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Graphics : 7.5

If you've played Grand Theft Auto 3, you know how Vice City looks. In fact, despite what you might have read before the release of the game, the graphics engine is the same of the preceding instalment - a confirmation that more than a true sequel, Vice City is a continuance of the experience offered by Grand Theft Auto 3.

This means that the same problems that were evident in Grand Theft Auto 3 are still here. The draw distance has been improved, at least when it comes to rendering bigger objects like buildings, bridges and similar structures; anyhow, all the other smaller objects, like streetlamps, palms, pedestrians, and vehicles usually pop-up from nowhere at mid distances. The problem becomes more evident in certain areas of the city, where the engine has to render more objects simultaneously. The game seems to run roughly at 30fps, but it drops very often below this framerate. This may undoubtedly annoy you, but after a while you should get used to it - and if you played Grand Theft Auto 3, you know what I'm talking about. Aliasing problems are always evident, and they affect vehicles, objects, buildings and character models. Anyhow, clipping issues are what I really hated in the visuals of Grand Theft Auto 3, and they are here, in all their glory. Playing the game you'll see walls disappearing, motorcycles entering into the solid wall of a building, or maybe you'll just have the frightening experience of seeing your chainsaw mysteriously sucked by that hungry wall just on your right. Finally, the textures look at best decent, and often look just bad - a problem that's pretty understandable, considering the size of the environments and the amount of objects simultaneously displayed on screen.

Considering the length of the above paragraph, it's evident that Vice City offers a rich selection of glitches. But I also wonder how many of you will really care about this stuff. Chances are you'll insert your brand new disk of Vice City into your Playstation 2 and you'll start playing the game in a no-stop gaming session of twelve hours, until your thumbs will start bleeding. In fact, this flawed graphics engine is still able to finely serve the gameplay and to absorb the player, like it did with Grand Theft Auto 3.

When compared to last year's game, Vice City seems the result of a more elaborate stylistic research that brings on your screen the "fictional" Eighties in all their kitsch glory. Vice City is a sunny, hot place that recreates the pastel colors and the appearance of a Floridian city; Liberty City was a gloomy, dark place, apparently more menacing than Vice City. The developers created a city that's at the same time huge and impressively varied. Each spot looks different from the others; from small two-storied buildings that come in colors like yellow, pink or green to big skyscrapers, from gigantic villas at the seaside to big hotels for tourists, the exteriors of Vice City are lively. At night, neon signs and decorations light up, and the streetlamps emanate a warm yellow light - the weather effects already present in Grand Theft Auto, including rain, wind and clouds moving in the sky adds the rest and successfully create a strong sensation of realism, despite the limits of the engine.

The interiors look quite good, even if interaction is non-existent. Don't expect to sit down on chairs, move objects or grab that bottle of wine; you can't destroy anything with your weapons, and that's a bit of a shame considering what kind of game Vice City is. The textures used for the interiors are sometimes better than the ones used outdoors, but in certain bigger places like a big shopping mall they look often awfully bad. Another problem is that the camera, that works pretty fine when you are outside, becomes terrible in the interiors. It frames badly your character, and it fastidiously tends to go through walls, incrementing the already evident clipping issues.

The character models look a bit more detailed than those in Grand Theft Auto 3, and more of them are displayed simultaneously on screen. They're still not enough to give you the illusion you're visiting a city like Miami during the peak season, but when you see two dozens of people dancing into the Malibu Club while the bartender is working behind the counter you'll feel part of something that's bigger than you. The character models are extremely varied; dozens of different clothes have been designed for the game, and a lot of work was put into the creation of new animations. Exploring Vice City you'll see people skating, dancing, sunbathing, chatting, tourists taking photographs, criminals escaping from angry policemen, and much more.

The vehicles look as the ones in Grand Theft Auto 3, and they can be damaged and destroyed at your pleasure; fake reflections and simple sun glares were added to spice things up a bit, but there were many PsOne games offering effects of this quality. What surprises is the quantity, not the quality. There are more vehicles than in Grand Theft Auto 3, and there is much more variety. Motorcycles and helicopters are cool and as you may expect, you'll see plenty of hot fast cars in Vice City, designed with real existing models in mind; the Infernus is a Lamborghini Countach, the Cheetah is a Ferrari Testarossa, the Comet is a Porsche. The mighty Delorean is also here, but it's called Deluxo and it hasn't the legendary gull-wing doors - and no, you can't travel through time if you reach 88 Mph. I guess we can't have everything.

Overall, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City boasts a graphics engine that while able to create a vast and breathing city, looks outdated after one year from the release of Grand Theft Auto 3. This doesn't mean that the enormous work of the developers shouldn't be appreciated. In one year, they've created a realistic, believable city, putting together thousands of textures, polygonal models, dozens of different animations, weather effects, and much more. There are few games that can offer a world as big as the one created by Rockstar North for Vice City.

Sound : 10.0

Much more impressive than the graphics, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 's sounds take Grand Theft Auto 3 excellent and original audio to a new level.

