Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a 2002 action-adventure game developed by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It is the fourth main entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, following 2001’s Grand Theft Auto III. Set in 1986 within the fictional Vice City, based on Miami, the single-player story follows mobster Tommy Vercetti’s rise to power after his release from prison and being caught up in an ambushed drug deal. While seeking out those responsible, he slowly builds an empire by seizing power from other criminal organisations in the city.
The game is played from a third-person perspective, and its world is navigated on foot or by vehicle. The open world design lets the player freely roam Vice City, consisting of two main islands. The game’s plot is based on multiple real-world people and events in Miami such as Cubans, Haitians, and biker gangs, the 1980s crack epidemic, the Mafioso drug lords of Miami, and the dominance of glam metal. The game was also influenced by the film and television of the era, most notably Scarface and Miami Vice. Much of the development work constituted creating the game world to fit the inspiration and time period; the development team conducted extensive field research in Miami while creating the world. The game was released in October 2002 for the PlayStation 2, in May 2003 for Microsoft Windows, and in October 2003 for the Xbox.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The player controls criminal Tommy Vercetti and completes missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. It is possible to have several active missions running at one time, as some missions require the player to wait for further instructions or events. Outside of missions, the player can freely roam the game’s open world and has the ability to complete optional side missions. Composed of two main islands and several smaller areas, the world is much larger in area than earlier entries in the series. The islands are unlocked for the player as the story progresses.
The player may run, jump, or drive vehicles to navigate the game’s world. The player uses melee attacks, firearms and explosives to fight enemies. The firearms include weapons such as the Colt Python, an M60 machine gun and a Minigun. The game’s three-dimension environment allows a first-person view while aiming with the sniper rifle and rocket launcher. In addition, the game’s combat allows the player to commit drive-by shootings by facing sideways in a vehicle. The game provides the player a wide variety of weapon options—they can be purchased from local firearms dealers, found on the ground, retrieved from dead enemies, or found around the city.
In combat, auto-aim can be used as assistance against enemies. Should the player take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated through the use of health pick-ups. Body armour can be used to absorb gunshots and explosive damage, but is used up in the process. When health is entirely depleted, gameplay stops and the player respawns at the nearest hospital while losing all weapons and armour and some of their money. If the player commits crimes while playing, the game’s law enforcement agencies may respond as indicated by a “wanted” meter in the head-up display (HUD), which increases as the player commits more crimes. On the meter, the displayed stars indicate the current wanted level, and the higher the level, the greater the response for law enforcement (for example, at the maximum six-star level, police helicopters and military swarm to lethally dispatch players).
During the story, Tommy meets characters from various gangs. As the player completes missions for different gangs, fellow gang members will often defend the player, while rival gang members will recognise the player and subsequently shoot on sight. While free roaming the game world, the player may engage in activities such as a vigilante minigame, a fire fighting activity, a paramedic service and a taxi cab service. Completion of these activities grants the player with context-specific rewards. As Tommy builds his criminal empire, the player may purchase a number of properties distributed across the city, some of which act as additional hideouts where weapons can be collected and vehicles can be stored. There are also a variety of businesses which can be purchased, including a pornographic film studio, a taxi company, and several entertainment clubs. Each commercial property has a number of missions attached to it, such as eliminating competition or stealing equipment; once all missions are complete, the property begins to generate an ongoing income available for the player.