Vice City: “Ice Cream”

I once joked about a nonexistent special activity for ice cream trucks in GTA3. Well, guess what? Vice City has a special activity for ice cream trucks! Sort of. When you buy the ice cream factory, it turns out that it’s not really an ice cream factory, and that they’re using the trucks to distribute something else that slowly gets you in trouble with the police as you hand it out. The game is oddly coy about exactly what it is — one assumes drugs, but it’s only ever identified as “product”. In most games, I’d assume that they’re trying to skirt around drug stuff in order to maintain a content rating and avoid being banned in the more persnicketty nations, but that doesn’t really make sense here, because there’s been so many references to drug use and drug dealing already, starting with the premise of the whole game. I suppose it’s possible that the various ratings bodies and other moral watchdogs would be harsher on an interactive drug-dealing mission than they would be on a cutscene.

At any rate, most of the businesses available for purchase have a similar story: once you buy them, you discover that they’re already involved in crimes, even before you can exert your corrupting influence. The used car dealership deals in stolen cars, the print works does a little counterfeiting on the side, etc. This serves as a way to introduce business-specific missions where you expand these operations, but that doesn’t really require the crimes to already be in place. But I suppose that having Tommy Vercetti be the source of all crime, rather than its mere discoverer, would make the whole thing darker and less comic. As it is, no one in Vice City is innocent, and that absolves the player of a certain amount of responsibility. Tommy isn’t a monster if everyone else is just as bad as him, if the only thing that separates him from them is that he’s better at it.

I’ll note one strange technical problem I had with the ice cream distribution in particular. The game tells you to use the shift key to turn on your ice cream truck’s jingle and attract customers. This is in fact an essential part of distributing “product”; no one will come to your truck if it isn’t jingling. But somehow, I found I was usually unable to turn the jingle on, and had to try over and over again before it took. The jingle toggle uses the same key as the horn on most cars, and that works fine, so it’s not like the game was failing to register the keypress. My best guess is that the difference lies in it being a toggle, which you press to start and press again to stop, whereas the horn toots for as long as you hold the key down. This is the sort of thing that I can see being affected by framerate or CPU speed, in which case it’s probably broken forever now, and will only get worse.

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