In 2002, Grand Theft Auto: Vice CIty followed the hugely successful and genre defining Grand Theft Auto 3. It took the series back to the colorful neon lights of the 1980s, added a fully voiced protagonist and ultimately told a far more compelling tale in the crime series than its predecessors did.
The gameplay remained in most part the same as in GTA 3, but it's bright and colorful themes were in a stark contrast to the grimy crime-ridden streets of Liberty City. It added new ways to expand your criminal empire, with the ability to seize businesses and buildings and earn more money in the process. It added a layer of strategy and some RPG elements into the mix and was a great way to freshen up the series -- which despite the leap into a fully 3D world, the gameplay remained very similar to its top-down 2D iterations.
As a result GTA: Vice City managed to successfully flesh out the mechanics of GTA3 and Vice City's world building was a huge improvement.
What made GTA: Vice City stand out above its predecessor though was the characters with a huge supporting cast featuring a well known voice cast with the likes of Danny Tejo, Danny Dyer, Burt Reynolds, Jenna Jameson and Gary Busey. The characters were as colorful as the Miami themed Vice City itself.
The great cast of characters was led by protagonist Tommy Vercetti, who was fully voiced by Ray Liotta, and helped cement the character as one of the best leads in the GTA series. Here are 15 amazing facts you may not have known about the characters.
15 Everybody's Favorite GTA character
Ever since the Grand Theft Auto series defined the open world 3D action genre, the series has played part to a lot of memorable characters since GTA3 in 2001.
With standout characters like the Eastern European war veteran Nico Bellic, the street-smart CJ or the wildman Trevor Phillips, you'd be forgiven for forgetting a character from a 15 year old game. But Tommy Vercetti continues to reach the top of many a sites list of either favorite GTA character or videogaming character.
You'll see Tommy Vercetti topping a recent list as MTV's favorite GTA character or in the past Game Informer listing him as a "characters that defined a decade." He placed second on PlayStation Beyonds top anti-heroes and was placed ninth on a similar list of anti-heroes by The Telegraph. who named Tommy as the overall best GTA character.
14 Tommy's Still On Top
Not content with just topping games lists all over the web, Tommy is still dominating in the GTA 3D universe too, at least he was at the time during the events of GTA:San Andreas.
As seen in the video above, Tommy Vercetti is brought up during a telephone call by Ken Rosenburg to Tommy's secretary. Ken was ultimately ignored, so it is assumed that Tommy has turned his back on Ken due to his recurring drug issues.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - The Introduction was a short film that was included as part of the US versions special edition. The film was created entirely using the San Andreas engine and served as a precursor story to San Andreas.
It is rumored that Rockstar had hoped that Ray Liotta would reprise his role as Tommy for The Introduction and possibly have a part in the full game, but a dispute over Liotta's pay for Vice City prevented his involvement.
13 The Meat Business San Andreas
The Meat Business is the final mission that CJ will receive from Tommy's former friend and confidante Ken Rosenberg (more on Ken later) in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Ken has relapsed again into drug addiction and has decided to show the city who's boss by getting CJ to accompany him on a visit to the Sindacco family at their personal Abattoir.
Naturally things take a turn for the worse during the mission, resulting in a shoot out forcing Ken and CJ to fight their way out of the Abattoir. Ken still high on drugs, and either hallucinating or reminiscing, will mention Vercetti at some point during the mission saying:
"Oh, Tommy, this is just like old times!", to which Carl replies "Who the fuck is Tommy?"
It seems that Tommy made the right decision to leave Ken to his vices, as it seems that CJ has picked up Tommy's mantle and is left cleaning up Ken's mess in his stead.
12 Ocean City Racing Easter Egg
Ocean City Racing is an open-world racing title by indie Turkish developer Onur Uca. He developed the massive open world game using the Unreal Engine 3. In an interview with True Gaming PC he cited Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as one of the his major influences in designing the city landscape. The influence from Vice City in Ocean City Racing is obvious with its vibrant colors and art style but the nods to Vice City don't end there.
In free roam, you'll find Tommy spread out and lying down in an ambulance. Once found, the game will congratulate you on finding an 'Easter Egg'.
With the tools freely available to many indie developers willing to put in the effort and make the games they want to, little Easter Eggs like this one help them pay tribute to the games that influenced them over the years.
