Played on the PS5
Knowing that the Trilogy works and plays the same as the re-release of the originals, my focus is still to see the improvements upon each iteration – including the fresh graphical look of the overall package. Vice City manages to showcase more of what we’d seen from GTAIII in terms of graphics, but manages to do more overall. The often clumsy gameplay mechanic of Vice City shines bright with this remaster and one I truly enjoyed compared to the previous iteration.
Salutations to My Little Friend!
We all know how Vice City plays out – after all, this is a nearly 20 year old game! However, let’s talk about the inspirations behind the game’s theme. Set in the 80’s, you play as Tommy Vercetti, a convicted psychopath who went down for a Mafia family, costing him 15 years of his life. He is now free to reign hell into Vice City, where the mob bosses aren’t too happy about. They send Tommy out to make a deal with some local gang members where he was inevitably set up and barely made it out alive. The money is gone and now everyone is pissed – Tommy vows to get their money back, which sets him out to become the most powerful man in Vice City. Now, the clear inspiration here is several aspects – the drug war that was rampant against Pablo Escobar, where his drugs plagued pretty much all of America, but especially Miami Florida – and of course, Scar Face.
This is fitting considering how Rockstar is setting this series up to be the most immersive crime simulator in the gaming industry, one that still holds up to this day with Grand Theft Auto V.
Vice City released just a year after GTA III – a lot of what played well in GTAIII translated to Vice City; the UI, mission prompts and even the hints given. It really feels more like an expansion than anything else – however, there are some telling aspects that really makes Vice City shine, like how Tommy is a speaking protagonist compared to the nameless one in GTA III. Or, that you can fly small planes and helicopters all over Vice City.
The overall map size of the city seems smaller compared to GTA III’s Liberty City, when viewed from the menu. But the design of it all is a lot more vertical. There’s traversing on top of rooftops and wider body of water to ride faster boats. Vice City is vibrant and alive, and often too alive given then nature pedestrians running you over, often, costing you progress on a mission most times – but that’s something I’ll touch on in a bit.
The New Shine on the Block
Lets speak on the graphical leap – compared to GTA III’s definitive look, not much has improved; you get the same grass textures on the ground that’s interactive with your character model and car, the same lighting and clarity to textures. Actually, even the car models look identical. The character models however are a bit better and more defined despite them looking much more bulkier compared to their original look. Lighting is a bit more present here given the nature of neon lights – they are everywhere, even on area’s where there was no lighting in the original. Reflections, I swear, their screen-spaced technique here feels more like low quality Ray Tracing; Rockstar North did one hell of a job on reflection all around, where elements outside of the screen is still being reflected, in real time! Volumetric clouds separating in real time can be seen on glass stores or even the hood of a car, or a small glass bottle. It’s actually insanely neat!
Every building has been retouched to a point that truly makes this remaster worth your 20hrs of grind time. Gun models are entirely revamped and all with the new gameplay improvements of replicating GTAV’s controls.
Speaking of gameplay tweaks, there’s a tone of quality to life changes that is truly welcoming – like how you can enter Ammu-Nation without loading into a black screen and seeing the guns hanging on a rack wall, or how you can buy property to amass capital to either buy more lethal weapons, or when you jump off of high places Tommy won’t fall flat on his face, but summersault instead for example. Vehicle handling feels far more arcade’y and less weighty which I’m not too much of a fan of – but motorcycles are introduced which is awesome. Other really neat things like how you can change your clothes is always a good, but I never understood why my clothes would reset if I was to get wasted or even when I save. Might be a glitch but it’s rather annoying. All the classic collectible things returns like packages that would net you powerful tools when completed, stunts, vigilante/paramedics/fire fighter missions and so forth – if you’re going for 100% completion, there’s more things to do here than GTA III.
However, with new gameplay elements comes new issues – like how you can’t change to whatever outfit you’d like in your safehouse; you would have to visit specific locations that are not marked on the map – same goes for property you can purchase. You would think with all the work added to the Definitive Edition, they would improve on this as well. It might be to preserve the original game, but no – fix that.
New But Old
The Missions design in Vice City is categorically different compared to GTA III. Up until this point, you would b-line straight to whatever mission is marked on a map with a certain letter blip. Complete that and more would pop until you finish the game. This time, you get all of that, but then it just stops – like, abruptly. Vice City does not give you an indicator on what to do next, you just are told via a cutscene that you want to takeover the city, but the game doesn’t tell you how. Soon after finishing the newly placed icon’s side mission, you’re left with no other objective until you as the player get so frustrated that you google whether the game is glitched or you missed something.
There’s a hidden objective; you must purchase 5 properties and do their mission chain to earn capitol – which can take a long while because earning money in this game is a grind, especially for what they have Mr. Vercetti go through – and one of the properties is mandatory, which you would have to either guess or look online on which one it is, which would then prompt a Final Mission chain – which would net you the end result of Tommy’s story.
It’s a mess. A convoluted mess. And I get it, at the time it was pretty much the next big thing to play and Rockstar really wanted the player to have an open-ended experience. But that gameplay methodology did not age well. At all. This is probably my biggest gripe because GTA: Vice City is otherwise an excellent game.
As an overall experience, Vice City far exceeds its predecessor in story, graphics and gameplay, but misses on the philosophy of trying to make the player grind and find their own way through their otherwise mastercraft of a city. This evolutionary step in the franchise has set a foothold to the next iteration that truly defined Grand Theft Auto for years to come: San Andreas. Look out for my review impression soon.
REVIEW SCORE: 8.5/10
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