Nick DeMarco

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Groundbreaking ‘GTA: Vice City’ is a bad place you should revisit

TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Groundbreaking ‘GTA: Vice City’ is a bad place you should revisit
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In 2001, a groundbreaking, literally game-changing title emerged from Rockstar Games known as “Grand Theft Auto III.” Gamers were in sheer awe of how immersive this game was but, friends, this was just the beginning of the shackles being taken off and the era of open world or “sandbox” titles becoming a part of our gaming lives.

Our topic today, the next title in the series, would not only win several awards and become the fourth highest-selling game on the PlayStation 2, it would create controversy and a legacy that still stands up today. Throw on your best white or pastel suit as Turn to Channel goes back to the 1980s (in 2002) in “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City!”

“Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” (PS2)


How perfect is the soundtrack to this game? What established this game as a force to be reckoned with was the research into the era, from Miami, the city it is based on, to the fashion and, yes, the music of the time period. What we get is simply the best and most eclectic soundtrack of any game up to that point.

In 2002, you didn’t turn on a game and hear Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung, “Africa” by Toto or, my favorite song in this game, “Automatic” by The Pointer Sisters. There are even songs by artists I had never heard of that fit right into the radio station they are played on perfectly. Is it bizarre that some of these songs work well within the context of the chaos you’re causing? Nah, I don’t think so either.


With fashions and designs right out of ‘80s Miami, you are instantly submerged in a world straight out of a crime-ridden “Miami Vice” episode with more brutal truth and B-movie flair. Towering buildings, vast oceans, and flashy nightclubs adorn the streets, with colorful citizens (in more ways than one), tons of vehicles, and weapons that look great.

As these games tried to cram as much as they could onto a disc, you do deal with some glitches and lag but, in most cases, it just adds to the fun and hilarity of causing a crime spree and making life miserable for the citizens of Vice City. The cut scenes do have some blocky moments, but I felt that, in just a year, they were much better in quality than what we saw in “Grand Theft Auto III.”


In truth, the idea of an open world game with missions is one thing that many developers of the time could have done, but what makes “Vice City” stand out among the rest is the fact that this game doesn’t just cater to the straight mission gamers. Sure, the story of “Vice City” is a great one, but the game isn’t just limited to that. Side missions for some quick cash, as well as hidden items and places on the map, encourage the idea of exploration, which linear games take away from the gamer. Most of all, “Vice City” is a solid bridge between dedicated and casual gamers, as this is both a game to devote several hours to or just something to pick up and cause sporadic mayhem with for a good laugh and a great time.

Many say that “Vice City” was the beginning of what gaming has now become, and it is hard to argue against that point, as further installments of the game have just pushed the envelope that much further. Few games on the PS2 have this kind of lasting replay value.


A fun, affordable game that still elicits fond memories of college dorm game nights and funny moments between friends, it is a no brainer to say that “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” belongs in your stash if you have a PS2. I believe, in the same way that “Super Mario Bros.” was the “Big Bang” of the gaming universe as we know it, this was the game that completely rearranged the idea of what a game could be, ushering in a new generation of gamers and creating more of an experience and less button mashing and codes (though there is plenty of that in this game, too).

“Vice City” is a place you’ll want to revisit again and again and, as it reaches its 15th year on this planet, that’s saying something.

I hope you enjoyed this review. We finish the month next week with something completely different by dribbling down the basketball courts with Bugs Bunny and his pals in “Looney Tunes B-Ball” for the Super Nintendo!

Until then, enjoy this great weather, but enjoy a great game as well and game on!

Tune in to NEPA Scene’s gaming column, Turn to Channel 3, every Thursday for new perspectives on retro gaming as well as fresh twists on the classics. All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.