gta vice city overview

GTA Vice City Overview: Welcome to the Tropical Paradise!

Latest posts by Tommy Verrcity (see all)

Grand Theft Auto Vice City is a magnificent feat from Rockstar Games Inc. and a remarkable all-time classic despite being released almost 20 years ago.

GTA III was a record-breaking game and a massive success. It took the concept of open-world gameplay to a completely different level. Many thought that Rockstar can’t match GTA III’s success let alone surpass it.

Well, Vice City did exactly that!

It wasn’t just a simple video game; it was a statement from Rockstar that crystalized their mindset and ambition. It is a monumental piece of art that brought Rockstar’s creative vision of the ‘80s to life.

So, what makes this game so special? What makes it better than the rest? Is it worth playing nowadays? And is the definitive edition better than the original?

If you are looking to answer those questions, you came to the right spot. The aim of this article is going to give you a complete GTA Vice City overview and explain the gameplay, the story behind it, and provide more details about the graphics, soundtracks, and missions.

Read also: Comprehensive Vice City Mission Progression Guide.

Game Development

The game is the fifth title in the GTA series, and was developed by no other than Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It made its debut on the PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms on the 27th of October, 2002.

GTA III had a successful gaming formula that Vice City followed. Meaning very minor changes were introduced to the RenderWare game engine. Vice City includes massive landscapes, open buildings, a wide range of vehicles, and various characters.

The game was re-released on the 11th of November, 2021, for the latest gaming consoles, including PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, and PC. It was entitled Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – The Definitive Edition as part of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. This bundle was released in the honor of GTA III’s 20th anniversary.

The game was corralled by controversy for its violent content and degradation of women. However, it didn’t stop it from reaching the top five best-selling video games of all time. It received additional accolades, including the ultimate game of the year, best sound, music, graphics, and best action/adventure game.


Except for GTA III, there is no other game that can provide you with the excitement and adrenaline rush experience like GTA Vice City. It took all the themes and concepts of its predecessor and made them bigger and better. In other words, Vice City is more of an extension for GTA III instead of being a fully redone or refurbished game.

It fixed the issues the previous game had and added a lot more stuff to fiddle around with. Overall, Rockstar did a great job in making Vice City chic, sleek, and very enjoyable.

The main story revolves around a hardcore criminal called Tommy Vercetti, who recently got out of prison after finishing a fifteen years sentence. Out of prison a back to the core of the action. Tommy heads down to Vice City by orders from the Forelli Family Mafia.

The leader, Sonny Forelli, send Tommy to make some high profit from the rising drug trade in the city. Upon his arrival, Tommy meets up with Ken Rosenberg and a couple of his associates to drive to the location of a drug operation. However, the deal turned out to be a setup. Both the drugs and the money were stolen while Tommy and Ken barely made it out alive.

After discussing what’s next, Tommy calls Sonny to explain that the deal was rigged. After a very angry conversation, Sonny agrees to let Tommy handle the situation. Tommy’s first stages of his journey are spent meeting new people with massive authority and serious connections. He later accepts a job offer from a real estate developer in exchange for protection from outside threats.

The action begins when Tommy gets involved with the drug baron Ricardo Diaz. The latter hires Tommy as his handyman, but their friendship soon comes to an end. Tommy finds out that Diaz’s gang is the reason behind the ambush and the murder of their associates at the beginning of the story. Tommy and Lance head over to Diaz’s mansion, kill him and take over his property.

Tommy turns into a businessman and buys loads of properties to expand his empire. Meanwhile, Sonny gets very frustrated watching from the sidelines and decided to go to Vice City to meet up with Tommy and get his money back. Tommy chooses to give Sonny fake money, but Lance betrays Tommy and exposes his plan to Sonny.

After thousands of bullets and a massive bloodbath, Tommy finally kills Sonny, Lance, and takes over Vice City with Ken as his right-hand man.


If you think GTA III displays much R/Mature rated content, Vice City is no different. It has a perfect balance between chaos and a dark sense of humor. Most humor is generated from the dialogues and the radio when driving.

Nonetheless, the game features a great miscellany of characters, from criminal geniuses to corrupt police officers and power-thirsty leaders that drive the story. Vice City focused carefully on its characters, and the end results were mind-blowing cinematic sensations.

