Vice City: Shortcuts

I’ve had something of a breakthrough: I’ve recovered 60 Hidden Packages. The reward for this is a minigun permanently available at your hideout. This may sound like just another gun, and unexciting, but the minigun’s destructive power (and effective range, and ammo capacity) is so much greater than most other weapons, it renders even the most difficult combat missions all but trivial. For example, there’s one mission where you confront a couple of boats swarming with enemy gunmen, and have to kill them all before proceeding. About a half second of concentrated fire from the minigun is enough to simply sink the boats.

Now, not all missions are about killing. There’s still plenty of driving to be done. But at this moment, it looks like the driving is going to be the focus of all my actual effort from now on — which, to my mind, is entirely reasonable for a game with the word “auto” in its title. Still, this gun seems almost game-breaking. But only almost, because breaking the game is, in an open-world game of this sort, part of the game.

Really, I’ve been taking shortcuts all along. There was one early mission that was clearly set up to be a motorcycle chase: the man you’re pursuing flees the building where you find him and gets on a bike, and there’s a second bike conveniently close to the exit you follow him through. I found it much easier to steal a car and ram him with it, throwing him off the bike. There’s another mission on a golf course, where you have to check your weapons at the door. When you approach the victim, wielding a golf club with deadly intent, he leaps into a golf cart, drives around aimlessly for a while, then makes a break for the exit and escapes. Clearly you’re supposed to grab a golf cart of your own and try to catch up to him, bumping or blocking his cart until he’s forced to get out, at which point you club him to death. But you can instead just make a beeline for the exit, pick up your guns, and wait for him.

Probably the single biggest shortcut is the helicopter. I mentioned that there were toy RC helicopters that you could control remotely. Well, there’s a full-sized one you can steal on top of a skyscraper in the northern part of the city. It’s still kind of tricky to control, although it’s a breeze compared to the Dodo in GTA3. And it makes it downright trivial to get Hidden Packages in places that would otherwise require tricky sequences of motorcycle jumps. I have yet to use the helicopter in a mission, but I’m keeping an eye out for situations where it makes sense.

So, any of these things might subvert the intent behind a particular mission, but I can’t say they’re against the spirit of the game as a whole. Alternate solutions, like spending the time to hunt down 60 Hidden Packages, are intended by the designers. And if they’re not intended in particular, at least alternate solutions as a general concept are a core part of the design, and therefore cannot really be regarded as “breaking the game”. That’s one advantage of using a criminal as the hero. It effectively gives the player permission to cheat.

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