Once again, there is no background music; the in-game radio stations are still the only source of music, and you can listen to them every time you enter a vehicle. While the idea of featuring in-game radio stations was already an impressive technical achievement and a brave development choice in Grand Theft Auto 3, this time Rockstar North did everything to beat any record. The game features 10 radio stations; three of them are funny, absurd talk radio stations, and seven broadcast real music from the Eighties. Overall, the game features more than 100 real songs from the most colorful decade of the past century, passing through the most popular genres of the period. Each radio is specialized on a genre; V-Rock broadcasts only hard rock (Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Ozzy Osbourne), Emotion offers plenty of love songs for the tender criminal (with artists like Kate Bush, Cutting Crew, John Waite), Espantoso offers Latin music, Flash is the right choice for all things mainstream (Michael Jackson, INXS, Lionel Richie, Bryan Adams), but in other stations you can also get a taste of rap, new wave or underground music.

Voice acting is also amazingly well done, thanks to a cast of great actors that provided their voice talents for Vice City. The extraordinary Ray Liotta is Tommy Vercetti, Dennis Hopper is Steve Scott (a sort of evil, corrupted caricature of Steven Spielberg), Jenna Jameson is the porn actress Candy Suxxx - and the list continues with actors like Burt Reynolds, Phillip Michael Thomas, Gary Busey and many others. And finally there are more than other 100 persons that gave their voices to supporting characters or pedestrians. And often pedestrians will actually say something according to your behavior or clothes; in one of the first missions you have to wear a terrible golf suit complete with a pair of tight trousers - well, walking around the street with this suit, I've heard a huge black guy saying "nice ass, baby". Hey that scared me!

And even with all the work put in the creation of the soundtrack and in voice acting, the developers had the time to include great sound effects; each weapon sounds unique, the cars seem to have different engines, every time you hit a pedestrian with a car you hear that unique "squash" sound, and hitting a car with a bat or a hammer has never sounded better. I just want to turn on the Playstation 2 to hear the sound of my hammer on the windshield of an expensive Infernus.

Overall, brilliant, original, endless, and technically surprising sounds. No game sounds like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - an amazing job, let me say.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City offers just about 20 story missions against the 50 of Grand Theft Auto 3; this inevitably may make the game shorter for the players who play Vice City like they would play a game like Metal Gear Solid 2. But all the other pure criminals will find their match here. In fact, while Vice City delivers a more refined storyline than its predecessor, it also includes more side-missions, more vehicles, more weapons, and an innumerable amount of extra stuff. There are more than 20 big side missions, 6 different "R3" job missions, Arena and street races missions, more than 30 rampages, and you still have to perform Insane Stunts and find all of the Hidden Packages if you want to fully complete the game.

When speaking of replay value, a consideration should be made about the increased complexity of the missions in Vice City. As I mentioned in the gameplay section, all the main missions are divided in many parts, and few of them are terribly difficult. This can be annoying for many players, because it happens that in order to unlock the next missions you are forced to play through a mission that you just can't stand a dozen of times. Anyhow, players who played Grand Theft Auto 3 will find in Vice City an overall easier challenge, but not because the game is by itself easier; simply, if you have already mastered Grand Theft Auto 3, you'll start the new game with a big advantage. In fact, unless you are an evil cheater, after hours and hours into Grand Theft Auto 3 you should be nearly perfect in driving vehicles and handling weapons and you should know the tactics and the little strategies that can help you complete successfully the game.

On the other hand, newcomers will probably find more difficulties in Vice City than in Grand Theft Auto 3, and they could be shocked by the freedom and the amount of things you have to do to reach the end. Vice City is an enormous game, and everybody can spend hours and hours just roaming the city, robbing shops, disturbing innocent tourists, and doing all the criminal rest that - Rockstar knows it - you like.

Overall Score ( not an average ) : 9.0

Overall, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City plays like last year's Grand Theft Auto 3. There are many major and minor additions, but all of them are expected extensions of the game mechanics that made of Grand Theft Auto 3 such a memorable game. You can start businesses, play more side-missions, rob stores, enter in more places than in Grand Theft Auto 3 - from many points of view, Vice City offers exactly what Grand Theft Auto 3 offered plus something more. That's why fans of last year's game shouldn't be even reading this review - just go and buy a copy of the game now.

For the ones still reading, there is a final question: is Vice City the gaming experience we were all expecting? Maybe. It fails in points where more than a player was probably expecting some necessary improvement. The story is away from even touching the richness of movies like Scarface, the targeting system is unsatisfying (is it of secondary importance in a game supposed to be a "crime simulator"?), the save system is obsolete, the graphic engine looks sometimes inadequate and it's affected by too many glitches. Oh yes, and you can't swim.



Page 1: Gameplay

- Harry (25 Nov, 2002)


Scores
Gameplay
9.0
Graphics
7.5
Sound
10.0
Replay Value
10.0
Overall Score
9.0



Developer
Rockstar North
Publisher
Rockstar Games
Origin
U.K.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
October 27th, 2002
Europe
November 8th, 2002
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More screenshots of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City



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