For instance, Sonny Forelli is a drug lord with unfulfilled lust for power and authority. Sonny is more of an old-school villain in a fairytale, who loves to boss people around. During the gameplay, Sonny has his sudden explosions and twisty moves that add more spice to the story and keep the players on the edge of their seats.

On the other hand, we have Ken Rosenberg. If chickens were people Ken would be their king. He is one of those characters who freaks out and gets controlled by paralyzing paranoia. Regardless, Ken remains one of the funniest and most loyal characters in the game. In fact, he is the only character that stays by Tommy’s side till the end of the game.

Lance Vance is on the opposite side of the spectrum compared to Ken. He likes to dive into the action and has some dramatic and funny moments. But he proves that loyalty is not everyone’s priority after he betrays Tommy in the end.

Image from Fandom

Of course, Vice City will probably be pointless without its main protagonist. Instead of playing the role of a servant-like mute like GTA III, Vice City puts you in the shoes of an ex-convict who just finished fifteen years in the slammer. He gets himself in trouble by getting involved in a botched drug deal.

Tommy is a relentless criminal who hates working for people and will do anything to get what he wants. He was the first protagonist in the series to have a voice (voiced by Ray Liotta). Unlike GTA III’s vague character Claude, Vercetti’s character is chained to the overall story narrative.

Tommy Vercetti is one of the most memorable and lovable characters in the Grand Theft Auto series that we would love to see again in GTA 6.


Vice City is a full-blown living island with cars going back and forth on the streets, cops chasing crooks, citizens casually hanging on the sidewalks, and gangs shooting each other. As you wander around in this world, the core of the game is jacking cars and jumping from one crime to another.

Police response and AI encounters

Some of the best moments any player can encounter in the game involve hot pursuits with the cops. They are not very strict about the rules of the road. For example, you can run as many red lights as you want, ram other cars (except police cars), and drive on the wrong side of the road. You can even get away with stealing a car from a parking lot sometimes or on the streets.

However, firing up serious chaos will get the cops on your tale. You can easily escape a one-star wanted level if you hide for long enough. Two stars wanted level is manageable, but things get a little tougher beyond that. They will begin to shoot on sight and blow your tires if you are driving.

Here is what happens when you get in trouble with the authorities:

  1. Three stars wanted level:
    • Undercover units will chase you
    • Police officers will deploy spike strips
    • You will get followed by a helicopter.
  2. Four stars wanted level:
    • SWAT trucks will chase you and form a roadblock.
  3. Five stars wanted level:
    • Local cops will be replaced with the FBI.
  4. Six stars wanted level:
    • FBI and civilians will be replaced by military personal
    • Army trucks will chase you
    • Tanks will be deployed.

Yes, if you anger the law enforcement enough, they will blow you up with a tank, literally.

The AI is not the most sophisticated, but they add adventurous, and exciting ambiance to the gameplay. Some will run away if you throw punches at them while others will fight back. And the same happens when they drive. If you shoot an AI vehicle, a couple will drive off in fear while others will abandon their vehicle and run on foot.

In terms of gangs activities, each gang has its own territory and get-together places and will shoot their rivals on sight. Their aiming is somewhat poor, and they can be taken down easily, in case of a fight.


The control system is convenient if you are using an analog controller, and the PC version retains the same efficiency. However, the controls on the PC take the edge. The configuration features both arrow keys and WASD to walk, and the mouse to move the camera around.

There are some minor nuisances, like the sprint key being on the right shift key (sorry WASD users), but you can easily change the controls and set them to the way you want in the settings menu.

The best thing about the controls is probably the ability to use the mouse. There is nothing wrong with using a controller, but using the mouse to turn the camera around and aim with it makes the game much easier and more expedient. Regardless, the keyboard and mouse fall back a little when driving. The mouse keeps moving away from the center and changing the camera view while turning, making it hard to see.

It’s very frustrating since you have to turn a lot in the game. Imagine my frustration when that happened during a police chase!

The best solution is to switch back to the default keyboard steering. However, the keyboard does not offer the refined and steady controls the analog devices provide.

