Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
2002 | PS2, Xbox, PC
The setup: After serving a prison sentence for murder, Tommy Vercetti is sent to Florida to make a drug deal for the Forelli crime family. It doesn't go well, and so Tommy sets out to save his skin and make a name for himself by cornering Vice City's drug market and buying out as many businesses as possible.
The rides: Helicopters! Sweet, sweet helicopters! And motorcycles! And speedboats! And another tank! And a bunch of cars, too, we guess. We weren't really paying attention.
The criminal: Tommy Vercetti, a wildly charismatic, acid-washed Mafioso-turned-drug baron. Voiced by Ray Liotta of Goodfellas fame, he was GTA's first real lead character.
The town: Vice City, a neon-drenched, cocaine-spiked facsimile of 1980s Miami. Specifically, the plastic-palm-tree version of the city that Tony Montana and the Miami Vice guys liked to hang out in. It's bigger than Liberty City - although it's still made up of three islands connected by initially wrecked bridges - and it's a hell of a lot prettier, too. It also features a lot more interiors that you can enter freely, including a convincing replica of Scarface's iconic Babylon Club.
The music: One of the best collections of '80s music ever assembled, this featured every dated pop tune you could possibly want to drive around a cartoon version of Miami to. Except Take on Me, sadly, although you could add it to the PC and Xbox versions using the custom-soundtrack feature.
The violence: Brutal and bloody, but still cartoony. Highlights include Tommy chasing down his backstabbing former employer with a chainsaw, and an epic shootout that mirrors the climax of Scarface.
Why it's the best: This was the first GTA to really bring a lot of personality to the table, specifically that of its charming anti-hero Tommy. It also revamps the controls and overall action considerably. And it reminds us of all the things that were fun about the '80s, like pink neon and bouncy pop music and chainsaw executions, while ignoring everything bad about the decade, which is to say absolutely everything else.
Why it isn't: Tony's arms-akimbo running looks kind of stiff and goofy nowadays, and the scope of Vice City as an environment doesn't even begin to approach San Andreas. Also, it's kind of ridiculous that water kills you instantly when you spend as much time on boats as you do in this game.
Does it hold up? Yes, but not quite as well as you remember.
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