Vice City: Back to Packages

I seem to have gotten stuck on missions for the time being. There are three available to me, all involving new vehicles: stealing a fast boat, racing a boat through a series of checkpoints within a time limit, and stealing a tank. I recall stealing a tank back in the original GTA, but this is the first appearance of drivable boats in the series. They handle more or less like extra-swervy cars.

At any rate, I’ve come close to passing the racing mission, and will likely pass it after a few more tries, but the two vehicle-stealing missions are really shooting missions, with more armed guards than I can easily handle. You can’t even try to steal the tank while the driver is still inside, which, if my puzzle-solving skills haven’t failed me, means you have to slaughter its entire escort of soldiers, then park a vehicle in front of it, thereby forcing the driver to get out to move the vehicle instead of just having one of the other soldiers do it. If I’m going to take on an entire platoon single-handed, I’m going to need to get better at handling weapons. This may require further tweaking to the control scheme.

So I spent most of last night’s session not on missions, but on exploring the islands and looking for hidden packages. The packages look different from the ones in GTA3: instead of a rounded bundle presumably full of drugs, they look like a small green idol. If there’s a story to that, I don’t know it. The mechanics haven’t changed, though. As in GTA3, there are 100 of them, and each unique or interesting feature of the city hides exactly one. And every ten packages gets you an additional item that’s always available back at your hideout. With ten packages, you get body armor, which is a must-have for any risky mission. I’ve got twenty now, and was disappointed that the second reward turned out to be a chainsaw, which is only situationally helpful — you’d be hard-pressed to get close enough to those soldiers for it to do any good.

I may be frustrating myself by going about this with the wrong attitude, too. When I played GTA3, I did my first explorations purely for exploration’s sake, not for the sake of an edge in combat. The fact that I found hidden packages was a bonus. Possibly I’ve gotten tired of simply poking around virtual landscapes without a goal. Certainly I did a great deal of that when I was playing World of Warcraft, but it’s in the nature of games that we eventually learn what we needed to learn from them and move on, like a child who’s solved tic-tac-toe. One of the strengths of the GTA “sandbox” model is that it supports multiple activities, so that you can still keep enjoying the game after tiring of one. But my lack of success with the missions is hampering me there.

Having said all that, it strikes me that what I really should be doing is Rampages. Rampages are an aspect of the game that I haven’t really explored much, having pretty much decided that they were too rich for my blood back in GTA3. Plus, doing a bunch of them would help to hone my combat skills. Maybe I’ll post about those next time.

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