P.O.V and Graphics:

Right off the bat, you will notice that Vice City improves enormously on GTA III regarding graphics. The visuals are stunning and do a great job depicting the 80s atmosphere. Every location and area is perfectly rendered and runs smoothly. In addition, the transitions between the wealthy glowing neighborhoods and the poor dark alleys are natural and flawless.

Compared to GTA III, the textures are sharper than before, and the resolutions are higher as well. The characters look better, and the animation seems superb, giving the game a cleaner appearance.

Furthermore, the characters are synchronized and choreographed during the cutscenes. If you look closely, you will notice that they use facial expressions and lip-sync to give the story a cinematic touch.

But, what gets me the most is the attention to detail. The reflection of the sun on the windows of the cars and the way the glass breaks is breathtaking. Plus, you can see Tommy’s shirt flapping in windy weather or as he drives a motorcycle. Rain effects are semi-realistic. You can see puddles forming on the roads, and vehicles get harder to control.

In addition, you get screen effects of rain dripping down the screen and thunder sounds. The draw distance goes further out than expected. You can adjust it to improve the view of the horizon or improve the frame rate. It is even better when you fly above the town and see the entire map. One downfall to going up to a higher altitude is that you experience texture loss.


Among all the gameplay additions and new settings, the new vehicles are the icing on the cake. The list is too long to discuss in detail, but here is an overview of what to expect. You will find Porsche-like sporty cars and fast exotics resembling real-life Lambos and Ferraris. On the other hand, family minivans and sedans are relatively slower than sports cars.

Limousines and racecars are available in the game. But you have to progress through the game and complete missions to unlock them.

The game also features commercial vans of all sorts and sizes, Trashmaster, pickup trucks, semi-trucks, busses, and car transporter/ car carrier trailers. The big rigs provide more protection against collisions, but they are very slow compared to the smaller cars. The most satisfying feature about the vehicle is the hood flying off the car at high speeds when it pops open.

The list continues with an adequate variety of two-wheelers. It includes scooters (mopeds/ faggios), dirt bikes, sportbikes, and choppers (similar to Harley Davidson). Scooters are slow but very agile around the corners, while Choppers are ridiculous on the top speed, but they hug the wall every time you try to make a turn. The dirt bike and sportbikes offer a good balance between speed and maneuverability.

Bikes are very suitable in missions that require a fast pace and agility. In addition, there are a lot of ramps spread across the city to do high-speed jumps and tricks. Nonetheless, you will get thrown off the bike in collisions, which will take a bit of your armor or health. That makes them useless in situations like running from the police.

Unlike GTA III, in Vice City, you can fly around. Planes and helicopters will be available later in the game after finishing some missions and purchasing certain properties. In terms of boats, there are a lot of them floating around. During the gameplay, you will go through missions that unlock locations where boats spawn in and grant you specially modified speed boats.


The aiming mechanism is smoother, more refined, and makes shooting enemies effortless. In other words, you can snipe someone from a rooftop or gun down an entire gang from a helicopter with no trouble. To do that, you have a massive artilleries inventory that features 35 different firearms. Weapons are divided into categories that include:

  • Melee weapons: screwdriver, hammer, knife, golf club, katana, chainsaw…
  • Throwables: tear gas, Molotov, grenades, remote grenades

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other weapons include my all-time favorite: pump shotgun

  • Minigun
  • Flamethrower
  • Rocket launcher
  • A 357 revolver
  • Sniper rifle
  • The M60

These weapons will save your life during missions or gang shootouts. Plus, crouching to hide behind an object is a great feature added to the game.


Missions in Vice City are more dynamic and story-driven. They are much longer and more complex in their general sense. Most of the missions in GTA III involve getting something from someone or going from point A to point B and back. However, missions in Vice City demand more than just going to a location and back.

For instance, in the mission Cop Land, you have to plant a bomb in a shop located inside a mall surrounded by cops. You must get heat on you first and lure the cops into a garage. After ambushing them, you will steal their uniform and drive to the mall. Assuming you made it to the shop inside the mall, you must escape the police after planting the bomb and head back to your hideout.

Furthermore, you will get the ability to buy several properties that contain separate missions. For example, For example, Kaufman Cabs taxi company holds a series of taxi-related undertakings.

