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Grand Theft Auto Vice City Review: 20 Years Later

From 2001 in Liberty City to going back to 1980’s Vice City, Rockstar debuted what is considered one of the favorite Grand Theft Auto titles to ever come out in 2002…this was the release of Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Now nearly 20 years later, we’re looking back on the storyline in GTA Vice City (part of the trilogy GTA Trilogy Pack)and the changes from the classical gameplay used in Grand Theft Auto III released the previous year before.

The Tony Montana of the South

tommy vercetti gta vice city

He’s not Tony Montana (Scarface)…He is Tommy Vercetti that is coming to take over Vice City.

Known by his nickname “The Harwood Butcher,” Tommy Vercetti is an ex-convict after serving over a decade in prison for murder (likely occurring back in Liberty City in the 1970’s) and a former acquaintance of the Forelli mafia to what the mafia thinks he is to them… the “errand boy” to claim an empire in the South.

What the Forelli mafia doesn’t know is Tommy has other plans on his mind that doesn’t involve the mafia getting a cut or piece of the action of what is really planned in the drug trafficking and property asset race (likely to use the businesses as fronts to start counterfeiting, drug trades, and other illegal activities.) in the town that Tommy plans on keeping for himself to start his own empire.

Starting From Scratch in Vice City

ricardo diaz vice city

After a drug deal gone wrong in Vice City, Tommy Vercetti has to scramble to recover millions of dollars and keys of cocaine belonging to the Forelli mafia without having the unexpected target put on his head.

While finding out who ambushed the drug deal at the beginning of the game, Tommy must capture the opportunity to take over the whole Southern empire in Vice City from all the other gangs occupying the town while also providing favors to some gangs that may support his taking of the criminal empire.

From wheeling and dealing with many businesses to buy into protection while earning trust from unlikely people, Tommy must make decisions that would not only make people fearful of him as the guy will run the town; but, also make decisions to benefit his own syndicate while getting rid of those that deceive him.

GTA Vice City Gameplay

grand theft auto vice city gameplay

Set in the year 1986, GTA Vice City brings back the same 3rd person view featured in Grand Theft Auto III with fortunately this time a voice actor to voice Tommy Vercetti (who everybody would control throughout the game).

With a majority of the similarities brought back from GTA 3 like the opportunity to do the Import/Export side missions, off-road missions, emergency vehicle missions (Vigilante/Paramedic/Firefighter missions), and doing R/C missions…there are some slight differences in rewards for completing the side missions.

For completing all 4 import/export side missions, the reward is a “rare” car that will be unlocked and displayed on the showroom floor at the Sunshine Auto Imports business instead of getting the opportunity to get a car back from the imported list each time.

The completion of the Vigilante side missions would increase armor health of Tommy to a certain amount instead of getting a police bribe at the safe house while the completion of the Firefighter side missions gives the “fireproof” perk to Tommy instead of delivering a flamethrower to the safe house.

On the other end of side missions, there is no more objective of blowing up gang cars with an R/C car…instead it’s all about racing R/C cars & planes to do a time trial run with a R/C helicopter.

Unlike GTA III where the player received notifications by a pager, Tommy can receive phone calls by his contacts that will notify him of new main missions and phone missions…or one of his contacts will buzz him to waste his time (give the player extra dialog during the game or after the main campaign ends).

Onto the general mechanics changed from GTA III, the tires on the vehicles can be blown out and the cops patrolling the streets can deploy spike sticks to blow out the vehicles tires to attempt to stop player that has a 3-star wanted level.

Becoming a Hitman – Payphone Missions

Tommy’s side gig is simple…he’s an impersonated hitman that waits by the phone.

Remember the cell-phone Tommy stole from Mr. Teal (the chef that Kent Paul told Tommy to go question about the ambush drug deal), Mr. Teal turned out to be a moonlighting hitman…now Tommy must take his place as the “gun for hire.”

Usually after a campaign mission, the unknown man on the other end would call Tommy requesting him to go to a payphone location at a certain district to carry out the dirty work of assassinating targeted individuals that made the list.

There are a total of 5 phone missions that will be marked on the mini-map when Tommy ends the call with the “mystery man” on the other end of the phone.

Special Delivery – Pizza Boy Mission

One of the newest side mission types at the time that expanded on the 100% criteria in Vice City is becoming a pizza delivery driver in delivering pizzas to hungry people in Vice City.

This side mission is activated by jumping on the pizza boy scooter located at any of the 3 “Well-Stack Pizzeria” joints.

The player must complete level 10 (comes out to 55 successful pizza deliveries) in order to get the maximum health upgrade/perk for Tommy.

