Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Grand Theft Auto Vice City Turns 10 (PS2/Xbox/PC)

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Console: Playstation 2, Xbox, PC
Released: 10/29/2002 (US, PS2)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar
Difficulty: Moderate
Value: $0.88 (used) $8.25 (new) ( – Prices for PS2 Version
Price: $5.00-$10.00 (used) $10-$20 (new) on eBay
Digital Release? Not Yet – ESRB suggests a PS3 and possibly Xbox 360 release and iOS/Android app should be out any day

When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2, Rockstar North single-handedly proved that it could make a clearly defined, open world that players could explore in a fully rendered 3D city.  It wasn’t until the follow-up, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, that the studio gave this concept personality.  Some think of it as a sequel, but in retrospect Vice City was merely an update to the engine that allowed to tell a side tale, which would be made available nowadays as a large DLC add-on.  It basically retells the story of Scarface within the GTA III engine, but adds enough detail and flair to the mix to place it among one of the top rated games of last generation – and even garnered it a sequel that started life on PSP and moved to the more prevalent PS2.  Personally, this is my favorite game in the series because it’s clever storytelling promotes completion of the campaign while the familiar 80s soundtrack brings me back to the early days of my youth.

Grand Theft Auto III was a technical achievement, but the silent protagonist without even a name was difficult to connect with because few of us have inclinations for the atrocities that character commits.  In Vice City we are given a lead, Tommy Vercetti, that has just broken out of prison after 15 years for the murder of eleven men.  With that information alone we have context for the type of person we are controlling and subsequently feel more comfortable being a sociopath.  Tommy has a past, a goal, and even some well phrased quips for anyone that gets in his way.  Furthermore he has established relationships, finds new friends and business partners, and is more than a goon for hire with a bunch of faceless mafia types on his way to the top, which makes him dynamic when compared to the previous title’s lead.

Tommy isn’t the only welcome addition – the world has changed too.  A previously drab re-creation of “Anycity, USA” has been rediscovered in a crystal clear adaptation of Miami, Florida and the neon excitement of 1980s pop culture along with it.  Signs glow, outfits are outrageous, and hits from the era performed by the actual artists loudly emit from your car stereo with more than two hours of continuous content – I have the soundtrack, it’s a whopping 8 discs long.  There are plenty of original touches as well: an Atari 2600-like game console you can actually play, K-Chat Radio’s hilarious banter on fictitious subjects, and a slew of user-controlled vehicles with everything from a 70s heap to military grade weapons at your disposal.  This is 1986 Rockstar style.

Aside from these tune-ups, the game still follows the basic GTA formula of going to a person for a mission, completing it, and moving on to the next.  By this point cheat codes with insane results were well-known and many fans of GTA III were screwing around in the city instead of “playing” the game.  It was a free time for video games, where everyone from the most casual to the most hardcore could have a good time and the 80s spin on things assisted even further in painting a fun light on a series plagued by negative press due to violence.  Of course it couldn’t skate controversy completely, there were plenty of repeat news articles claiming the violence was deconstructing American society.  Jack Thompson, a devout anti-video game lawyer that has since been disbarred, fought for video game bans and censorship, a 17-year-old blamed the title for why he opened fire during an auto theft, and Wal-Mart contemplated removing the fast selling title from its shelves.  Even the hot topic of racism was brought under the spotlight with the title’s gang war between Cubans and Haitians, but in the end Vice City moved more than 17 million copies and stands as the fourth best-selling title on the Playstation 2.  If you like GTA games and haven’t tried Vice City, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Written by Fred Rojas

October 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Have you any idea just where i could find a cheap ps3, i am on a budget and my
    son birthday is next month.

    pedro nautico

    September 14, 2013 at 3:39 am

    • Best places are Craigslist or local brick and mortar shops. If you have a local flea market you can usually get lucky too. Try to avoid eBay or online stores, where the prices are higher. These days a PS2 fat is around $40 used and slim around $50 used, so target about $10 less than that and you should be good. Also test it, run a game first, PS2s are notorious for booting fine and not working after trying to run a disc.


      September 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

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