Once you finish them, the property will turn into money generating asset. You will repeat the same thing with additional properties like the Malibu Club and the Film Studio. All side missions from GTA III like the vigilante, ambulance, fire truck, and taxi are back in Vice City.

Fun Fact: Vice City adds a pizza delivery service!

Image from Fandom

Yes, behind the pizza restaurants in Vice City, you will find a scooter that will allow you to work as a pizza delivery boy. Yet, it is the delivery mechanism that gets me the most. To distribute the pizza, you must do a drive-by shooting. But, instead of shooting bullets, you will be tossing pizza pies.

Speaking of missions, Vice City is the home of probably the most demanding task in the entire series. The quest is entitled Demolition Man. Your goal is to pick up four bombs and put them in a specific spot inside a building. You are forced to do that using an RC helicopter. What makes this mission so frustrating is the controls and the fact that you have to do it with seven minutes on the clock.

Bear in mind that the RC helicopter is twitchy and slow.

In addition, the bombs go on different zones on different floors inside the building, making them hard to reach. Plus, each target is surrounded by armed construction workers and security guards who will attack you and damage your helicopter.


The story is set to take place in Vice City, which is a fictional knock-off of the 80s Miami, Florida. It features many similarities such as music, cars, style of clothes, building designs and construction, and even the crime life. Grand Theft Auto Vice City had its inspiration from movies predominantly Miami Vice and Scarface.

For instance, the undercover units that chase you at three stars wanted level resembles Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs from the TV series. Plus, they drive the Vice City Police Department Cheetah designed to look like the 1986 Ferrari Testarossa. Even the character of Lance Vance is voiced by Philip Michael Thomas, who played Tubbs in Miami Vice.

Scarface references are subtle in the game and can be seen in various locations. As an example, the Vercetti Estate and Malibu Club mimic some localities in the movie. Not to mention, the hidden apartment that has the chainsaw features a bloody bathroom carrying reference to the chainsaw scene in Scarface.

Pros and Cons


If you fail a mission in GTA III, the game will respawn you in front of a hospital. In Vice City, if respawn somewhere far, you will see a taxi waiting for you. The cab will drop you back at the mission location to restart it.

Another great feature worth praising is the ability to buy properties. These properties are spread across the map, which you can use as a save point. Furthermore, some of these properties will turn into assets that generate income for you to collect.

Image from Fandom


Vice City is a great game, but it has a few downfalls. The most annoying one is not being able to swim. You probably will not spend much time swimming anyway, except it becomes a big pet peeve considering that a couple of missions take place in the water with boats. In addition, it would be more than beneficial to have the ability to climb over higher walls.

Another annoying point is the weapon selection process. Instead of a simple categorized layout, Vice City forces you to scroll through a long list of weapons to get the one you need.

Image from Fandom


There are many open-world action/adventure games like Grand Theft Auto Vice City to play. Give these a shot:

  • Just Cause
  • Watch Dogs
  • Hitman
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division
  • Saint’s Row
  • Infamous
  • Sleeping Dogs


Answer: Grand Theft Auto Vice City is not excessively demanding. It requires Windows XP or above to operate. In addition, you will need 2 GB RAM, an intel core i3/ AMD processor, and GeForce 3 or Radeon 8500 graphics card. The game can run on lower requirements, but you may face poor frame rats and pop-ins during the gameplay.

Question: Is GTA III better than GTA Vice City?

Answer: No. GTA Vice City is better than GTA III in almost all aspects. Vice City, has a better story, missions, a larger variety of cars, guns, characters, improved graphics, and better map settings.

Question: How long does it take to beat GTA Vice City?

Answer: It takes about 18 hours to finish the main missions in GTA Vice City. However, it takes about 42-48 hours to explore the entire map and finish the side missions.

Final Thoughts …

Not to beat around the bush, Vice City is more of an extension of GTA III rather than a fully refurbished game. That is a plus for the game because the free gameplay of its predecessor was more than amusing, enjoyable, and provided a massive replay value.

So, if it is not broken … why fix it? Regardless, GTA III had more potential, and Vice City fulfills a lot of it. With a sum of 87 missions, loads of cars, weapons, and bedazzling graphics, Rockstar proved that their creative vision truly is limitless.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top