Vice City draws much of its inspiration from 1980s American culture. Set in 1986 in Vice City, a fictional city modeled after Miami, the story revolves around Mafia member Tommy Vercetti, who was recently released from prison. After being involved in a drug deal gone wrong, Tommy seeks out those responsible while building a criminal empire and seizing power from other criminal organizations in the city. The game uses a tweaked version of the game engine used in Grand Theft Auto III and similarly presents a huge cityscape, fully populated with buildings, vehicles, and people. Like other games in the series, Vice City is comprised of elements from driving games and third-person shooters, and features "open-world" gameplay that gives the player more control over their playing experience.
Upon its release, Vice City became the best-selling video game of 2002. As of July 2006, Vice City was, in the American market, the best-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time. Vice City also appeared on Japanese magazine Famitsus readers' list of all-time favorite 100 videogames in 2006, the only fully-Western title on the list. Following this success, Vice City saw releases in Europe, Australia and Japan, as well as a release for the PC. Rockstar Vienna also packaged the game with its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto III, and sold it as Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack for the Xbox. Vice City's setting is also revisited in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, which serves as a prequel to events in Vice City.
The game is set in fictional Vice City, which is based on Miami, Florida. The game's look, particularly the clothing and vehicles, reflect (and sometimes parody) its 1986 setting. In contrast to the gritty urbanism of Grand Theft Auto III's Liberty City, Vice City appears (mostly) clean and upscale, with golden beaches, waving palm trees, and vivid sunsets.
Vercetti is tasked with retrieving the money and cocaine and killing whoever was responsible for the ambush. Towards this end, he follows leads of Forelli lawyer Ken Rosenberg and contacts ex-military Colonel Juan Garcia Cortez, British record producer Kent Paul, real estate mogul Avery Carrington and an unknown man named Lance Vance. Vance is eventually revealed to be helping Vercetti as his brother and business partner was the dealer killed in the ambush, and he too is seeking revenge. Vercetti subsequently begins to do jobs for Cortez before being hired by drug trafficker Ricardo Diaz.
Suspicion for the ambush ultimately falls upon Diaz. Vercetti initially plans to continue the status quo to prepare for his own attack, but his hand is forced when Lance Vance attempts to take revenge himself. The two proceed to raid Diaz's mansion and kill him in his office. With Diaz dead, his empire quickly crumbles. Tommy and Lance personally take over Diaz's businesses becoming Vice City's cocaine kingpins and seizing the assets of several near-bankrupted companies.
Tommy becomes the head of his own organization, the Vercetti Gang. The more powerful and rich Tommy becomes, the more Lance begins to exhibit paranoid and sociopathic behaviors, to the point that he begins to physically abuse his own bodyguards and constantly calls Tommy in states of hysteria.
The Forellis find out that Tommy has taken over crime in Vice City without sending a cut to the don as required. The Forellis send collectors to force money out of Tommy's assets, although Tommy disposes of them. An angered Sonny Forelli arrives in Vice City with a small army of mafiosi and street thugs, intent on wiping out Tommy once and for all. When Sonny and his henchmen arrive at Vercetti Estate, Tommy attempts to bribe them with counterfeit money. However, Lance, having come to resent Tommy's substantial share of their profits, betrays Tommy and allies himself with the Forellis. In the game's climax -- a pastiche on the end of the Brian De Palma film Scarface -- Lance, Sonny, and Sonny's henchmen raid Tommy's mansion. Tommy kills Lance on the roof and storms downstairs where he faces off with Sonny. Sonny reveals he is the one who set Tommy up and had him kill the eleven men who were expecting him. Tommy faces off against Sonny, eventually killing him as well. His enemies vanquished, Tommy establishes himself as the undisputed crime kingpin of Vice City, with Ken Rosenberg as his right-hand-man.
Ricardo Diaz's opulent mansion and the climactic battle which takes place in it at a chapter's end, are very similar to their counterparts in Scarface. Another reference is the game's overall storyline, as it is highly similar to the film, as is the design of the final mission. There are also more subtle references, such as a hidden apartment room with blood on the bathroom walls and a chainsaw (in a nod to the film's "chainsaw torture" scene). Additionally, the "Mr. Vercetti" suit players receive when purchasing a local strip club bears a striking resemblance to Tony Montana's.
