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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

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Rockstar Games

Leslie Benzies

Aaron Garbut

Grand Theft Auto

Take-Two Interactive

Alexander Roger

Initial release date
27 October 2002

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaencceVic

Dan Houser James Worrall

Android, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox

BAFTA Games Award for PC

Rockstar North, Rockstar Vienna, War Drum Studios

VGX Award for Game of the Year

Grand Theft Auto games, Rockstar games, Open world games

Grand theft auto vice city gameplay pc game 2002

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is an open world action-adventure third-person shooter video game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 27 October 2002 for the PlayStation 2, on 12 May 2003 for Microsoft Windows, and on 31 October 2003 for the Xbox. A remastered version was released for mobile platforms in 2012, for the game's tenth anniversary. It is the sixth title in the Grand Theft Auto series and the first main entry since 2001's Grand Theft Auto III. Set within the fictional Vice City, based on Miami, the game follows Tommy Vercetti following his release from prison. After he is caught up in an ambushed drug deal, he seeks out those responsible while building a criminal empire and seizing power from other criminal organisations in the city.


The game is played from a third-person perspective, and its world is navigated on foot or by vehicle. The open world design lets the player freely roam Vice City, consisting of two main islands. The game's plot is based on multiple real-world people and events in Miami such as Cuban, Haitian, and Biker gangs, the 1980s crack epidemic, the Mafioso drug lords of Miami, and the dominance of glam metal. The game was also influenced by the film and television of the era, including Scarface and Miami Vice. Much of the development work constituted creating the game world to fit the inspiration and time period; the development team conducted extensive field research in Miami while creating the world.

Upon release, the game received critical acclaim, with praise particularly directed at its music, gameplay and open world design. However, the game also generated controversy, with criticism directed at the depiction of violence and racial groups. The game sparked lawsuits and protests while being labelled as violent and explicit. Vice City became the best-selling video game of 2002 and has sold over 20 million copies. Considered one of the most significant titles of the sixth generation of video games, it won numerous year-end accolades including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. Since its release, the game has received numerous ports to many gaming platforms. Its successor, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, was released in October 2004, and a prequel, Vice City Stories, was released in 2006.

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is an action-adventure game played from a third-person view. In the game, the player controls the criminal Tommy Vercetti and completes missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. It is possible to have several active missions running at one time, as some missions require the player to wait for further instructions or events. Outside of missions, the player can freely roam the game's open world and has the ability to complete optional side missions. Composed of two main islands and several smaller areas, the world is much larger in area than earlier entries in the series. The islands are unlocked for the player as the story progresses.

The player may run, jump, or drive vehicles to navigate the game's world. The player uses melee attacks, firearms and explosives to fight enemies. The firearms include weapons such as the Colt Python, an M60 machine gun and a Minigun. The game's three-dimension environment allows a first-person view while aiming with the sniper rifle and rocket launcher. In addition, the game's combat allows the player to commit drive-by shootings by facing sideways in a vehicle. The game provides the player a wide variety of weapon options—they can be purchased from local firearms dealers, found on the ground, retrieved from dead enemies, or found around the city.

In combat, auto-aim can be used as assistance against enemies. Should the player take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated through the use of health pick-ups. Body armour can be used to absorb gunshots and explosive damage, but is used up in the process. When health is entirely depleted, gameplay stops, and the player respawns at the nearest hospital while losing all weapons and armour and some of their money.

If the player commits crimes while playing, the game's law enforcement agencies may respond as indicated by a "wanted" meter in the head-up display (HUD), which increases as the player commits more crimes. On the meter, the displayed stars indicate the current wanted level, and the higher the level, the greater the response for law enforcement (for example, at the maximum six-star level, police helicopters and military swarm to lethally dispatch players). Law enforcement officers will continue to search for the player after they leave the wanted vicinity. The wanted meter enters a cooldown mode and eventually recedes when the player is hidden from the officers' line of sight.

