With the release of Grand Theft Auto V happening as I type (squee squee SQUEE!), it seems fitting that my mind should wander to my most recent GTA ventures. While I’ll discuss it more in depth in a later post, I recently picked up Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for my tablet. Originally released in 2002, Vice City looks pretty darn good on the small screen. Though I’ve been a little slow to really sink my teeth into the game, this tale about Tommy Vercetti and his adventures in and with Liberty City’s organized crime underground is pretty interesting so far. I’m not a huge fan of the on-screen controls, so I picked up a cable that allows me to hook up my PS3 controller to the tablet, and it works great! When I remember that I’m not playing GTA IV, that is. The controls are much simpler and I often find myself pushing buttons that I think do something when they, in fact, do nothing. I’m also really digging the 80s vibe of the game. I could give or take the whole Miami-esque setting, but that music…oh that music.
Although I’ve only scratched the surface of Vice City, late last year I took another full-on vacation in Liberty City thanks to Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City (2009). This collection of two GTA IV missions (originally offered as DLC), the Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, proved quite worthy of the GTA name. In the end, I preferred one over the other, but both were immensely satisfying; and it felt so good to be back in Liberty City once again.
When I started playing Episodes, I was head long into a Sons of Anarchy addiction, so it made sense to start with the motorcycle story The Lost and the Damned, even though I hated those goddamned motorcycles in GTA IV. HATED. THEM. Turns out I didn’t hate them any less in TLaTD, but I did get better at controlling them. It helped that there was a decent selection of non-sport bikes, which were my absolute worst enemies. At least on the choppers I felt kinda tied to the road. Those damn sport bikes were just too easy to whip out of control. So yeah, motorcycles. And who was riding them? Members of The Lost – your motorcycle crew. You played as Johnny, vice-president of The Lost, a mean guy with a meaner past who tried maintain a level head while club president Billy drove things out of control. Through a series of missions, you learned about Johnny and Billy’s relationship, Johnny’s past, and the future of the club.
I had plenty of fun with the game’s missions, but I found the story to be, well, pretty predictable. I didn’t dislike the characters, but both Johnny and Billy played out as rough and tumble stereotypes. And maybe the twisty insanity of Sons of Anarchy had made other motorcycle stories seem dull, possibly. In any event, like I said, I still had an enjoyable time. And I’ll admit that I did have a pretty good time exploring Liberty City by motorcycle, once I got the driving part down. There were still times that I simply despised the vehicular bastards, like when you had to make Johnny keep up with the crew by staying in a highlighted spot on the road. Rarely did I ever find the right combination of acceleration, deceleration, and braking. Also aiming guns from motorcycles? Ugh, the fucking worst.
With TLaTD out of the way, I happily moved onto the next mission, The Ballad of Gay Tony, which did not disappoint and required no motorcycles. TBoGT followed the developments surrounding Luis Lopez, bodyguard to quite possibly my most favorite character in the GTA universe: Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince. I love me a wacky, boozy, coked-up sociopath, and Mr. Prince fit the bill to a tee. I almost wished that he had been a playable character, except that playing as him would probably tear to shreds any hope of humanity and dignity, leaving players in puddles of their own inexcusable shame. Hmmm…sounds okay to me…
But I digress…
TBoGT offered up some crazy characters in the disco subterfuge of Liberty City’s club scene. As Luis, who was also a member of a gang, your goal was to maintain both his “respectable” and “street” lives. For as many times as you were saving Tony from himself, you were also keeping rival gangs at bay, away from your family and home life. It was interesting to consider the best ways to attain Luis’s balance, and his overall story was fairly riveting. However, while the story soared, I found the missions to be a little lacking. They weren’t awful by any means, but I could have done without some of the rote “work in a nightclub” missions. And there was plenty of driving and fetching and shooting to keep the game rolling along at a speedy pace.
What I liked best about Episodes from Liberty City was how tied they were to GTA IV, to that version of Liberty City that I had spent so much time in — helping strange people, visiting bowling alleys and strip clubs, sending innocent pedestrians into a frenzy as I careened out of control over sidewalks. Both episodes crossed over themselves as well as GTA IV with Johnny and Niko Bellic appearing in TBoGT and Tony, the Bellics, and others making cameos/mentions in TLaTD. While both episodes were short compared to the weeks-long campaigns of the full game, they still played out to the fullest extent possible, and wrapped players in that filthy yet comfortable blanket of GTA bedlam and glory.
Hoo boy, GTA memories are one thing, but here in the present, my copy of GTA V is due to arrive in the morning…the daytime morning, that is. Sleep must occur! (Maybe.) Am I ready to return to the mayhem, to the city, to the cars and guns and helicopters? You bet your sweet ass I am.