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Här e den nya IGn Insider artikeln (Hands-On)


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October 16, 2002 - Finally! We have finally, finally played it. We have sat down for a good long time and put our grubby paws on the undoubted heavyweight champion game of 2002, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, until the PR folks forced us out of the small, unfurnished San Francisco Rockstar offices. Ahhh? (Big sigh of relief.)

So? The big question still remains: Is it all that? After all of the thousands of words, dozens of movies and screenshots, and incredibly hype-laden things that have been said about GTA: Vice City, is the game really a bigger, better version of GTA3? Will it really be that good? Does it provide enough newness to make it worth the potential hassle of finding one? The simple answer is the same as the long and complicated one: Yes. Unwaveringly, emphatically, unanimously, wide-eyed and giddy yes. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the unequivocal tour de force of 2002, and it appears that the numerous additions, slight wrinkles and alterations in gameplay, graphics and sound ultimately come up aces. Aces, I tell you.


The 90% complete build I played features pretty much everything that's going to be in the game, though not all was entirely available to me. I started playing in the early areas, but then was able to skip around to a complex mid-game level ("Guardian Angel"), enjoyed a taxi ride, a time-based mission, and an early delivery mission, too.

The first, most noticeable thing about Rockstar's massive, urban action-adventure game is the way it's presented. To look around, the third-person perspective camera automatically and loosely follows lead Tommy Vercetti; the character often turns to face the camera, which eventually returns to follow him, whether he's in a car, on a motorcycle, walking or running. By pressing R3, the camera now instantly switches into first-person mode, enabling players to look around in 360 degrees. Players can switch camera angles by pressing Select. With most games, these mundane details are usually tertiary, but with this game, nothing can be left unnoticed.

The in-game menu has improved to make traveling more convenient, more straightforward, and to enable bad drivers to find their way from one point in town to the next with greater ease. Press Start and a menu system appears, temporarily stopping the game. It provides an in-game menu, a statistics page (how many kills, cars crashed, arrests, etc.), Mission Briefing (the latest conversation you had with a significant person, a.k.a. from a person delivering a mission objective), an iconographic legend and other details, such as audio and visuals options. The audio options are fun on their own, since players can switch from one station to the next right there and listen in without playing the game.

The in-game menu is best, though, enabling players to see where they are on the map (indicated by a pink arrow) and where the mission point starts, indicated by another icon. Significant additions also include icons notifying players of Ammu-Nation stores, your home, and significant places to go. By using the R1 players can zoom close to the map and by pressing R2, they can zoom out to see the entirety of Vice City, which, by the way, looks like two giant thumb-shaped islands surrounding a few smaller islands harbored inside them. They're generally shaped like two symmetrically facing states of California.

Tommy's home is also far more elaborate than the little hovel given in Grand Theft Auto III. Tommy enters the Oceanside Hotel, and after a short, five-second cutscene, they can save their game at the front desk, using the tape recorder icon, or walk upstairs to the rather large, stagger-stair apartment room, from where Tommy can see the busy life of Vice City from his window. Entering and exiting buildings isn't seamless, but it's hardly noticeable. Tommy walks in a building, a five-second load occurs, and he's in; same when he leaves. It's better than a lot of games I've played.

Mad, Styling Driving

As soon as I wrapped my hands around the PlayStation 2 controls, I commenced by performing personal driving tests. I checked how the cars handle, using a discerning eye to examine the brakes, drifts, speed, shocks, weight, and damage models. The cars are all enhanced, specifically in their weights, speeds and handling abilities. They're still arcade-style driving machines, and some are more noticeably change than others. Like for instance, the Cuban gang car is heavier than the Mexican gang car in GTA3. It's designed to resemble a 1940s or 1950s Buick and it moves like a fricking boat! It's slow to respond and slow and fun to experiment with, just to see how badly it handles.

The litany of vehicles from the previous game has grown in GTA: Vice City, with new additions that makes driving exceptionally fun to handle for serious, efficient missions, or for simply tooling around like a drunken monkey. The cars I drove included the taxi, cop car, Cuban gang car, Phoenix (a Trans Am lookalike), Cheetah, Infernus, Station wagon, '80s SUV (a Suburban lookalike), Stallion, Idaho, Stinger, the Comet (a convertible Porsche lookalike), and the loveable Banshee (which looks like a Corvette). The Banshee, Infernus and Cheetah are still all very fast and they handle with exceptional tight braking and ridiculous acceleration speeds. But they might all be topped by the new Comet, a slightly boxy looking Porsche Carrera, which has unmatched cornering skills and moves with lighting fast speeds.