During the story, Tommy meets characters from various gangs. As the player completes missions for different gangs, fellow gang members will often defend the player, while rival gang members will recognise the player and subsequently shoot on sight. While free roaming the game world, the player may engage in activities such as a vigilante minigame, a fire fighting activity, and a taxi cab service. Completion of these activities grants the player with context-specific rewards. As Tommy builds his criminal empire, the player may purchase a number of properties distributed across the city, some of which act as additional hideouts where weapons can be collected and vehicles can be stored. There are also a variety of businesses which can be purchased, including a film studio, a taxi company, and several entertainment clubs. Each commercial property has a number of missions attached to it, such as eliminating competition or stealing equipment; once all missions are complete, the property begins to generate an ongoing income available for the player.


In 1986, Tommy Vercetti (Ray Liotta), a loyal former member of the Forelli Family, is released from prison after a 15 year sentence. His former boss, Sonny Forelli (Tom Sizemore), ostensibly promotes Tommy to a capo and sends him to Vice City to act as the Forelli's buyer for a series of cocaine deals. When Tommy and his bodyguards arrive in Vice City, crooked lawyer Ken Rosenberg (William Fichtner) takes them to the docks; the site of the deal. They are ambushed by several armed and masked men, who kill their bodyguards. Tommy narrowly escapes with Ken from the docks, losing the Forelli's money and the cocaine in the process. After Ken returns to his office, Tommy drives back to his hotel and informs Sonny, promising him under the threat of consequences to get back the drugs and money and kill whoever was responsible for the ambush.

Seeking information, Ken points Tommy towards Juan Garcia Cortez (Robert Davi), who helped set the exchange up. Expressing regret for the matter, Cortez promises to help Tommy find out who masterminded the ambush plot. In the process of finding leads, Tommy meets Kent Paul (Danny Dyer), who leads Tommy to one of the participants in the ambush. Tommy then works for Ricardo Diaz (Luis Guzmán), who hires him as protection. Cortez soon voices his suspicion that Diaz might have organised the ambush. With the help of Lance Vance (Philip Michael Thomas), whose brother died in the ambush, Tommy kills Diaz; as a result, Tommy and Lance become Vice City's drug kingpins, allowing Tommy to create his own organisation and distance himself from the Forelli family. Tommy works with the Cuban's leader Umberto Robina (Danny Trejo) in their fight against the Haitians. After destroying the Haitians' drug factory, Umberto becomes Tommy's partner in the drug trade. Tommy also earns the respect and friendship of Mitch Baker (Lee Majors), leader of a biker gang, whose bikers work alongside the Cubans to become protectors of Vercetti family business. Tommy also expands his drug business by purchasing assets in nearly bankrupt companies and turning them back into competitive businesses.

Eventually, Sonny discovers that Tommy has gained complete control over Vice City's drug trade without cutting the Forelli family in. Enraged that Tommy has become independent and is hustling him, Sonny sends high-ranking Forelli members to forcefully collect money from Tommy's assets. Tommy quickly disposes of them and decides to sever his ties with Forelli family. Sonny arrives at his estate with a small army of mafiosi and demands his tribute under threat of force. As Tommy attempts to give the tribute in counterfeit money, Sonny reveals that he set Tommy up fifteen years prior, resulting in his prison sentence. Lance also reveals his partnership with Sonny, admitting to have informed Sonny about Tommy's activities in Vice City. Angered at this betrayal, Tommy chases and ridicules Lance before killing him for his treachery. Heading through his estate, the gunfight eventually culminates in Tommy killing Sonny once and for all. When Ken arrives, he is shocked and worried by the events, but Tommy reassures him that everything is fine; having finally established himself as the undisputed crime kingpin of Vice City.


