Nate from Gotaki Gaming has added his article to our Video Game Nostalgia series. This comes from Nostalgia Bites, a series that savours the same memories we celebrate here at Spindle Gaming. In this edition, we take a stroll down memory lane through the sun and cocaine soaked streets of Vice City.
Ah Vice City. In a strange sort of way it feels like a second childhood home. I’ll never forget the sheer undiluted excitement I felt upon loading the game up for the first time. It was, after all, the sequel to arguably the biggest game changer the industry has ever seen, and upon watching a drug deal go south for one Tommy Vercetti I knew that I was going to be in for something special. The world Rockstar had created just pulled me in instantly in a way that very few games ever have – before or since.
And that initial excitement didn’t waver for a second as I progressed through the game. If anything, between meeting unhinged characters such as Ricardo Diaz and Lance “Vance” Dance, causing mindlessly fun chaos, and meticulously exploring a vibrant, immersive world unlike any other I’d experienced before, the excitement only grew.
It’s difficult to state a single reason why the game was so mesmerising at the time of its release, and why it still holds a place in my heart to this day; there were so many elements involved in creating what made Vice City so damn entertaining. Maybe it had something to do with how badass of a protagonist Tommy was, or the fact that the city appeared like an endless urban jungle waiting to be explored – or maybe it was just the simple, sheer brilliance of the soundtrack that captured my attention.
It was this unique amalgamation of free-roaming gameplay that at the time still felt remarkably fresh. It included violent but often hilarious storytelling, unforgettable characters, biting satire, odes to movies and pop culture – some subtle, some not – and all with the beautiful sprinkle of the ’80s for good measure, along with all the phenomenal music that came with it. If anything, Vice City was as addictive as the cocaine it all too often referenced.
So, with all that said, it seems somewhat futile to even try to cherry pick a single standout element that made the game what it was, or decide what my personal favourite moment was. But, here I am about to try it anyway.
One thing I can say for certain is that Vice City easily has one of the best introductions I’ve ever seen in a video game. Speaking purely in terms of setting the tone for its characters and quickly establishing an incredible sense of time and place, Vice City simply nailed it within the first ten minutes.
The moment you first take control of Tommy and you enter Ken Rosenburg’s car, only to be greeted with the unmistakable sound of “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, is one of the most iconic moments in gaming. It was so simple, but so effective in placing the player into the world.
However, while the game’s introduction remains one of my primary memories of my experience with Vice City, after all these years there’s always one specific point in the game that instantly springs to mind whenever I think of Vice City, and that’s what I’m going to focus on for this edition of Nostalgia Bites: The Job.
The Job is the finale to the Malibu Club-based missions, and it involves Tommy and his new crew pulling off an audacious heist at a bank in Little Havana. It’s the culmination of a few missions in which you recruit the gun-nut (and general nut) Phil Cassidy, the expert safe cracker Cam Jones, and the overweight, self-defeatist Hilary King.
For me, what made The Job particularly special was the fact that you had so many contrasting, entertaining characters involved, and it wasn’t the normal one-to-one conversations that made up the majority of the game.
The banter in the taxi on the way to bank was genuinely hilarious, and when I reflect on the mission I always smile at the thought of a group of grown-ass men bickering in a car like children while on their way to rob a bank. Then, upon arriving at the bank, you’re treated to the sight of your puerile, ragtag crew transforming into hockey mask wearing psychopaths. It’s an image sheered into my video gaming mind.
What follows is what paved the way for the fantastic heist missions on Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V. The newly masked Tommy, Phil and Cam enter the bank while Hilary waits outside. You make your way through the bank to the vault as Phil keeps an eye on any potentially heroic citizens, and you coerce the manager into opening the vault.
Everything is seemingly going swimmingly, but with this being a Grand Theft Auto game, the operation naturally goes tits up.
The alarms begin blurring as you make your way back to the main room of the bank and you must fight your way through a sea of descending SWAT teams with your newfound riches in hand. When you finally make it outside your getaway driver Hilary ends dying by the hand of the police, which results in a frantic rush to get to the nearest Pay N’ Spray.
It’s really just a perfect Grand Theft Auto mission in every way, and it had a little of everything that made Grand Theft Auto stand out from the crowd: The cool outfits, the humourous dialogue, the sense of chaotic freedom, the gunfights, the remarkably crazy yet weirdly endearing characters, the police chase, and finally the simple joy of playing through an incredibly fun mission. When you finish the mission you’re greeted with a mammoth $50,000 reward for your efforts and the promise of a massage from Mercedes – which you’ll never receive, for the record.
Also, I loved the fact that you’ll find a lovely pile of cash on your bed in your Ocean View hotel room afterwards that you wish Tommy would jump on top of and start washing his face with. Ah, back in the days when games really loved giving little easter eggs for your efforts.
Ah, those were the days.
Want to get in touch with Nate? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.