Retrospective: GTA III / Vice City

Babes, Banshees and 8-Ball - The Golden Joysticks take a GTA-inspired joyride...

"Mah hands are all messed up, so you'd better drive brother!" A prison break turns ugly, and 8-ball is callin' for a ride. GTA III starts with a literal bang, shoving you head-first into the antics of Claude (bizarrely nameless until the GTA: SA reveal), fighting the corrupted ghetto-lined streets of Liberty City. And yes, it's bloody and yes, it's ridiculous. And yes, it's freaking awesome.

GTA III lifted the series from a PS1 kooky birds-eye killer, and firmly planted the fresh three-dimensional roots in the mind-boxes of teenage boys everywhere. Quickly taboo amongst parents and media, if you owned a copy of GTA III you were hot property in the playground. Heck, you were the guy.


In game, as your rep increases, a host of colourful (and quite frankly deranged) characters request hits, lifts and more, with stone-faced Claude more than happy to carry out and cash in. But shining through the grimy undertones of Liberty City came something rare in the spoon-fed world of gaming history - the free-roam environment. You could play GTA III for hours, mindlessly ramming pedestrians and touring the land, without once catering to your 'bosses'. Ignore those fools; you're the boss, baby!

With a proverbial dumping ground of content, it was easy to get by in L.C. Want to run a cab company? Sure, just steal a cab. Any experience in firefighting? Not needed, nick a fire truck! Not the best of life lessons, but stuffing that DVD with content paid off - Liberty City lived, breathed, spluttered and swore. Gangs on the corners barked at their rivals, quips came thick and fast from lively pedestrians, and the strains of Double Cleff FM were the soundtrack to our joyride.


Rockstar surfed the success of GTA III all the way to the bank... and a Golden Joystick - 2002's Game of the Year no less. One thing's for sure with Rockstar, they demand the best. They demanded a Golden Joystick double. Enter Tommy Vercetti, the man, the legend - Miami's 'Vice City' beckoned.

Who said that lightning doesn't strike twice? Not Rockstar; they popped another GOTY cap straight into the gaming world's caboose. Unabashed by previous success, in 2003 GTA returned to PS2, and with gusto by the moto-load.

If GTA III raised eyebrows, Vice City ripped their faces clean off. Like most sequels spawned from great games, expectations were high. They were blown out the water when gamers finally got down in Tommy's dirty world. Bringing the perceived glitz and glamour of this pseudo-Florida crashing down, Vice City painted a picture of lies, deceit, broken dreams... and dildos.


With a mind-blowing vocal cast headed by the Ray 'Goodfellas' Liotta, suddenly our hero had a voice, an agenda - a personality. Fighting drug lords and facing demons, Tommy sealed his place in gaming history as the 'likeable badass', not unlike GTA IV's Serbian soliloquiser Niko Bellic. Seemingly living the dream, he (you) scores a mansion in hours; who doesn't enjoy strolling around a Scarface-inspired home away from home? Money feel good, Tommy oozed cool - basically, this game made you feel reallypowerful.

With the amazing reception of GTA III, expectations were already high. But of course it sold. And sold again. Vice City took the best of III and sugarcoated the experience, leaving a big fat cherry on top. Bigger, better, bloodier - you name it, Vice City offered it up, legit or otherwise. But of course there was content that was borderline triple-X material. It spawned controversy across the board - being blamed for acts of violence, race hate and other strong allegations. While none of these really stuck, Vice City did earn R* another GJ Game of the Year in 2003. Result.


So there you have it - the tale of how Rockstar blasted the Golden Joysticks with a sawn-off shottie, leaving behind two GOTY-shaped scars. We wear them with pride. So now begins the wait for GTA V, lurking with intent in our One to Watch category for 2012. Expect razor-sharp satire, riotous reviews and pissed-off politicians, the two main ingredients of another spanking GTA title. Trust us, it'll be better than a night with Candy Suxxx.

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