Rockstar North began to develop Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in late 2001, around the time of Grand Theft Auto III's release. While initial development only involved creating 3D models, executive producer Sam Houser said "it really kicked off at the beginning of 2002" and lasted about nine months. After the release of the Windows version of Grand Theft Auto III, the development team discussed creating a mission pack for the game that would add new weapons, vehicles, and missions. Upon further discussion, the team decided to make this concept a stand-alone game, which became Vice City. The game was announced on 22 May 2002, during the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It was Rockstar North's most expensive game at the time, with a budget of US$5 million. By 15 October 2002, development of Vice City stopped as the game was submitted for manufacturing.


The game is set in 1986 in fictional Vice City, which is based heavily on the city of Miami. Vice City previously appeared in the original Grand Theft Auto (1997); the development team decided to reuse the location and incorporate ideas from within the studio and the fanbase. They wanted to satirise a location that was not contemporary, unlike Grand Theft Auto III's Liberty City. The team wanted to choose a location that had various similarities and differences to New York City—the inspiration of Liberty City—eventually leading them to Miami, which producer Leslie Benzies describes as "a party town, all sun and sea and sex, but with that same dark edge underneath". Sam Houser called it "the grooviest era of crime because it didn't even feel like it was crime ... it was a totally topsy-turvy back-to-front period of time". The team intended to make Vice City a "living, breathing city", for the player to feel like "life still goes on" while the character is inside a building.

The game's look, particularly the clothing and vehicles, reflect its 1980s setting. Many themes are borrowed from the major films Scarface (1983) and Carlito's Way (1993), the latter for its characterisation and portrayal of nuanced criminals. The television series Miami Vice (1984–89) was also a major influence and was regularly watched by the team throughout development. Art director Aaron Garbut used the series as a reference point in creating neon lighting. In recreating a 1980s setting, the team found it "relatively painless" due to the distinct culture of the time period and the team's familiarity of the era. The art team was provided with large volumes of research, as well as reference photographs from other members of the development team. The team organised field research trips to Miami shortly after the development of Grand Theft Auto III, splitting into small teams and observing the streets.

Story and characters

The team spent time "solving [the] riddle" of a speaking protagonist, a notable departure from Grand Theft Auto III's silent protagonist Claude. Ray Liotta portrayed protagonist Tommy Vercetti. Liotta described the role as challenging: "You're creating a character that's not there before ... It's so intensive". When recording the role, the team used blue screen in order to allow Liotta to visualise "how it's gonna move". The team ensured that the player felt "real affinity" for Tommy, making the narrative a key development interest. Dan Houser described Tommy as "strong and dangerous and prepared to wait for the right opportunity to arrive". Director Navid Khonsari recalled Liotta frequently complaining on set and found him difficult to work with as a result. "In some sessions he was ... into it, but then sometimes ... he was very dark and couldn't work", said Sam Houser. Following the game's success, Liotta reportedly claimed that he was underpaid for the role.

The majority of the game's animations were original, with very few borrowed from Grand Theft Auto III. For the characters, the team used motion capture and stop motion animation techniques; cutscenes use the former, while gameplay movements use a combination of both techniques. The team encountered difficulty in animating motorcycle animations, due in part to the variety of models. Pedestrian character models use skins in Vice City, allowing the artists to produce more realistic characters. There are 110 unique pedestrian models throughout the game world alongside roughly 50 story characters; each character is rendered using twice the amount of polygons and textures found in Grand Theft Auto III. This also impacted the character physics, improving gameplay aspects such as weapon-hit accuracy. Some character models and scenarios were inspired by films such as The Godfather (1972), and the game's presentation was inspired by action television shows of the 1980s. The interplay between Tommy Vercetti and Lance Vance was crafted to be similar to the relationship of Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs.

