Battle of the GTAs

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.


  • JosefMotley - February 15, 2010 9:26 a.m.

    Personally I think there should have been a "no winners" result. Not because I hate GTA. but because i loved it so much and have been continually disappointed by the series since vice city. obviously GTA3 is pretty much unplayable now and has no in-game map and ridiculous missions. by comparison, when vice city came out it felt like the franchise had been suddenly sold to nintendo - it was actually fair and fun for the first time. sadly they messed vice city up not with the game itself but with its painfully bugged, rushed and ultimately intensely overrated sequel san andreas. though san andreas was by almost all areas the worse game, the fact it finally introduced climbing meant it ruined vice city. san andreas is terrible plotwise in comparison and while it has some good missions, has far too many bad ones i never want to replay again. and now every time i try and play vice city again i'm just frustrated that you can't climb (couldn't care less about swimming, it was actually less annoying just dying in vice city, in san andreas falling in the usually led to deliberately drowning yourself instantly anyway, it was either that or swim round the coastline of somewhere for hours trying to find something you could climb up... AND THEY HAD LADDERS IN THAT GAME THAT WERE JUST FOR SHOW AND YOU COULDN'T CLIMB BUT STUCK OUT OF THE WATER TEMPTINGLY NONETHELESS. HOW DARE THEY) anyway so san andreas by introducing ONE good new feature managed to run the entire back catalogue of the series into the ground for good. question is: can you climb in vice city stories? if so, that's the only decent GTA left. i need to play it again and properly, not drunk in a roomful of people taking it in turns this time....
  • A.J_Smiles - November 9, 2008 9:47 p.m.

    Gang, I was rooting for Vice City. I mean San Andreas is obviously better, but VC was my first GTA game ever and I love it

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