It’s hard to believe that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is ten years old. The game was nothing short of a sensation when it was released, and is still to this day considered to be one of the greatest games ever made. Although the Grand Theft Auto franchise has continued on since the release of Vice City, it has never managed to recapture the sense of time and place that Vice City had, and it still feels like the definitive entry in the series to this date.
Grand Theft Auto III revolutionized the open world shooter genre with it’s expansive city, massive amount of collectibles, and memorable story telling, and Vice City added a living, breathing world to that formula. The city itself is filled with neon colored streets, palm trees, super cars, and people, and the whole thing feels completely authentic to the time. Many franchises since this game have tried to capture the sense of time and space that this game possessed (Assassin’s Creed for example), but none have been quite as successful.
Vice City is a game that involves roaming around a massive city and involves everything from killing gangsters to delivering pizza. There is a stunning amount of content in the game, and it’s likely to take the player at least 20 hours to see most of it. The city is filled with different cars to find, guns to collect, and money to make, and the only thing that stands in the way of the player doing whatever they want is the police force, who go from being an annoyance initially to a major threat to the player once the S.W.A.T. teams and tanks show up. The game is all about freedom, and it’s easy to experience most of what the world has to offer without even touching the excellent story missions.
It’s impossible to talk about Vice City without mentioning it’s soundtrack. This game has the best licensed soundtrack ever put in a game, and features songs by 80’s pop titans like Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, Foreigner, and Blondie as well as memorable one hit wonders such as “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls, “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy, and “Your Love” by The Outfield. The songs are all played through the car radio stations, each of which feature their own hilarious DJ (most notably fan favorite Lazlow, who appears in every game in the series). The iOS version also adds the ability to create a custom soundtrack from the device’s music library, which is nice but also might serve to diminish some of the atmosphere of the game.
The rest of the audio design is fantastic as well, with cars making satisfying noises as they slide around corners, guns having a distinctive pop to them, and a satisfying level of background noise to help portray the city as being alive. The voice acting is nothing short of fantastic and Ray Liotta’s portrayal of Tommy Vercetti helped to create one of the most memorable characters in the series.
Despite being ten years old, Vice City still holds up well in the graphics department. This is due to the first-rate art direction, which crafts up a vibrant and beautiful 1980s version of Miami. If there was a game that could make the argument that art direction is more important than pure graphical power and polygon count, this could be the one. I played the game on an iPhone 5, iPad Mini, and iPad 3 and experienced no crashes or game breaking glitches and the game suffered only a few frame rate issues. The game also looks better than it’s console counterparts thanks to some smoothed out textures and character models.
When the game came out on Playstation 2, it used up most of the buttons on the controller and was considered a complex game to control. The iOS version does not help this issue in any way and the touch screen controls make the game almost impossible to play at certain points. Porting a console game over to a touch interface is not an easy task, and this game does little to take advantage of the platform. The controls are slightly better than the ones in last year’s port of GTA III thanks to resizable buttons, but they are by no means ideal. In Vice City iOS, you’ll die countless times because of the controls, and while this may be frustrating, it only slightly mars an otherwise spectacular game. The automatic aiming when shooting was most likely added to help aid with the problem of iOS controls, but it only comes in handy some of the time, and is a major hinderance when the player finds themselves surrounded by civilians or other characters that they don’t want to kill.
Ten years ago, Vice City was considered to be a masterpiece and the essential game of the Playstation 2 era to play, and now with its rerelease, it is the must play iOS game of the year. The questionable controls do little to hurt the reputation of this game, and honestly it will suck you into its world for days. Let’s just hope that you don’t have “Video Killed the Radio Star” stuck in your head for the weeks after.
Final Verdict: Vice City was the must buy Playstation 2 game at the time of its release, and now with this anniversary edition, it is the must buy game of the year on iOS.