On the 27th of October 2016, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will turn 14 years old.
Just let that settle for a moment.
That’s right. The game that brought you Tommy Vercetti, Emotion 98.3, and the delights of selling drugs from an ice cream truck is now well into its teens. For those of us who remember grabbing the game on release day and calling sick into school / college / work the day after, this might come as something of a shock.
Thankfully, GTA: Vice City was translated to mobile devices a few years back, so now even those of you too young to have played the game first time around can discover its joys at a bargain price.
Vice City has aged gracefully, thanks in part to its 1980s setting: the older its visuals get, the more it feels steeped in a bygone age. Compared to GTA V, sure, Vice City just can’t compare at a technical level – but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an absolute blast to play, and a milestone in the series’ history.
There are still plenty of reasons to love GTA: Vice City today, but we’ve picked just five of the best …
The Funktastic Soundtrack
Vice City’s soundtrack is one of the most unforgettable aspects of the entire game.
Anyone who’s ever played it will have their favourite radio stations and tracks; even today, hearing certain songs will transport you right back to those virtual streets. Perhaps you love V-Rock, with its rock and metal. Perhaps you come back to Emotion 98.3 again and again, for its heartfelt tunes. Perhaps you prefer K-Chat, with its hours of hilarious interviews.
There’s something for everyone, and Vice City’s soundtrack creates an authentic 80s atmosphere. Nothing can beat riding along a road near the beach while Foreigner’s ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ plays, or taking a leisurely rainy-evening cruise to the sounds of John Waite’s ‘Missing You’. Of course, being able to burn rubber as you escape from the VCPD while Iron Maiden’s ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ rocks in the background is always a treat.
GTA: Vice City’s soundtrack is so great, you can easily find yourself driving aimlessly while waiting for your favourite tracks to play again. But let’s not forget about the overall brilliance of the radio stations themselves. For example, who can forget Fernando Martinez, caramel-voiced host of Emotion 98.3with his romantic insights and funny anecdotes? There were also those genius ads for such amazing 80s-inspired TV series as ‘Yuppie and the Alien’ and ‘Just the Five of Us’.
Too bad we never get to actually watch them!
The Irresistible 80s Fashion
GTA: Vice City delivered an innovation we take for granted now: the ability to change clothes.
GTA III’s mute hero was stuck with just one outfit for the entire game, but not so for Mr Vercetti. No sir. This up-and-comer began his adventure in a stunning Hawaiian shirt, but could soon upgrade to a sharp blue suit (complete with the ultimate 80s must-have, of course: rolled-up cuffs). On top of this, Tommy had the option to wear overalls, a dapper golfing combo, a cop uniform, a jumpsuit-and-hockey-mask set, and even tracksuits.
Managed to achieve 100 percent completion? Well, then a cool ‘I Completed Vice City and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt’ top was your cheeky little reward. It’s fair to say that not everyone who played the game got to see this, though.
Not only does the variety of costumes help to keep GTA: Vice City feeling fresh whenever you find a new one, it also helps to make Tommy, and the world he lives in, feel more real.
By the time GTA: San Andreas rolled up, CJ had a massive selection of gear and accessories that made Tommy’s look tiny. Still, the deep customisation in subsequent GTA games all goes back to Vice City – and what better way to start it than with 80s fashion?!
The Upgraded Vehicles
GTA: Vice City added a whole new dimension to the 3D grand-theft experience: flight!
Thanks to the presence of seaplanes and choppers, players could now get airborne for faster travel across the huge in-game world. At the time, this was a major evolution in the series, and helped to make Vice City feel far, far bigger than Liberty City had only a year before.
Today, there’s still a real thrill to be had in soaring across the water in a stolen chopper, surveying the sun-bleached world below. Before, you know, getting out and killing everybody.
And let’s not forget the boats! Few things in the game make you feel as much of a kingpin than zipping across the water in a speedy little craft.
The Entrepreneurial Factor
Before Vice City, Grand Theft Auto games saw players climbing the ladder of the criminal underworld as a grunt. Tommy Vercettim however, wasn’t destined to be a working stiff all his life.
No. He had plans. Ambition. A need to better himself.
So, Rockstar gave us the chance to build our own little empires. Throughout Vice City, Tommy can invest in a nightclub, a taxi firm, a strip joint, an ice cream factory (a front for a major drug-manufacturing operation), a car showroom, a print works, and more. The more assets you get, the more money you have to spend on guns, explosives, and body armour!
In the spin-off, Vice City Stories, the business aspect was even deeper, with players free to invest in a bigger range of illicit operations.
The Fresh, Original Setting
Another reason we love Vice City? Because it transferred the fast-paced, violent, being-bad-feels-good GTA experience from the cold urban setting of previous games to a sun-kissed paradise.
The greys and browns of Liberty City were largely replaced by palm trees, convertibles, boats, sunsets, beaches, and roller-skaters. While the core gameplay was the same, Vice City breathed new life into the franchise, even when GTA III had just done it with the shift to 3D, expanding the universe to more tropical climes.
Now, rather than trudging endless streets as his mute predecessor did, Tommy could take a walk on the beach, ride a dirtbike around a trail, and even steal a golf kart to cause mayhem on a luxurious green course. This colourful, diverse setting is just one factor that helps to keep GTA: Vice City so beloved today – here’s hoping a future game returns to this iconic setting!
What are your favourite things in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Let us know!