11 Driver 3 Timmy Vermicelli
Although the Driver series gets labelled with the "GTA Clone" moniker, the original Driver game came out in 1999 and helped popularize the open world 3D driving genre to modern audiences at the time.
However, the Driver series was never an 'out of the car' experience until after GTA 3 was released, so the debate is arguable as in who influenced who.
2002's Driver 3 contained its very own Tommy Vercetti Easter Egg in the form of Timmy Vermicelli. Timmy is an obvious parody of Vercetti and, like Tommy, he wears a floral Hawaiian shirt. Furthermore, in a mockery of Tommy's character model and inability to swim in Vice City, Timmy has oversized hand and floaties on his arms.
Timmy featuring in Driver 3 was a humorous response to the "Tanner Walked Like Girl" mission in Grand Theft Auto 3.
10 Kent Paul's 80's Nostalgia Zone
Tommy Vercetti gets another mention on Kent Paul's quasi-fictional website, which references both real world events and those that happened in the game, which is still live today. Under the section 'Social Problems', Paul lists his top ten social problems of the 1980s. If you scroll to the bottom the page you'll see in small print a message from Kent Paul to Tommy:
"(see, Tom, I didn't mention your name, nowhere. Maybe you won't get us killed now, okay?)"
Kent Paul was a band manager always chasing the dream of fame, that featured in both Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas. He was voiced in both games by British actor and "cockney geezer" Danny Dyer.
Kent Paul makes another appearance, but in name only, as his name shows up on a star the Vinewood Walk of Fame in Grand Theft Auto V -- the game's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
9 Kubrick Toys
Kubrick figures are a line of Lego style toys created by Japanese toy company Medicom Toy Inc. The toys are usually produced in limited numbers and are never re-released, as the toys are considered to be very collectable and hold a lot of resale value with fans. They are also predominantly collected by adult consumers. In 2006 Medicom Toy Inc. released a Grand Theft Auto: Vice City line of the Kubrick boxed sets. The set included Tommy Vercetti, Lance Vance, Crime Lord Ricardo Diaz, Adult Film Star Candy Suxx, and Ken Rosenberg.
The GTA line of the Kubrick sets were some of their more popular lines, but were limited to only 3,000 and are difficult to get a hold of now, selling at a starting price of $149 on eBay.
8 The Scarface Influence
All of the Grand Theft Auto games are very self aware and either satirise, pay tribute or are heavily influenced by popular movies and GTA: Vice City is certainly no different.
Vice City draws heavily on one of the most iconic mobster movies of all time, the 1983 version of Scarface starring Al Pacino. The references throughout the game are both obvious and and subtle, the image above referencing one of the more obvious nods to the film.
Although, he's not Cuban, Tommy's attitude and appearance is clearly inspired by Tony Montana in the film -- just take a look at his shirt.
Where Tommy differs the most from Tony is, Scarface is (spoiler) a tale about the rise and eventual fall of gangster in the 1980s. Tommy's tale is about him rising to power and succeeding exactly where Tony failed, with a huge shootout at a mansion that more than resembles Montana's mansion in Scarface.
7 Tommy's Just A Goodfella Who Paved The Way
What separated Vice City so much from its predecessor, GTA3, aside from its themes and setting was the stellar voice acting provided by Ray Liotta, well known for his performances in the award winning Goodfellas and Copland (another movie that was referenced as a mission in GTA: Vice City).
Before Ray Liotta in Vice City, gaming wasn't as mainstream as it is now. So it was rare to find big Hollywood names attached to videogame projects at all back in the early 2000s. It could be said, that he helped pave the way for the more well-known actors we see in modern gaming now.
Liotta won several awards for his performance as Tommy, such as "Best Live Action/Voice Male Performance" at the 2003 G-Phoria awards and "Best Performance by a Human" at the 2003 Spike Video Game Awards for his work as Vercetti.
6 Ray Liotta Was A Badfella?
As mentioned, gaming was not considered as mainstream as it is now and that was despite videogames selling in the millions. So, for many actors and actresses, it was seen as a far lesser medium than film and television work, and Ray Liotta was no exception.
GTA: Vice City director Navid Khonsari stated in an interview with GamesRadar that Liotta's attitude on set was varied at best. There were days where he'd be enthusiastic and really into the role and other days where he'd frequently complain and struggle with his work.