Sound design and music production

The game features 8,000 lines of recorded dialogue, four times the amount in Grand Theft Auto III. It contains over 90 minutes of cutscenes and nine hours of music, with more than 113 songs and commercials. The team was interested in the challenge of creating the game's soundtrack, particularly in contrast to Grand Theft Auto III's music, which Sam Houser described as "clearly satirical and its own thing". In developing the radio stations, the team wanted to reinforce the game's setting by collating a variety of songs from the 1980s and therefore performed extensive research. The radio stations were published by Epic Records in seven albums—known collectively as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Official Soundtrack Box Set—alongside the game in October 2002. Vice City contains about "three times as much" talk radio as Grand Theft Auto III. Producer and talk show host Lazlow Jones stated that the small percentage of station listeners that actually call in are "insane"; in Vice City, the team "bumped it up a notch", emphasising the extremity. Dan Houser felt that the talk stations give depth to the game world.

Initial release

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released to critical acclaim. Metacritic calculated an average score of 95 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 62 reviews. It is Metacritic's highest-rated PlayStation 2 game of 2002, and the fifth-highest rated PlayStation 2 game overall, tied with a number of others. Reviewers liked the game's sound and music, open-ended gameplay, and open world design, though some criticism was directed at the controls and technical issues. IGN's Douglass Perry declared it "one of the most impressive games of 2002", and GameSpy's Raymond Padilla named the experience "deep, devilishly enjoyable, and unique".

Reviewers generally considered the missions an improvement over Grand Theft Auto III, although some noted occasional awkwardness and frustration. IGN's Perry wrote that the game's missions give the player "a stronger feeling of being inside a story within a world that truly exists". Game Informer's Matt Helgeson found the missions to be more complex, and AllGame's Scott Alan Marriott felt that the storyline was improved as a result. Marriott also found the lead character of Tommy to be more engaging than Grand Theft Auto III's Claude; IGN's Perry felt that Rockstar "found the right person and the right choice", and Edge wrote that Tommy "sweats charisma", commending Ray Liotta's performance.

The game's open world design was praised by reviewers, many of whom felt that it contained more detail and felt more alive than its predecessors. GameSpy's Padilla made favourable comparisons between Vice City and Grand Theft Auto III's Liberty City, noting the former's level of detail. Game Revolution's Ben Silverman wrote that the game's depth is "unparalleled", praising the world's realism and detail, while AllGame's Marriott commended the "ambitious scope in design".

Marriott of AllGame named Vice City an "unforgettable listening experience", and Perry of IGN declared the music as "the most impressive list of songs in a game". Many reviewers commended the game's radio stations and talk radio, and many felt that the game's collection of licensed 1980s music fit the tone and time period of the world. The voice acting also received praise; GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann named the cast of characters "colorful and memorable", and IGN's Perry found the voice acting "among one of the best of its kind". Game Revolution's Silverman felt that the acting "gives the story credence".

Many reviewers found that the game offers a better variety of vehicles than Grand Theft Auto III, and found them easier to control; GameSpot's Gerstmann named the driving "more exciting and dangerous", and IGN's Perry found the motorcycle's controls pleasing. In addition to the vehicle handling, reviewers noted improvements in the targeting and shooting mechanics, although still recognised issues. Helgeson of Game Informer wrote that "targeting is improved to the point where combat can actually be fun".

Some reviewers recognised an improved draw distance over Grand Theft Auto III, although many identified frame rate drops during hardware-intense sequences. The changes in character models polarised reviews; while GameSpy's Padilla and IGN's Perry noted the improvement in character models, Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell considered it "maddening to see that character ... models haven't been smartened up at all". The game's artificial intelligence and long load times were frequently criticised in reviews, and many reviewers noted the awkward camera angles and environment during gameplay.

Microsoft Windows version

When Vice City was released to Microsoft Windows in May 2003, it received similar critical acclaim. Metacritic calculated an average score of 94 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim", based on 30 reviews. It was the highest-rated Windows game on Metacritic in 2003. Reviewers liked the visual enhancements, and were generally positive towards the control improvements.

