Okay, what with the recent release of GTA V I’ll admit that this article’s title is quite a bold statement, so maybe I should start by saying that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City still being my favourite game in the series may largely be nostalgia speaking. It’s my favourite Grand Theft Auto game, but that’s not necessarily to say that I think it’s objectively the best.
With that said, Vice City is my favourite GTA game. Though with each new iteration of the franchise comes an all-round greater and more accessible free-roaming experience, there’s multiple elements of the game that just really peaked the franchise for me. It spoke out to my personal tastes; this may make little sense, but I probably could have more fun with GTA V, yet more I found more joy with Vice City – after all, ‘fun’ is not the only reason for which we play video games.
I hate to have to sum it up like this, but Vice City stands tall above the rest for one primary reason: its charm.
First of all, Vice City’s setting worked. Set in 1980’s Miami, the game was full to the brim with charm. The world somehow felt more alive and filled with character than even Grand Theft Auto IV did; each pedestrian model was hilarious, the colours in the game were vibrant and lovely, the environments and backgrounds were gorgeous and the 80s feel of the game (the Malibu club is fabulous) actually brought my mood up every time I played the game. Conversely, GTA IV was quite dim, dull and depressing with too heavy a focus on realism over gameplay and charm.
As strange as it is to say, turning on this game about murder, robbery and prostitution would always brighten up my day. Whereas recent titles take a more realistic approach, Vice City always felt more comical and colourful. The city was instantly iconic; I never learned the Grand Theft Auto IV map off by heart, but to this day I know every inch of Vice City like the back of my hand.
Secondly, Vice City’s radio stations were the best the series has ever had. The stations were comical, the songs were fantastically memorable and catchy and it was actually a joy to have it on whilst playing the game – heck, I used to park the car and just sit and listen to FLASH FM or KChat sometimes. The soundtrack was instantly iconic and I still like to sit back and chill out to it to this day. By contrast, I can’t name a single track off the top of my head from Grand Theft Auto IV and V’s hasn’t really jumped out at me yet so far either.
The story and missions weren’t exactly brilliant to be fair, but when you can drive around inside a shopping mall and run over all of the shoppers with The Pointer Sister’s ‘Automatic’ blaring out of the radio, who cares? As I said before, as I can’t really explain its entire appeal perhaps I’m blinded by a visor of nostalgia (as I all too often am), but there’s certain elements of Vice City that just feel missing from this generation’s GTA games, regardless of how much more extensive and fun they are.
In summary, two words describe Vice City perfectly: charming and iconic. If the game had have been made today instead with GTA V’s current engine and gameplay, I’m certain it’d be regarded as one of the greatest games ever made.