Vice City: Vehicle Choice and Lack Thereof

I made some progress last night, and as a result all of my remaining missions involve difficult driving. I suppose this was predictable, seeing how the minigun zips me past the more combat-oriented missions. One mission is a bit like the premise of the movie Speed: you have to drive through city streets in a limousine containing a bomb that goes off if you don’t go fast enough. One is a race-a-boat-through-a-series-of-checkpoints missions, and somewhat trickier than the earlier such. And one involves piloting a seaplane with controls like GTA3‘s Dodo through a bunch of checkpoints at varying altitude. I’m having so little luck getting that seaplane in the air that I suspect I’m having input problems similar to the ice cream jingle from a few posts back.

It strikes me that part of my problem with these missions in particular is that they don’t let me choose the vehicle. The vehicle is a fixed part of the mission parameters, and that makes success purely a matter of skill, rather than of choosing the thing that makes it easier. This was a big part of some of the earlier missions, and the right vehicle isn’t always the fastest one. For example, the mission that leads into ousting Diaz involves rescuing an injured comrade in a junkyard, and taking him to the hospital. On the way out, you’re attacked by four cars driven by Diaz’s goons, which basically just ram you and make you spin around and run into walls so you can’t get anywhere. After enough of this treatment, your car explodes. Now, getting to the junkyard in time to rescue your partner requires a fast car, but once there, the simplest approach is to ditch it and switch to a garbage truck that’s conveniently nearby. It can take a lot of damage, and it’s heavy enough that it’s hard to knock off course. (It took me multiple attempts at the mission realize this, though. I kept exploding the garbage truck with my minigun on the way in just to waste the goons around it.)

That example is at least one that the designer pretty clearly set up for you. Here’s one that wasn’t: There’s a mission to blow up a store whose owner went to the police instead of giving you protection money. The place is crawling with cops, so you’re told to disguise yourself as a cop and drive a police car to the store. Once there, the bomb goes off before you can get away, and your Wanted rating immediately goes up to near maximum. Suddenly there’s police all over the place chasing you, setting up roadblocks, heading you off, etc. As always, they’ll be off your back the moment you make it to a spray shop to repaint your vehicle and give it new plates, but it’s difficult to even make it that far. Far easier if, instead of driving a cop car to the store as instructed, you bring a helicopter and simply take off into the skies, out of reach of their guns. Helicopters are very conveniently available at several of my hideouts at this point of the game.

Solutions like these take advantage of the open-world genre’s greatest strength, its freedom of action. The missions that lock you into a specific vehicle take that freedom away from you, and with it, the satisfaction of exploiting your freedom in clever ways. It strikes me that there are probably also missions where solving problems through clever weapon choice could produce similar satisfaction, but I pretty much spoiled that for myself by unlocking the minigun so early. There’s not much point in ever choosing any other gun once you have that.

3 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 7 Jun 2014

    Vehicle-related missions are nearly always my stopping point with GTA games. Vice City I stalled out on when trying to recruit a getaway driver – you end up needing to beat said driver in a (legitimate) race and I simply am not that good at driving even with a fast vehicle. GTA IV has had a couple similar points for me except their handling model changed so much for that one that I can’t drive worth a damn in any vehicle in the whole game so the problem is much worse. And then there’s the Lost and the Damned mission where I have to kill some guys with pipe bombs dropped off my motorcycle. Like I can target time delayed explosives while simultaneously driving a squirrelly motorcycle. Ugh.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 10 Jun 2014

    I’m guessing the getaway-driver race you mention is the third Malibu Club mission. For what it’s worth, I managed to reach the endgame without doing that mission.

  3. malkav11 on 10 Jun 2014

    Probably. It’s been quite a while since I played and I doubt I still have the save file given how many Windows versions and hard drives I’ve been through in the meantime. I don’t think I realized that there were other things I could work on at the time.

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