The port's visuals received a positive response from reviewers. AllGame's Mark Hoogland praised the improved car details, environment textures, and weather effects; GameSpot's Greg Kasavin echoed similar remarks, noting occasional frame rate drops. GameSpy's Sal Accardo commended the draw distance improvements, identifying very few texture issues. IGN's Steve Butts found the port's system requirements to be reasonable, unlike Grand Theft Auto III, and praised the faster load times. Eurogamer's Martin Taylor was critical of the visuals, stating that the higher resolutions "aren't kind to the overall visual quality", and criticising the hardware requirements.

The control changes of the port were generally well received. Most reviewers found the targeting and shooting mechanics to be improved with mouse and keyboard controls; Eurogamer's Taylor called them "far more fluid", and GameSpy's Accardo wrote "there's simply no substitute for aiming with a mouse". However, the driving control changes were widely criticised; IGN's Butts called it "crap". AllGame's Hoogland found the controls to be "more forgiving" over time.

Mobile version

When Vice City was released on mobile devices in December 2012, it received generally positive reviews. Metacritic calculated an average score of 80 out of 100, based on 19 reviews. Reviewers liked the enhanced visuals, but criticism was directed at the touchscreen controls.

The port's visuals were well received. Destructoid's Chris Carter felt that they "[suit] the neon and bright pastel veneer", and wrote that the "new lighting effects and smoothed-out engine really allow the game to pop like it never has before". IGN's Justin Davis praised the updated character models, lighting, and textures, and Touch Arcade's Eric Ford noted that the "visuals are improved but not in a drastic manner". NowGamer found that the mobile display improves the visual enjoyment of the game, despite the issues with the original game. Tom Hoggins of The Telegraph identified some issues with character models, but stated "the city looks terrific".

Most reviewers criticised the port's touchscreen controls. Pocket Gamer's Mark Brown found them "not ideal", but noted that this was also the case in the original game, while Digital Spy's Scott Nichols felt that the game "only complicated [the controls] further". IGN's Davis was thankful for the addition of customisable controls, and wrote that they "make the experience much more controllable", and Touch Arcade's Ford greatly appreciated the developer's efforts to "make the situation bearable". Destructoid's Carter spoke favorably of the controls, despite noting awkward character movement, while The Telegraph's Hoggins found the controls "far more accomplished" than Grand Theft Auto III's mobile port.


Within 24 hours of its release, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City sold over 500,000 copies. Within two days of its release, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City sold 1.4 million copies, making it the fastest-selling game in history at the time. It was the highest-selling game of 2002 in the United States; by 2004, the game had sold 5.97 million units, and by December 2007 it had sold 8.20 million. In February 2005, it was re-released as part of PlayStation's Greatest Hits selection, indicating high sales. In Japan, Vice City sold about 223,000 copies in its first week and over 410,000 by January 2008. The game earned a "Diamond" award in the United Kingdom, indicating over one million sales. By March 2008, the game had sold 17.5 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling PlayStation 2 games.


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City received multiple nominations and awards from gaming publications. It was named the Best PlayStation 2 game at the 1st British Academy Games Awards, the Golden Joystick Awards, and from Entertainment Weekly, IGN, and GameSpot. It was also awarded the prestigious Ultimate Game at the Golden Joystick Awards. The game was awarded Best Action/Adventure Game from the British Academy Games Awards, GameSpot, and IGN. The game's sound also received several awards and nominations: it won Best Music from GameSpot, and was nominated for Best Sound, and it won the award for Sound at the British Academy Games Awards. It won Design at the British Academy Games Awards and was nominated for Best Graphics (Technical and Artistic) by GameSpot. The game was the runner-up for IGN's Reader's Choice Overall Game of the Year and was nominated for GameSpot's award for Best Story. It was awarded Best PC Game at the British Academy Games Awards.


Similar to its predecessors, Vice City generated several controversies. It has been labelled as violent and explicit and is considered highly controversial by many special interest groups. Peter Hartlaub of SFGate noted the game's "mindless violence", but simply attributed it to the developers' attempt to achieve accuracy. Jeremy Pope, who worked on various Rockstar games including Vice City, vowed never to work on violent games again due to their portrayal in mainstream media. In Australia, the game was pre-edited to receive an MA15+ classification; an uncensored version was released in the region in 2010, retaining its classification.

