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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the PC needs no introduction. Not only is this game in many ways better than its amazing predecessor Grand Theft Auto III, but it's also technically superior to the original version of Vice City that was released on the PlayStation 2 a number of months ago. Like GTAIII for the PC, Vice City is identical to the original PS2 version in terms of content, so if you've already played that version to death, you won't find the PC version to be much different. However, the PC version of Vice City does offer enhanced visuals and controls, improved loading times, and a few extra frills. More importantly, it offers the same refreshingly open-ended gaming experience, which has occasionally been reviled for its controversial subject matter, but has far more often elicited much-deserved praise. Simply put, if by some chance you've put off playing Vice City up till now, don't wait any longer.

Despite all its other great qualities, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City's audio turns out to be one of the best things about it. Like all the other GTA games before it, Vice City features a soundtrack that consists of the various radio stations you'll be listening to as you drive around in stolen vehicles. These are themed after the sorts of stations you'd expect to hear in '80s-era Miami: There's a new-wave station, a rock station, a rap station, a metal station, and even a Spanish-language station, plus a couple of talk-radio stations for good measure. Suffice it to say that there are hours upon hours of recognizable radio hits from all genres of '80s music on this soundtrack, so even if you never touched the game's controls, you'd practically be getting your money's worth out of this game just by virtue of its being an excellent compilation of '80s tunes. The radio stations all have their own DJs, many of whom are very well written characters in their own right, and you'll even hear radio spots that cleverly mock the sorts of products that made the rounds in that era. Vice City's audio ultimately deserves most of the credit for establishing the game's atmosphere, and other than the soundtrack and voice acting, the sound effects for all the various vehicles and weapons are spot on.

Like GTAIII for the PC, Vice City offers an instant-replay feature that you can use whenever you manage to pull off a truly one-of-a-kind stunt, escape, or killing spree. You can even save your replays if you want. You can also create new skins for Tommy, if you want to change his appearance for some reason (though you'll see him wearing a variety of outfits over the course of the game anyway). And, if all the '80s music isn't good enough for you, you can load up a bunch of MP3 files and listen to those on the radio instead. All this is icing on the cake.

After the incredible success of GTAIII, it was difficult to imagine Scotland-based developer Rockstar North following up with a comparably outstanding game, especially after just one year. But that's what Vice City is. It's similar to GTAIII only as much as necessary, and it boasts so much new content and so many new types of vehicles to drive and exciting missions to experience that it is certainly not just an attempt to further cash in on GTAIII's success. No, this is an exceptionally good action game, whether you consider it on its own merits, or measure it against the incredibly high standards of its predecessor.



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