Vice City: New Stuff

When I started playing GTA3 seven years ago, I spent a good long time just wandering around, admiring the scenery, driving recklessly, and looking for hidden packages. Enjoying the feel of the thing instead of pursuing goals. Admittedly, this was largely because it took me so long to resolve certain hardware issues. But even taking that into account, I feel like I’ve been pursuing missions a little more single-mindedly in Vice City. It’s still an open world, but I pretty much know how it works by now. I don’t need to go through the initial-experiments phase again.

There are new elements, though. And the designers have been considerate enough to introduce them one by one over the course of the missions. Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

  • Outfits. Several missions require you to be dressed appropriately to fit in, starting with a soiree that you can’t attend until you’ve changed into a Don-Johnson-style T-shirt-and-suit-jacket combo. You can optionally continue to wear these get-ups when they’re no longer necessary. Outfits here are monolithic things, though, with none of the detailed mixing and customization you find in later games in the genre. This was basically just Rockstar experimenting with the idea of outfits to see if it’s something players would want — trying it on, so to speak.
  • Melee weapons. GTA3 gave you only one: the baseball bat. Vice City has a fairly wide assortment, including several sorts of knives, golf clubs, and nightsticks scavenged from fallen police officers, all with different attributes. One assassination mission requires you to use a chainsaw, which is so unwieldy that you can’t run very fast with it. You can still run just a little faster than your target, but the mission goes a lot faster if you think of putting the chainsaw away while running.
  • Motorcycles. They’re smaller than cars, and thus can weave through traffic better, but they afford far less protection. If you run into a brick wall at full speed in a car, it damages the car, but you’re safe. If you do it on a motorcycle, it’s pretty much an instant death. Although there weren’t any motorcycles in GTA3, they aren’t really new to the series. There were motorcycles in the original top-down Grand Theft Auto, which had bonus items that could only be reached through ramp-jumps in places inaccessible by car. The mechanics of the thing are pretty much the same here as there.
  • RC helicopters. GTA3 had this gag involving radio-controlled toy cars with bombs in them. The helicopters here are similar, except flying and much harder to control, which is probably realistic.
  • Purchasing property? I haven’t actually been able to do this yet, and don’t know how much of a mechanic it is. There’s one building I know that has a tag outside that, when activated, informs you that you can’t buy it yet. And I could have sworn I saw another building that instead gave me a price, which I couldn’t afford at the time, but now that I can afford it, I can’t find it again. I know that buying buildings is a big thing in the Saints Row series, a competitor of GTA, so maybe that started here.

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