagonist. Throughout the game, his life story is slowly revealed and unlike his predecessor Tommy, voiced by Ray Liotta, interacts with every character as opposed to simply being a glorified errand boy like Claude.
Having an Emmy Award winner voicing the protagonist is great, but that was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the voice actors. Tom Sizemore, Luis Guzmán, Bert Reynolds, Danny Trejo, Dennis Hopper, Lee Majors, Gary Busey, Lawrence “LT” Taylor, all have prominent roles in the game.
As one of many homages to the era, Philip Michael Thomas, best known as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs from Miami Vice has the second-biggest role acting as Tommy’s friend and partner throughout the game. Showing that they still have a sense of humor, Rockstar also had Miss Cleo using her infamous Haitian accent and Jenna Jameson voicing a porn star named Candy Suxxx (what are the odds?) and a sleazy Congressman cleverly named Alex Shrub serves as a hilarious mocking of then-Vice President George HW Bush.
While the graphics weren’t a big improvement from GTA III’s, since the games were only released a year apart, it was understandable. The other improvements may appeared to be minor, but they made a major impact. Vercetti could now change clothes and often was required to wear a certain outfit in order to complete certain missions.
Each type of weapon has several versions rather than no choices like in GTA III. The list of vehicles increased and now included various motorcycles (including mopeds, dirt bikes, crotch rockets and hogs), helicopters and seaplanes. Of course, no 1980’s themed video game would be complete without a fantastic soundtrack. True to the era and location, Vice City’s radio stations included new wave, salsa, metal and old-school hip-hop.
Put it all together, and Rockstar proved that Grand Theft Auto III was no fluke. The success of Vice City meant that nearly every future Rockstar Game released would be some of the best games possible.