Liotta was noted to have been frustrated with the limitations of voice acting as opposed to the live-action performances he was used to. In addition, according to David Kushner's book, Jacked: An Outlaw Story, the actor was reportedly frustrated by the game's huge success as he considered himself to be underpaid for the amount of work and time he put in.
5 The Tarantino Effect
Quentin Tarantino's films, by his own admission, are a self-aware love letter and tribute to some of the most influential movies and scenes of all time.
Reservoir Dogs is a hugely influential film, yet it was heavily influenced by a much lesser known 1987 action film called City On Fire by Ringo Lam, right down to its plot turns. So I'm sure that Tarantino didn't mind that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City added a few nods of its own to his debut feature.
In Vice City, Tommy Vercetti's appearance resembles that of Michael Madsen's character (who actually voiced Tony Cipriani in GTA: Vice City Stories) from Reservoir Dogs. In the film, Madsen's character Mr Blonde is released from prison for doing time for his crime family. This scene was recreated with Tommy's character during the "Harwood Incident" in Vice City.
Tommy performs hits for a Mr. Black character during missions in Vice City, which is another obvious nod to Tarantino's movie.
4 Miami Vice City
Considering the time period and the location setting of Vice City being of a 1980's Miami, it should come as no surprise that the game heavily referenced the hugely popular and iconic Miami Vice TV series starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas.
The "Vercetti Suit," worn by Tommy later in the game and shown in the image above, was an obvious reference to Ricardo Tubbs' stylish suits in the series. The references don't end there though.
Don Johnson's character, Sonny Crockett, had his own theme on the show, which was featured on the game's soundtrack. The look, outfits and stylings of the Haitian and Cuban gangsters in the game are almost identical to the ones seen in Miami Vice.
There's also a humorous nod to the TV show with officers Cracker and Butts, as opposed to Crockett and Tubbs.
3 Vice City's Own Rico Tubbs!
The links to Miami Vice don't end with just the references mentioned above. Tommy's close friend and ally Lance Vance is voiced by none other than Philip Michael Thomas, one of the leading co-stars that played Rico Tubbs in television series.
Thomas' character also shares a common revenge story with Tubbs, as both are looking to avenge the deaths of their brothers. He often times seems cool and collected in comparison to Tommy -- until later in the game.
The friendship between the two characters is very different though, as Vance eventually goes on to betray Tommy, when Vercetti eventually becomes frustrated with Vance. In turn, Vance grows tired with Tommy's indifference and anger toward him, and attempts to betray Tommy to Sonny Forelli.
2 Tommy's Lawyer
Another character and another major reference to a film, Ken Rosenberg was based on a character played by the actor Sean Penn, in another iconic mobster film starring Al Pacino called Carlito's Way.
Aside from the characters looking similar from a visual perspective, they both share the same jobs in law, and are in support of the lead protagonists in both stories. Both characters also share the same self-destructive drug habits and selfish behavior -- usually leading to more trouble for the lead characters.
Penn's character, Dave Kleinfeld, betrays Carlito in the movie by testifying against him, therefore cutting ties. Although Ken's ties to Tommy are eventually cut, there's no betrayal, as Tommy is assumed to have ended their relationship due to Ken's addiction.
1 Tommy Takes Out The Pretenders
After Grand Theft Auto 3 was released, the game literally defined a genre where many open world games that were released afterward were termed as a "GTA clone." After the success of GTA3, we saw games such as True Crime, Driver 3 and The Getaway. All games were open world crime sims in a similar vein to the GTA series. The 'Autocide' mission in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City directly references characters from the other games that were influenced by Rockstar's own series.
In the mission Mr Black tasks you with eliminating a gang of European bank robbers before they start their job. The names of the targets set by Mr Black are:
- Dick Tanner a reference to Tanner from the Driver series.
- Marcus Hammond, Franco Carter and Charlie Dilson are all references to Mark Hammond, Frank Carter and Charlie Dolson from The Getaway series.
- Nick Kong is a reference to Nick Kang Wilson from True Crime: Streets of L.A.
- Mike Griffin is a reference to the lead character in Mace Griffin:Bounty Hunter.
The references were obviously a playful way for Rockstar to take out the competition in the open world genre and, 15 years later, the GTA games are still on top of the genre they helped define.