Format: Playstation 2 Genre: Sandbox Game Released: 2002 Developer: Rockstar
Whenever I think of Grand Theft Auto, I’m always reminded of the time when I worked in a computer game shop just after university (and before any smart alec asks, no you don’t need a degree to work in a computer game shop).
A frazzled-looking mother was dragged into the shop by her young son, and he made a beeline straight for the shelf with GTA: Vice City, eagerly thrusting the game box into his put-upon mother’s hands. Mum wearily approached the counter, purse in hand, ready to purchase the child’s treat. I took a look at the son – he couldn’t have been older than 11 – and said to the mother “Errr… you do know this game is an 18, don’t you?”
I’ve never seen such fury in a mother’s eyes. She swivelled the full force of her Gorgon gaze onto her cowering son, who could only tremble underneath the onslaught of her words:
“YOU NEVER SAID IT WAS AN 18!!!”
“NO BUTS! OUT!!!”
I felt almost guilty as the defeated son was frogmarched out of the shop by his furious parent. Almost, but not quite.
It’s illustrative of a problem that didn’t really exist when I was growing up – parents have no idea what their kids are playing. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t really have to worry – games didn’t really get more violent than Mario jumping on the head of innocent (or perhaps not so innocent) Goombas – but a quick look at my Xbox 360 games collection reveals that about half of the titles have great big red age ratings all over them.
Does the above example show that modern parents haven’t quite cottoned onto the fact that games have become more violent? Or is it the opposite – are modern parents more aware of computer games, having grown up playing them themselves? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
In terms of game violence, Vice City looks a bit tame now by modern standards – the cartoony graphics are a long way from the more realistic depictions in recent titles such as Modern Warfare 2. Indeed, perhaps the furore over the airport scene in the latter game indicates that video games have reached new heights of moral complexity (although in my opinion they have a very long way to go). Having said that, I still wouldn’t let my (hypothetical) kids play Vice City – as an adult, I can appreciate the humour and irony of a lot of the storyline, but I don’t think that young kids should be exposed to the various pimps, prostitutes and gangsters that populate the game.
Perhaps I’m getting too serious here – one thing that can be said about Vice City is that it’s very, very funny, perhaps the funniest in the series. I absolutely loved the inane chat shows on the talk radio stations – if I made a list of Nice Touches in Video Games, they’d be right up there, hovering around the number 1 spot (along with discovering that you can do handstands and swan dives in the original Tomb Raider).
[Click of dictaphone whirring into life] “Idea for new blog: 101 Nice Touches in Video Games. Whoa, no, hold on, make that 50 Nice Touches in Video Games. No, actually, 10 Nice… hell, who am I kidding, I’ve got enough on my plate as it is. OK, scrap that idea.” [Click]
The best thing about Vice City – like all of the GTA games – was just exploring the game world, looking for things to do. I’d occasionally attempt an actual mission, but the vast majority of my time was spent in various other pursuits, such as racing dirt bikes, stealing a police car and using it to hunt down criminals, finding hidden jumps, or attempting to nick a helicopter from the military base (that last one was difficult, but gosh darn it was worth it). Even just cruising around listening to the cheesylicious eighties music was a diverting pastime in itself (have a listen to the Flock of Seagulls song that accompanies the trailer below to get an idea of the awesomeness of the game’s soundtrack).
If you’ve yet to experience this slice of Miami Vice-inspired brilliance, I urge you to play it immediately. As long as you’re over 18 of course.
(Screenshots from http://uk.gamespot.com.)