The best driving experience, however, is perhaps best found on two wheels. The motorcycle driving experience is worth the game on its own, and there are several kinds, providing gamers with a well-rounded variety of driving sensations. The burning fast street cycle -- which was shown in the earliest GTA Vice City shots -- is accompanied by the slower meatier chopper; and now I have ridden a Vespa-like scooter, and a two-stroke dirt bike! The street bike accelerates well and it makes for some incredibly excellent 180-degree powerslides. It's designed to hit top speeds quickly, and one of the missions I played was a "collect-the-icons" mission, that takes place along rooftops and includes numerous jumps and ramps, of course, under a timer.

The chopper provides a slower ride, with a louder sound, and it rumbles like a heavy piece of machinery, giving you a feeling of unrivaled macho power. This should be real fun to play with when the chopper gangs come into play later in the game. It takes wider turns and provides gamers with different animations, too, such as Tommy sticking out his leg during a turn (where, on the street bike, he leans into it). Funnily enough, The Vespa is surprisingly good fun. It's quick, but obviously slower than the other bikes. It's incredibly easy to maneuver, and performing 180 power-slides and quick, tight turns, required for slicing through traffic, for instance, are easy and fun. It's excellent to use to slalom through traffic. The two-stroke dirt bikes are weak in comparison to the other bikes, giving off a loud, whining sound, and providing little power. They too are easy to handle, especially on grass, dirt, and the beach. Nonetheless, they are quite novel and provide easy escapes.

As Rockstar said in an earlier IGN feature, GTA: Vice City features an assortment of excellent "Insane Stunt Jumps" (now there's "Unique Stunt Jumps") and many of them are designed entirely for bikes. Like the mini-mission I took -- the mission on rooftops and through narrow alleys -- it can only be performed by a fast, two-wheeled vehicle. One important thing I learned is that becoming involved in a massive, three-star chase with angry, aggressive cops is no place for a motorcycle rider. Since the cop AI is stepped up from GTA3, as soon as the fuzz smashes into your bike -- no matter which one you pick -- you go flying, and both you and the bikes take damage. Still, if you have mapped out the area, and know where the jumps lie, then escaping from the cops can be a spectacular calculated risk (or failure).

What's exceptionally cool about the bikes is that players can pull off stunts with them. By simply accelerating fast, and pulling back up the Dpad or left analog stick, players can pull off wheelies and can keep them going as long as they can control them. To help facilitate this move, the R2 or L2 buttons give a side view. The bikes can also do endos, too, meaning they can stop suddenly to perform nose wheelies. By pressing Square (brake) R1 and up on the left analog they can perform these nice little added tricks. I suspect there are some missions or Insane Stunt Jumps hidden in Vice City requiring wheelies or endos. Also, one last thing, during any kind of jump, players can adjust the tilt of their bikes back or forth to adjust to the upcoming surface. The bikes bounce when they land, showing just how nice the new shocks work.

The boats weren't so much of a surprise. They function very much like boats in GTA3. Naturally, I didn't get to skipper all of the boats, but I was able to pilot a catamaran and I did get to boatjack another boat! It was cool! You pull up next to another boat, getting parallel with it. You press Triangle to free up from the wheel, and then position yourself to ump onto the boat. Press triangle again, and you chuck the other person from the wheel. In this particular case, the woman boater did a surprisingly funny thing: She ran off the boat! She simply ran off and kept running into the water. Weird! Perhaps that's not what will happen in the game, but I suspect something similar will happen. Because after all, what else are they going to do? Also, for the record, Tommy can't swim. HE CANNOT SWIM. If he falls into the water, he dies. So, you can now stop sending in all those emails with that question.

"Guns? We Don't Need No Stinking Guns!"

Like I said earlier, the camera follows players from the third-person perspective, and loosely wraps around Tommy depending on the situation. When a weapon is pulled and players press R1, the bolder, heavier reticule appears, targeting the primary enemy. Using a priority system, Tommy instantly targets the most powerful enemy first (the reticule aims at their chest), and the camera swings around smoothly to follow the action. It's a big improvement over last year's model.

Rockstar has said there will be more than 30 weapons in the game, as most people already know, there is a weapon classification system, which helps organize them better for the player. I used the handgun, AK 47, Shotgun, and Billy Club. There is a lot more to tell on this front, but apparently that's for another time.

