Imagine the following scenario - somebody makes a groundbreaking game that has us all skipping meals and valiantly defending it from trolls on GameFAQs. A year or so later, we get a sequel which just feels like the developer just wants to cash in on the first game's success. Sounds familiar right? Fortunately, GTA Vice City was a fine example of the contrary, as it made everything that made GTA 3 great even greater by giving us motorbikes, helicopters and Love Fist.
GTA Vice City takes us from the mean streets of 1990s New York Liberty City to the lovely beaches of 1980s Miami Vice City, where the protagonist, Tommy Vercetti (yes, the leading man has a name in this one) is sent to do a coke deal, but then ends up screwed over and has to get the money and the drugs back. The storyline is influenced by Scarface just enough for the trolls on GameFAQs to not call it a rip-off. In fact, if you ever told anyone to say hello to your little friend and haven't checked out GTA Vice City yet, then crawl out from that rock you've be living under for the last 8 years.
The gameplay in GTA Vice City is everything that made Jack Thompson GTA 3's biggest fan and much more. In fact, Vice CIty is the only game in the GTA series where I can't find anything major to complain about. GTA 3 was a great start, but it was just that - a start. San Andreas improved on Vice City in a lot of areas, but just totally went over the top with things like having us sneak into Area 51 and stealing a jetpack or sneaking aboard an aircraft carrier and stealing a Harrier jet, which is far from what GTA is supposed to be, not to mention the RPG elements that felt tacked on and unnecessary, turning CJ into Blackagochi. GTA 4 took itself too seriously by toning down on humor, giving cars realistic handling (like a cow trying to ice skate), and of course your cousin calling to invite you to look at big American teeeeties every 5 minutes.
There's a lot of extra missions to do, the biggest of which is buying properties to bring profits. There's also some crazier things, like stealing an attack chopper to do police missions in, but unlike San Andreas, those kind of things aren't part of the storyline, just something fun to do when you want to take a break from the story. There's some player character customization in Vice City as well, as Tommy can switch outfits if you need to lose a 2 star wanted level, or just want a different look.
The in-game radio consists of 1980s classics such as Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Michael Jackson and Iron Maiden and also some talk shows with some really hilarious characters. Lazlow and Fernando Martinez make a comeback and are joined by some new radio personalities. My personal favorite is firebrand preacher Pastor Richards, who collected donations to build a statue of himself and have it blast off into space when the communists invade (it's the cold war, remember? those godless commies want to make us all share our game money with the homeless). GTA Vice City has one of the best soundracks of all time. It has single handedly changed my opinion of 80s musis and I still keep quoting Pastor Richards to this day.
Vice City uses the same graphics engine as GTA3, but thanks to the level design it looks a little better, as the concrete jungle of Liberty City is replaced by the sunshine, beaches, golf courses and colorful architecture of Vice City.
With all that said, despite some minor drawbacks such as the sometimes dodgy auto-aim, GTA Vice City is most definately a game that you should dig out and give another look, since it's a title that proved that GTA in 3D is not a one hit wonder