Last week I had one of those urges that only a pregnant man can have, to step back into the shoes of Tommy Vercetti and relive the delights of Vice City. This 2003 Rockstar outing was easily one of the best games I ever played, everything about it simply oozed style and polish. It’s almost as if the developers took a standard checklist of things that get rated in a game, made sure every area got given the works, and then spent the rest of their time filling in the gaps. Because it’s exactly that which nails it for this game, the attention to detail that makes playing Vice City like stepping into the ’80s: the clothes, the music, the cars, the giant mobile phones, heck, even the intro scene features the game being loaded on a Commodore 64. Rockstar’s particular sense of humour is also here to see by the bucketload, from the tongue-in-cheek nature of some of the missions, through the fantastic dialogue and hilarious radio stations, to the small jabs and puns that little the streets of Vice City.
All of which is without even touching on the gameplay. Sitting firmly in the sandbox genre, Vice City gives you a wonderful feeling of being able to go about things your own way. Goofing around, stealing cars, running from the police, there’s plenty to do in the game when you aren’t really doing anything! But fortunately that doesn’t mean that Rockstar skimped out on the main storyline, which is by all means fantastic, and features all sorts of mission types, from starting riots, racing through the streets, to knocking off banks and delivering numerous methods of ‘persuasion’ to various denizens of the city. Aside from the main plot, there are plenty of other side missions and extras to discover, which add ample distraction to the standard mayhem generally meted out whilst driving between missions.
Unfortunately, on account of where I currently live, the copy I got hold of was one of the draconian censored versions designed for people with severe mental disabilities and no wish to stand up for themselves. Frankly, the censorship wasn’t immediately conspicuous: it’s been long enough since I last loaded the game up, that I didn’t notice the lack of blood under the tires, or the inability to kick people when they’re down. Even in a mission involving a chainsaw and a nice Hawaiian shirt, it didn’t immediately occur that there were no droplets of blood on the screen.
Eventually, however, I found my way to a location where I knew there to be a hidden rampage, one of Vice City’s mad little sub-missions involving a mad psychotic killing spree against the clock, only it wasn’t there. After a quick search on the web, I realised that this was in fact on account of the censorship, and not any corruption in the game or an error on my part. Fortunately, whilst searching for the reason I also found the solution: the BlutPatch replaces the game’s main executable and restores all of those missing features hacked out to try to put some kind of moral fibre into this hellraiser of a game.
And honestly, what is the point of it? On installing the ‘patch’ I realised just how many little details had been taken out of the game. Like the ability to rob the people you’ve killed was entirely removed, so what exactly is the message we’re supposed to get? Ripping someone from the front seat of their cars and being them to death with a hammer is fine, but taking $20 from their wallets afterwards is beyond the pale? Or the issue of sex. The game revolves around the criminal underworld, it kicks off with a drug deal, ends in a massacre, and has everything in between, yet it was the ability to hire a prostitute and sit in a squeeking car whilst your health goes up that was deemed unfit for polite society. Unfortunately I didn’t play the game long enough without the BlutPatch to tell if the censored version also touches on those other likely offensive areas in the game, namely the strip club and the porn studios.
Sadly, the game hasn’t entirely lived up to the test of time. Whilst the gameplay, humour and polish of the game are still as fresh as they were on its release, getting the game to run with any degree of reliability is a bit of a trial. I was running it under Vista, which wasn’t necessarily the greatest problem, but no doubt the BlutPatch did nothing to help matters. Fortunately after a bit of tinkering I got the game to run fairly smoothly, albeit with a couple of annoying issues:
- Mouse sensitivity was unfortunately rather crazy, and affected the vertical rather more than the horizontal. This mouse has a few buttons for tweaking the DPI, but there are also some tools below which may help.
- Occasionally the mouse would refuse to function at all, generally fixed by pressing escape, or restarting the game. This would not happen mid-game, only when moving from the main menu screen and back again.
- The game would occasionally crash outright after some kind of collision involving a police/military vehicle. Not entirely sure what this was caused by, nor if it was restricted to police vehicles, and it was fairly infrequent, though highly annoying when reminded of it on Vigilante level 15.
For most of these and many other problems, there is an excellent guide over on the GTAForums. Some of the solutions call for the use of some tricks produced by the ToCA Edit team, sadly rather hidden away on their website and so reproduced below.
There are also a couple of patches originally produced here (original website now defunkt) for fixing two specific bugs, namely the never-ending slow motion camera on doing Unique Jumps, and the unreachable Cuban outfit on doing missions in a certain order. Using the patches is a simple matter:
All game fixes are meant to be coding fixes for common game issues. As their role is intended to be fixes, they are in fact plug and play. That means you drop them into your data folder (AFTER backing up your original main.scm), rename it to main.scm, and you load your save without having to start a new game.