I seem to have won. Tommy Vercetti is now undisputed master of Vice City, which is basically what he’s been acting like all along, taking any vehicle he wants and so forth. He’s the player avatar, and the city itself is literally your plaything. Few games acknowledge this, somehow.
Most of the missions in the later part of the game are, for once, part of a larger pattern. You buy a business, then you do one or more missions or other special activities relating to that business, and when you’re done, it becomes a source of cash, which accumulates at a pick-up point in front, building up to a maximum that varies from business to business. Picking up this free money becomes a chore reminiscent of the daily resource pickups in Heroes of Might and Magic and its ilk, except that you can’t keep a separate hero stack devoted to the pickups, as your only hero is Tommy himself. (Expanding the scope of your operations does produce gang members on your side, wandering the streets near your holdings, wearing an imitation of Tommy’s trademark Hawaiian shirt. But you have absolutely no control over them.) You then use this money to buy more businesses. Occasionally you get increasingly agitated phone calls from Forelli, accusing Tommy of cutting him out, which is completely accurate. I should have seen this coming. Recovering the money, the original impetus for the whole enterprise, isn’t even a factor any more. It’s now about who’s in control, and Tommy, having tasted power, isn’t interested in going back to being someone else’s lackey.
The endgame becomes available before you’ve finished all the available business missions, giving you some leeway to refuse missions you find too difficult. It consists of two missions. First, Forelli sends his men on motorcycles to collect the “taxes” from your holdings, and you have to stop them, which is most easily accomplished by staking out one business and waiting for them. This done, there’s a showdown at Vercetti Manor (formerly Diaz Manor), involving waves of goons charging into your minigun. (By this point I had unlocked the next Hidden Package weapon, the rocket launcher 1The rocket launcher was the final unlockable in GTA3, but there’s three more levels here that I haven’t even reached. Apparently one is called a “Rhino”, but it’s actually a kind of tank, rather than a rhinoceros you can ride around the streets, because this isn’t Saints Row. , but the minigun is still the best weapon.) It’s an old story: an absentee lord tries to claim someone else’s spoils, and a rebellious hero refuses, goes to war with the old power, and wins. Americans will see the legend of their own nation’s origins here, but it’s an even better fit to certain older versions of the King Arthur myth, with Rome in the Forelli role, returning after years to demand tribute after Arthur’s knights subdued the invading Saxons without their help. Except I’ve never seen a version of the Arthur myth that was quite this crass.
Despite its mythic resonance, the final battle feels kind of spare and anticlimactic. It’s a pure shooting mission, and shooting is not a very deep or rich activity in this game, or at least not once you’ve finished experimenting and settled on a preferred gun. Also, the absence of music works against it. I’m not saying that climactic battles in games always need to have music, but you spend a great deal of your time in this game in various vehicles, and no matter what’s on the car radio, it somehow always seems to complement the action, whether you’re evading police cars to a mambo or aiming for a sweet motorcycle jump to Flock of Seagulls. This is the game’s soundtrack, and its absence in the final stretch is noticeable. They should really do a GTA where the end boss is a driving mission, if they haven’t already. Driving is more what the game’s about anyway.
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|1.||↑||The rocket launcher was the final unlockable in GTA3, but there’s three more levels here that I haven’t even reached. Apparently one is called a “Rhino”, but it’s actually a kind of tank, rather than a rhinoceros you can ride around the streets, because this isn’t Saints Row.|