Most of the characters wear the then-fashionable white or pastel baggy cotton suits and, like Miami Vice, much of the action takes place in mansions, on speedboats, or in other glamorous settings. In fact, if the player's "wanted level" reaches three stars, an undercover sports car (called a Cheetah) strongly resembling a Ferrari Testarossa, which is featured prominently in Miami Vice, joins the police in chasing the player; the occupants of the sports car are two undercover police officers resembling the Miami Vice main characters (Crockett and Tubbs) in both skin tone and dress.
The Cuban and Haitian gang member uniforms are heavily based on clothes worn by two extras in a scene of the pilot episode of Miami Vice where Tubbs first arrives at Miami International Airport.
Other notable popular culture references include:
The game also features many references to 1980s trends and events:
Vice City features dozens of characters, many appearing only in the cut scenes which describe each mission. The voice-talent includes Ray Liotta as protagonist Tommy Vercetti, Tom Sizemore as Sonny Forelli, Robert Davi as Colonel Juan García Cortez, William Fichtner as Ken Rosenberg, Danny Dyer as Kent Paul, Dennis Hopper as pornography Director Steve Scott, Burt Reynolds as Avery Carrington, Luis Guzmán as Ricardo Diaz, Miami Vice star Philip Michael Thomas as Lance Vance, Danny Trejo as Umberto Robina, Gary Busey as Phil Cassidy, Lee Majors as "Big" Mitch Baker, Fairuza Balk as Mercedes Cortez, and porn actress Jenna Jameson as Candy Suxxx. The voice of the taxi dispatcher is provided by Blondie singer Debbie Harry.
Although the main character is not the same as the one in Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City contains a few characters from GTA III at an earlier point in their lives. Donald Love, a business tycoon in GTA III, makes an appearance as an apprentice to real estate mogul Avery Carrington. The one-armed Phil Cassidy from GTA III appears in Vice City as well, and one mission actually explains when and how he lost his arm.
Several of GTA III’s radio hosts can also be heard in Vice City: Lazlow, who was the host of Chatterbox, the talk radio station in GTA III, is the DJ for the hard-rock station, V-Rock, in Vice City (he mentioned in passing in GTA III that he used to be a DJ on a rock station). Toni, the burned-out, female disc jockey of Flashback 95.6, the 1980s music radio station in GTA III, also appears as a young, club-hopping DJ in Vice City's pop music station, Flash FM. Finally, Fernando, a self-glorifying procurer of women ("not a pimp... a savior," he claims) who appeared on Lazlow's show in GTA III, runs Emotion 98.3. Also naturist Barry Stark, a caller for Chatterbox in GTA III, appears as a guest on VCPR in Vice City.
Because Vice City was built upon Grand Theft Auto III, the game follows a largely similar gameplay design and interface with GTA III with several tweaks and improvements over its predecessor. The gameplay is very open-ended, a characteristic of the Grand Theft Auto franchise; although missions must be completed to complete the storyline and unlock new areas of the city, the player is able to drive around and visit different parts of the city at his/her leisure and otherwise, do whatever they wish if not currently in the middle of a mission. Various items such as hidden weapons and packages are also scattered throughout the landscape, as it has been with previous GTA titles.
Players can steal vehicles, (cars, boats, motorcycles, and even helicopters) partake in drive-by shootings, robberies, and generally create chaos. However, doing so generally attracts unwanted and potentially fatal attention from the police (or, in extreme cases, the FBI and even the National Guard). Police behavior is mostly similar to Grand Theft Auto III, although police units will now wield night sticks, deploy spike strips to puncture the tires of the player's car, as well as SWAT teams from flying police helicopters and the aforementioned undercover police units, à la-Miami Vice.
A new addition in the game is the ability of the player to purchase a number of properties distributed across the city. Some of these are additional hideouts (essentially locations where weapons can be collected and the game saved). There are also a variety of businesses called "assets" which the player can buy. These include a film studio, a dance club, a strip club, a taxi company, an "ice-cream delivery business" (acting as a front company), a boatyard, a printing works, and a car showroom. Each commercial property has a number of missions attached to it, such as eliminating the competition or stealing equipment. Once all the missions for a given property are complete, the property will begin to generate an ongoing income, which the increasingly-prosperous Vercetti may periodically collect.
Various gangs make frequent appearances in the game, some of whom are integral to story events. These gangs typically have a positive or negative opinion of the player and act accordingly by shooting at the player or following him. Shootouts between members of rival gangs can occur spontaneously and several missions involve organized fights between opposing gangs.