In November 2003, the Haitian Centers Council and Haitian Americans for Human Rights staged a protest in New York publicly criticising the game, contending that it invited the player to harm Haitian immigrants and claiming that it depicted Haitians as "thugs, thieves and drug dealers". In response, Rockstar issued a press release apologising and acknowledging the concern, but insisted that the violence should be taken within the context of the game, which also contains violence towards other ethnic groups. When New York mayor Michael Bloomberg threatened distributor Take-Two Interactive with legal action, the company apologised and removed offensive statements from future copies of the game. In January 2004, North Miami's majority Haitian-American council filed an ordinance to ban the selling or renting of violent games to anyone under 18 without parental permission. The proposal, apparently sparked by Vice City, was supported by North Miami mayor Josaphat Celestin, who stated "We don't believe the First Amendment was written to protect those who want to incite violence". The case was later downgraded from federal court to state court.

On 7 June 2003, 18-year-old Devin Moore shot and killed two Alabama police officers and a dispatcher before fleeing in a patrol car; he was later apprehended. In statements to police, Moore reportedly said "Life is like a video game. Everybody's got to die sometime". A $600 million lawsuit was filed against Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment, GameStop, and Wal-Mart, claiming that Moore frequently played Vice City and that his experience with the game led him to commit the crimes. The plaintiffs' attorney, Jack Thompson, claimed the graphic nature of the game caused Moore to commit the murders. Thompson removed himself from the case Strickland v. Sony in November 2005 after being scrutinised by the judge for unprofessional conduct. In March 2006, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the defendants to dismiss the case.

In September 2006, Thompson brought another $600 million lawsuit against Cody Posey, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, and Sony Computer Entertainment. The lawsuit claimed that 14-year-old Posey played the game obsessively before murdering his father, stepmother, and stepsister on a ranch in Hondo, New Mexico. Posey's defense team argued that he was abused by his father and was taking Zoloft at the time of the killings. The suit alleged that the murders would not have taken place if Posey had not obsessively played Vice City. The case was dismissed in December 2007, as New Mexico held no jurisdiction over Sony or Take-Two.


Mike Snider of USA Today wrote that Vice City "raised the bar for video games", citing its interactivity, violence, and soundtrack. Kotaku's Luke Plunkett and PC Magazine's Jeffrey L. Wilson both named Vice City the best game in the series, with the former naming it the "perfect Grand Theft Auto experience". The readers of Official UK PlayStation Magazine named Vice City the fourth-greatest PlayStation title ever released. Vice City also appeared on Japanese magazine Famitsu's readers' list of top 100 games in 2006; it was one of the only Western titles on the list. Art director Aaron Garbut felt that, alongside its predecessor Grand Theft Auto III and successor San Andreas, Vice City led the trend of open world games.

Ports and remakes

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released for Microsoft Windows on 12 May 2003, supporting higher screen resolutions and draw distance, and featuring more detailed textures. Releases were also planned on the Nintendo GameCube and Xbox, but the former was later cancelled. For its release on the Xbox in December 2003, Vice City was bundled with Grand Theft Auto III in a compilation titled Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack. The Xbox port features custom soundtrack support as well as improved audio, polygon models, and reflections over the previous ports. Double Pack was later bundled with San Andreas in a compilation titled Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, released in October 2005. The Trilogy was also released for OS X on 12 November 2010. For the game's tenth anniversary in December 2012, War Drum Studios ported Vice City to several iOS and Android devices. The port is almost identical to the Windows version of the game, but with enhanced visuals and a customisable layout. A PlayStation 3 version of Vice City was released on 30 January 2013 via the PlayStation Network. The original PlayStation 2 version of the game was released for the PlayStation 4 on 5 December 2015.


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Wikipedia

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