It takes something special for me to return to a game; considering I actually finish so few of them, having a game I will play more than once is actually a rarity. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a game Iíve completed on numerous occasions, so returning to it always brings back welcome experience. But why Vice City and not the other games that Iíve managed to finish. Why not Half Life, Grim Fandango, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Thief: Deadly Shadows? These are all great games and certainly titles that Iíve returned to on more than one occasion, but Vice City is always my go-to title.
I know with a lot of people, there is an element of re-discovery with their Groundhog Day title, an idea that thereís still more to discover about the game, whether itís exploring more of the gameís world and levels or whether itís new mechanics, classes or skills to use. With me and Vice City, thatís not the case. I practically know almost every inch of that game off by heart. My usual compulsion in any open world game is to explore and get familiar with the area. With Vice City, as long as youíre careful with the cops, youíre free to explore at least the first island straight off the bat with no hassles and eventually, the second one too. So at least by my third playthrough, I was almost totally familiar with Vice City, all itís areas and almost all of itís secrets. Returning to the game now, thereís a sense of coming back home or visiting a favourite holiday destination.
Itís not just the Vice City, the place itself thatís familiar to me, the whole structure of the game feels second nature by me. What I like is that taking down diminutive, drug-lord Diaz is only the mid point in the game; after that Vice City opens up and thereís the opportunity to build up Tommyís criminal empire by buying businesses and then completing the jobs needed to have them generate cashflow. Iíve even got my preferred order of purchasing properties; do the Boat yard and then the Ice-cream delivery company first, as the have a single, simple mission to do. Leave the print works and the bank job until last, as theyíre the hardest ones. Oh, and leave the Cuban and Haitian missions alone until youíve got most of the game complete; having pissed of Haitian gangsters indiscriminately shooting at you, makes it harder to deliver those drugs from your ice-cream truck.
Then thereís the optional stuff; personally I like to get the 100 taxi missions done and the pizza deliveries done first up. That way youíll have 150 health and taxi hydraulics, which make the taxis a great getaway vehicle. As soon as the rest of the island opens up, I collect the rest of the hidden packages so I always have a chopper at my disposal and plenty of weapons at hand.So I know the game world and I know all the best ways to play so that the game isnít really a challenge, so why come back to it all the time?
For me, GTA: Vice City is the videogaming equivalent of comfort food; itís like a baked potato with chilli, or a big bacon sandwich. Itís a simple pleasure that Iíve had many times in my life, but itís always good, no matter when or where. Despite all my hours of playing it, Vice City is still a lengthy game, I donít just blaze through it in a matter of hours and I even still watch all the cutscenes. And Vice City is just a place I love spending time in; Iíve said it before but bombing down the strip on a superbike, past all the neon lights, with ďCarsĒ by Gary Numan on the radio, is one of gamingís simple joys for me. Thereís even some sly Scottish humour slipped in by developer Rockstar, whether itís the drummer from Love Fist wearing a kilt and an Argentina top to the parody of Gap being called Gash.
GTA: Vice City is as familiar and comforting as coming home after a long vacation. At a time in my life, where my actually ability to finish a game has become almost laughable and my attention wanders as much as a hyperactive 6 year old at Disney Land, Vice City always pulls me in. Despite being less than a decade old, time has not aged it: like my other constants in life, like The Big Lebowski or DJ Shadowís Endtroducing
, it still manages to be fresh and hold up after repeated playthroughs, Vice Cityís sunny mix of hazy nostalgia and familiar gameplay will always keep me coming back.