GTA: Vice City is almost old enough to buy GTA: Vice City
Could probably do so with a decent fake ID.
Today is a glorious day — and no, not because of the release of Super Mario Hat Simulator, Nazi Ball Shooting Simulator, or Ancient Illuminati Simulator. Today is special because it marks the 15th anniversary of the almighty Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, one of the greatest and most important games of the last 20 years. In case you've somehow forgotten what this classic looks like, get a dose of '80s bliss with the classic trailer right here:
Vice City is arguably Rockstar's most important game, at least from their perspective, because it established them. Grand Theft Auto III came out of nowhere in 2001, in the wake of 9/11— the open world and the extreme violence was, at the time, not exactly what people might have thought they wanted, but really they desired it — a free-roaming bloody catharsis. The name of Grand Theft Auto was transformed overnight — one day it was a schlocky and rather cheap looking top-down series on the slide that seemed to focus more on creating controversy than actual play. The next it was right at gaming's forefront, a giant leap forward. And yet GTA3 still had a lot more in common with the past than what was to come — the protagonist was silent, there was still a top-down camera, and the game didn't so much have a huge plot as it had three self-contained islands where you worked for several gangs and played them against each other, much like in GTA2. As revolutionary as the game was, there's a lot of things that it didn't quite let go of.
With the creation of a new genre for the new generation, the race was on -- Rockstar were not the only ones preparing an openworld sandbox game in 3D, after all. Sony had The Getaway, and Reflections had the third Driver -- these games were waiting in the wings, and they could have easily become the next big thing in the genre. Someone had to step up as the king of the sandbox — and just a year after GTA3, Rockstar would come in, take the crown, and fully establish the direction for Grand Theft Auto going forward. Vice City is the first game where, truly, all that we know and love about Grand Theft Auto now was on display for the first time.
With the freedom to take the series in whatever direction they chose, these young brats went straight to the '80s. The hints were there, from GTA3's Flashback FM being entirely made up of songs from the Scarface soundtrack to the mob stylings of Salvatore Leone and the rest of the crime family, but Vice City was a full-blown dose built on Scarface, Miami Vice, early MTV and a city that, in real life, was transformed from a homely touristy place into a modern metropolis through the popularity of white powder. Not only do you ultimately take over what is essentially the Montana mansion, it even has a room that's directly nicked from Scarface (Lopez's office, to be precise).
The game featured, for the first time, an in-depth and complex story that linked all of its locations and missions together, as well as a protagonist with a voice (provided by Ray Liotta, just one of the game's many stars). It had a soundtrack that was now full of music that you'd know and love, and a filter that seemed to bathe everything in neon...and most importantly, it had a mission where you chased a snitch around a golf course in a buggy. The irreverent humour and endless references were set in stone, and the play of the game was, as with GTA3, top notch. The ultimate reward for this was over 17 million copies sold, making it one of the best-selling titles of the generation -- a mark beaten only by Gran Turismo 3 and, right at the top, the GTA that followed this one.
Rockstar had a lot to prove with Vice City — having made such a popular game in GTA3, they needed to prove that it wasn't a one-off. And with Vice City, they more than did that — they scored a home run, at a time when the series wasn't quite such a shoe-in for that. Vice City helped establish GTA as a monolith on its own — a game that, whenever a new one is released, is almost a commentary on the state of video games at the time, and in the eyes of many stands above all. While today may be a banner day in terms of video game releases, no game stops the world in the same way that a new GTA does — and if October 27th itself is seen as a day for the big guns to come out, Vice City is probably the game to thank for that. In GTA's version of Scarface, Tony Montana turns around and blasts the guy with the shotgun, leaves on a plane and decides to do whatever the hell he wants — and for Rockstar, that became a reality.