Mission: Guardian Angel

In the mission I played, Guardian Angel, Tommy has been duped and needs to get his money back. So he heads off to work for Colonel Cortez, who involves Tommy in one of the more complex and new missions in GTA: Vice City. Cortez sends Tommy to Diaz, and he also meets up with his sometimes partner, Lance. Tommy meets Lance in a car parking lot, picks up an AK47 and together they meet up with Diaz in a parking lot. The setup goes like this, Diaz and his chumps are supposed to meet with the Cuban gang to exchange goods, but Diaz suspects a set-up. Lance and Tommy are there to keep things under control, only they're hidden, perched in close-by buildings to get a good view on things.

Naturally, the scene goes haywire, and Tommy and Lance find wave after wave of Cubans cars filled with gunmen appearing to attempt the slaughter of Diaz and his henchmen. When they arrive, you shoot them, in a classic "protect"-style mission. After the last wave arrives (assuming you have kept Diaz alive), you walk down to pick up the briefcase left lying on the ground. As soon as you do, surprisingly, two gunmen on dirt bikes appear from nowhere and pick up the case! Crap! You have to get them! If you're a good shot, you might nail them both, or at the very least, one. If you nail just one, it's time to ride! Tommy runs down the stairs, jumps on the bike and chases after the thief. With one finger on X (accelerate) and one on Circle (Shoot), Tommy can ride and shoot forward at the briefcase thief from his bike. It takes about five seconds to get it right, and you basically have to keep the Circle pressed down for rapid gunfire. Needless to say, it's an excellent level, very surprising, and layered with parts.

Graphics: Rain and Shine

What can I say? The game looks great. With more polygons in the city, better textures on bikes, cars and characters, and almost no pop-in, the game looks far more technically accomplished than before. The build we played was 90% complete, and while some collision detection and some minor glitches were hither and yonder, the game is still an artistic and technical improvement over last year's effort.

On a first-hand basis, GTA: Vice City looks just like the screenshots we have seen. The city is bright and sunny, with a keen delivery of Radiosity, keeping items glimmering and shiny: Cars, boats, buildings, and anything metal or glass. At night, the moon is full and huge, with stars shimmering in the dark blue sky. Rockstar reported that Tommy will have more than just the two outfits we have seen (the Hawaiian deal and the suit), in fact, he'll have several. And, just like in GTA3, rain comes pouring down, only this time it looks more realistic and it provides an excellent set of enhanced physics for drivers. And every character has an exceptional level of animations to enhance their believability. Also, it's hard not to notice the giant 747-like planes flying in the sky, with plumes of white streaking behind them. You think Rockstar is hinting at something?

Vice City AI

The denizens of Vice City behave much like they did in GTA3, only now, they're more complex. They walk down the street, talk to you if you bump into them, and behave with various degrees of intelligence, aggressiveness or shyness. Now they talk to each other, they interact with each other, and strange things happen in the street. The citizens do more random things this time around. I witnessed a cop chasing some guy down the street; rollerskater girls bumping into other people; random car wrecks on the street that I did not cause, and dead people lying around, apparently killed in gang-related shootings.

I witnessed first hand a more aggressive police team. If you are anywhere near a policeman and you pull out a weapon, he instantly aims and shoots at you, whereas in the GTA3 they didn't react until you shot. Try walking into the police station (yes, you can walk right into all sorts of buildings, including the police station) to see what happens? That's a lot of fun (Instant death, but good fun, nonetheless).

And AI have a lot more to say to each other. In one "conversation" I heard a construction worked say about 12 different things to me. And STRANGE things, too. Reminding me a lot of Craig "Cranky" Harris in manner not looks, the hard-hat wearing, plum-shaped, scraggly-faced, cigarette-smoking worker said, "Raggh! Bad mood!" Later he followed with my first favorite line of the game, "Watch it! I got the death grip!" On a slightly related note, on the radio I heard another excellent line from a TV show commercial, "Two men battle via the beauty of dance for one robot's love." Apparently, a sci-fi show was being pimped. Nice though, right?

In the end

In the end, the crucial weaknesses of Grand Theft Auto III have been addressed and corrected in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and with a new bright look, entirely different scenario, lead character -- and actually an entirely new set of characters -- Rockstar's next major release is undoubtedly going to thrill people from the gameplay, the mission set-ups, and the phenomenally cool selection of music. There is no doubt in my mind that this year's model is going to be a smashing success, not to mention being one of the biggest, deepest, best games of the year.


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