Just like the ambulance side mission, the pizza boy mission relies on the player to correctly strategize drop-offs based on distance and time to determine benefits for completing the mission easily.

Stadium Superstar – Hyman Memorial Stadium Events

Besides the Pizza Boy Mission being one of the newest side missions, the other side mission type that was required for 100% completion in Vice City is the “Stadium Missions”…this is not playing stick and ball sports like Football or Basketball.

Instead, the player got a chance to participate in 3 different events that included a demolition derby (bloodring), stock car racing (hotring), and running an obstacle course to collect checkpoint markers with the Sanchez bike (dirtring).

Each of the stadium missions will open up at 20:00 (8:00 pm) in-game…just look for the open front doors to walk through outside the front portion of the stadium.

Chopper Checkpoints – Sparrow Missions

The Dodo does not appear in Vice City; instead there are 7 aircraft vehicles in the game that allow the player to get to a destination quicker than driving from one part of the island to another.

One of the vehicles is the Sparrow which is used in 4 chopper checkpoint missions located throughout Vice City that the player must complete to work towards the 100% completion.

All 4 missions became available once the player complete the mission “G-Spotlight” to make the sparrows spawn at the locations on the map…even-though there is no marker on the map making the player know these missions are available.

The “Stick-Up” Man of Vice City

the heist vice city

The idea of having heists in a GTA V started out actually in GTA Vice City with the starting point being the player could walk into a store and wave the gun around to get the store clerk’s attention.

In Vice City, there are 15 stores from pharmacies, hardware stores, jewelry stores…even the donut shop to not just get the clerk to open the cash register to grab the petty cash; but, to rob the cops of their sprinkle donuts.

Without the store clerk raising the alarm, the player can place the aim reticle at the clerk for him to start giving you the cash; but, with the consequence being the more money you get the more the wanted level will be raised to the 3-star maximum.

Even-though there is no cash requirement in the 100% completion, the player should play the stick-up man role at the “minimal”…that being take the minimal cash, pop the cashier, and get away.

Creating Fronts in the Vercetti Empire

From planning the heist of the century in Vice City to distributing drugs from an ice cream factory, Tommy could buy up a number of businesses located around Vice City to create a number of fronts to hide his illegal activities.

By purchasing 8 different businesses, there are a total of 20 asset missions (including 4 import missions when purchasing the Sunshine Autos Dealership) that tie into the story and most of the missions must be completed before proceeding to the final campaign missions in the game.

Completing each of the missions per asset will unlock an asset collection (a profit) the business will collect daily that Tommy can bank to build up his wealth.

The other 9 assets from condos to apartments (even including the Vercetti estate and the ocean beach apartment provided in-game for free) available provide Tommy with another safe-house location or another “save point.”

Vice Street Racer Tour

vice street racer gta vice city

Vice City has its own racing tour and it is run by Tommy Vercetti himself…

From racing around the Escobar International Airport terminal to running an endurance race from one end of Vice City to the other, there is 6 races on the Vice City street racing tour…the best part is the cops don’t care about the illegal activity of street racing since Tommy bribed them to allow the tour to happen.

The street races can be accessed next to the Sunshine Autos Import garage only after Tommy purchases the Sunshine Auto dealership asset and business.

Viewpoints about GTA Vice City

Back in 2002, people didn’t know what to expect from Vice City since it was only released one year after the release of GTA III…people didn’t know if it would be ready and fully optimized on all consoles and the PC.

It took some time again with the help from the guys at the GTAGarage community and individual contributors on YouTube to create patches and the widescreen wrapper to fix the bugs and underperforming parts of the game.

Just like GTA III, Vice City deserves a remastered version to allow anyone to play the game in 4k (not that it really matters to me; but matters to others that have a PS5 or Xbox One X that are compatible to play 4k).

Onto the general take of this fan favorite hit, GTA Vice City is considered in my book the “breakout” and “ground-breaking” version out of all the Grand Theft Auto games that paved the way for San Andreas and later to GTA Online gameplay in GTA V in planning and playing as part of the heists gameplay…spending money to buy up assets and properties to spread out a GTA player’s wealth.

To get to play as someone remotely similar to Tony Montana or get a gameplay format somewhat similar to “Scarface” in GTA Vice City proved Rockstar wanted to hype everyone up to start their own empires as a drug lord in a GTA game…it hasn’t changed much for future GTA games (ask Trevor Phillips from GTA V).

While Vice City made way for a future in all Grand Theft Auto games, it never ventured too far away from the simple layout of GTA III that kept a simple, straight-forward layout to completing the campaign and getting 100% completion…Overall, Vice City wasn’t as dull and bland as GTA III

Grand Theft Auto Vice City Photo Gallery

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