Vice City

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  • DavidN

    Vice City, then – our last stop on our American tour. Based on Miami (where unlike the other two real-life city counterparts, I’ve never been), this map takes the confusion up another notch. If San Andreas was just a bit more complicated than Liberty City, Vice City is actively malicious – it’s a network of bridges, frustrating little corners and highways with weird one-way layouts. The height of absurdity in the map layout is that the station in Vice Shores (which you need to get to for a timed mission) is only accessible via two immense footbridges over from Vice Beach on the opposite shore to the east. I used the fact you can take bikes up stairs to get around the need to walk the entire length of the bridge, but then strayed too far on to the railway line and blew myself up!

    It’s designed to be more awkward in other ways, too – the nice big AUTO shops from the previous two cities that you used to get away from the police have been replaced with much smaller paint shops with garage-style doors. Once again there are only five of them and they’re much harder to notice than they used to be, even when consulting the map – you have to really learn where they are in the twisty turny alleys. And the kill frenzies don’t even immediately give you a reward for passing them any more – if you hit the point target, you’re now given the location of your prize and a time limit to pick it up, after which it just disappears.

    Going into this I thought that at least the later levels provided you with the bigger weapons to make up for the increased difficulty, but the reward feels disproportionately small – rocket launcher and flamethrower pickups are virtually non-existent except as part of kill frenzies. It would have been nice to give them out a lot more of the time, especially as so many missions now involve having to make your way past multiple people armed with machine guns without vehicles being available.

    Once again the missions are laid out differently – you’ve got twelve phones open from the start in both levels and can do any mission at any time. Again in the name of increasing the difficulty, you’re left to your own devices a lot more than you used to be. For example, instead of being guided to a repair or bomb shop by the arrow, you’ll be told to just find the nearest one yourself under a time limit – a daunting request if you’re playing without the map beside you. The queen mother of annoying directionless missions comes in the second Vice City level, where for one of them you’re just told to drive around the city a bit and that you’ll be warned when one of your targets is nearby. With none in sight after about ten minutes, I ran off the edge of a building to terminate the mission early.

    Throughout the rest of the game, the score target wasn’t as insurmountable as I had remembered – in order, the game’s levels ask you to accrue 1 million points, then 2m, 2m, 3m and 3m again. On the final Vice City level this target jumps all the way up to 5 million, and I was really much more aware that failing missions reduced my chances of getting the multiplier up to a place where completing the game was feasible at all. I still haven’t completed it – fortunately, at least the first one is just about manageable, and Deever called me to meet him outside the police station and end the level…

    …except I was looking at the map instead of the screen at a crucial moment, and I ran him over. I got a furious message from him in the hospital saying I was on my own, and the red arrow disappeared forever – an annoying feature because it means you have to start the whole thing again, but a hilarious one 🙂 I was going to cheat past the level after that happened, but eventually just went back and tried it again to see more of the missions.

    I ran into a couple of bugs, too – I had to terminate a mission involving the Hell’s Angels by blowing up the bike I had stolen from them because no matter what I did, the game wouldn’t recognize that I’d put it into the garage it was asking me to. And interestingly, if you ram a fast car up against the north wall of the map (say, in Miramire) it’ll briefly say you’re in South Richman Heights before correcting to the right place again – seems like the counter for your Y position underflows and wraps around. I didn’t notice any other ill-effects from this, though.

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