Optional side-missions are once again included, giving the player the opportunity to make pizza deliveries, drive injured people to a hospital with an ambulance, extinguish fires with a fire truck, deliver passengers in a taxi, and be a vigilante, using a police vehicle to kill criminals. Monetary rewards and occasional gameplay advantages (e.g. increased health and armor capacity and infinite sprinting) are awarded for completing different difficulty levels of these activities. Different sums of money are awarded for landing trick jumps in motorcycles or fast cars depending on the number of flips and height achieved.
The weapons, which range from a variety of mêlée weapons and firearms become available to the player as he or she completes more and more missions. Guns (such as pistols, rifles, thrown weapons and heavy weapons) may be purchased at firearm store Ammu-Nation or obtained via a weapons dealer, and other types of weapons (such as baseball bats, hammers and chainsaws) can be bought at various hardware stores. There are also heavy-duty weapons such as flamethrowers and rocket launchers. Another quirk is the inclusion of a camera, which is used in only one mission to capture pictures.
Various ports of Vice City also present modifications on the inventory of weapons. The PlayStation 2 version is the only version of the game to feature tear gas, while the PC version and the Xbox version from Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack features modified names of weapons (i.e. the MP5 renamed as "MP" and the PSG-1 sniper rifle renamed as ".308 Sniper") The Ruger assault rifle has changed color as well.
In addition to music and interviews, the stations also include satirical commercials, such as the Degenatron, a fictional video game console (Save the green dots with your fantastic flying red square!), likely a parody of the Atari 2600. The commercials and the game setting are consistent: Degenatron advertisements appear on billboards, and ads air for stores in which the player can actually shop, such as Ammu-Nation. Months before the release of Vice City, Rockstar Games created a Degenatron "fansite", which allowed users to actually play the "emulated" games.
|GameSpot's Best and Worst of 2002||Best Music on PlayStation 2, Best Action Adventure Game on PlayStation 2, Game of the Year on PlayStation 2|
|IGN's Best of 2002||Best Adventure Game for PlayStation 2 (Editor's Choice and Reader's Choice), Special Achievement for Sound (Reader's Choice), Best Game of the Year for PlayStation 2 (Editor's Choice and Reader's Choice)|
As of September 25, 2007, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the third best-selling video game in the United States with 6.8 million copies sold, ahead of its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto III, and behind its successor, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, according to the NPD Group. As of September 26, 2007, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has sold 15 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. As of March 26 2008, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has sold 17.5 million units according to Take-Two Interactive.
In November 2003, Cuban and Haitian groups in Florida targeted the title. They accused the game of inviting people to harm immigrants from those two nations. The groups' claims of racism and incitement to genocide attracted a good deal of public attention towards Vice City. Rockstar Games issued a press release stating that they understood the concern of Cubans and Haitians, but also believed those groups were blowing the issue out of proportion. Under further pressure, including threats from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to "do everything we possibly can" if Rockstar did not comply. Take-Two (the game's publisher) did agree to remove several lines of dialogue. This seems to have largely satisfied the groups who raised the complaints, although the case was then referred to a state court, downgraded from the initial decision to refer the case to a federal court. In 2004, a new version of the game was released, removing and changing those lines of dialogue.
In February 2005, a lawsuit was brought upon the makers and distributors of the Grand Theft Auto series claiming the games caused a teenager to shoot and kill three members of the Alabama police force. The shooting took place in June 2003 when Devin Moore, 17 years old at the time, was brought in for questioning to a Fayette police station regarding a stolen vehicle. Moore then grabbed a pistol from one of the police officers and shot and killed him along with another officer and dispatcher before fleeing in a police car. One of Moore's attorneys, Jack Thompson, claimed it was GTA's graphic nature - with his constant playing time - that caused Moore to commit the murders, and Moore's family agrees. Damages are being sought from the Jasper branches of GameStop and Wal-Mart, the stores from which GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, respectively, were purchased and also from the games' publisher Take-Two Interactive, and the PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment. The case is currently being heard by the same judge who presided over Moore's criminal trial, in which he was sentenced to death for his actions.
In September 2006, Jack Thompson brought another lawsuit, claiming that Cody Posey played the game obsessively before murdering his father, stepmother, and stepsister on a ranch in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The suit was filed on behalf of the victims' families. During the criminal trial, Posey's defense team argued he was abused by his father, and tormented by his stepmother. Posey was also taking Zoloft at the time of the killings. The suit alleged that were it not for his obsessive playing of Vice City, the murders would not have taken place. Named in the suit were Cody Posey, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, and Sony. The suit asked for US$600 million in damages.