This is another post from when I had a job that was smart enough to let me write blogs all day. The original post, along with comments from the k5 community, can be seen here.
First, let me list the good things in this game:
- All the radio stations are wonderful. I drove around aimlessly on the vespa scooter for nearly an hour just to see how much material they recorded for the KCHAT channel.
- All the voice tracks are excellent.
- The physics for car-driving were great fun. I especially liked getting a dump truck up to top speed and smashing into police cruisers.
However, I returned the game 3 days before the due date. Maybe the rest of you were entertained by the opportunity to beat cops and prostitutes, but the fun in that wore out pretty quick.
List of everything I didn’t like:
- The character animation was awful. Most of the dialogue scenes reminded me of Jack from Tekken (may his blocky soul rest in peace).
- At its core, the game consists of taking orders from bosses and running errands. That’s essentially my real life; how is this truly escapist?
- The hand-to-hand fighting is clunky and uninteresting. I lost plenty of fights because I would punch and kick in the wrong direction. The designers should steal some ideas from recent games like Onimusha or Mark of Kri that have done hand-to-hand combat right. And give me a chance to do combos!
- After a while, playing this game gets downright creepy. Do most ps2 owners really fantasize about this stuff?
I stopped playing at around the point where I was supposed to kill the Mob boss’s wife and make it look like an accident. You can call me whatever emasculating, effeminate names you want to, but I didn’t enjoy the fact that the game designers actually had the wife beg for help during that “mission”. Really bad taste. But not the good kind of bad taste, like what you get in early Jon Waters movies. I love that kind of bad taste. This was more like puerile misogynist bad taste from junior high study hall.
For those that are unaware, the gimmick with all the Grand Theft Auto games is that the player becomes a low-level criminal and interacts with other underworld denizens. In Vice City, players do stuff like kill mob bosses, blow up buildings, intimidate juries, etc.
When the first Grand Theft Auto 3 game hit stores, pundits argued that this first-person perspective glamorized crime. After playing for several hours myself, I don’t buy that argument.
Nobody that finishes this game will want to carjack a minivan and steal illegal microchips from a French courier.
Instead, if you’re willing to entertain the idea that the player is getting subconsciously programmed, Vice City is more likely to foster reactionary ideas about undeserving poor, the working class’s lack of morality, the futility of the welfare state, and the need for a brutally effective police force to keep the underclass in its place.
After spending the dozens and dozens of hours necessary to finish this game, the conclusion to be reached is that criminals deserve no mercy. You’re more likely to walk away from playing this game thinking like Pat Buchannan than wanting to be Tony Soprano.
There’s even weird pro-fascist themes: if you attack a cop, more cops come after you. If you kill those cops, police helicopters show up, followed by super-effective FBI agents. Contrast this with the consequences of using a meat cleaver on a prostitute and then taking her money. The message is that you can prey on the weak all you want, but you better not make a move against the establishment, or they will crush you.
Most of the characters that the player meets in the game are prostitutes, mafia members, crooked businessmen, drug dealers, thieves, etc; a panoply of suburban stereotypes about the inner city. These are the people that Tony Salvetti (the player’s identity) has to beat up or kill. The message here is that victims of violent crime are often criminals themselves. Or, if they’re not actually criminals, they’re still people of low character.
Instead of being thought-provoking, Grand Theft Auto Vice City pumps out an oversimplified, social-Darwinist, Reaganite view of the world. Perhaps that’s why the designers chose the 1980s setting.