Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a classic game by any measure. It may have initially been released way back in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, but there are still many gamers who will tell you it is the best version in one of the most beloved video game series of all time.
The combination of the setting in Vice City (Miami) and time period (the 1980s) allowed Rockstar to do things with Vice City that it had not done in previous incarnations of the GTA franchise. The story was fun, the cast of characters was varied and interesting, and the vehicles available seemed to have personalities of their own. These factors combined and allowed Vice City to step above the myriad of competing open-world and sandbox games on the market.
The game's greatest strength though was that it was dripping with 80s nostalgia. It was a trip down memory lane for older gamers (you can drive a freaking DeLorean!) and it was a stunning contrast to the hood themed GTA games that newer gamers are used to. Throw in an art style and visual look that was different to anything that had been tried in this genre of game and Rockstar had to know that they were onto a winner from day one.
That is not to say that everything about Vice City and its incarnation of the 80s is perfect. Rockstar did their homework, and this was obviously a labor of love, but there were still some flaws. Here are 15 things that Vice City gets wrong about the 1980s.
15 80s Cities Weren't This Clean
If Vice City is to be believed then littering was simply not a thing in the 80s. You can run around the streets for hours on end without bumping into so much as a piece of gum or an empty Coke can.
While anti-littering ad campaigns had been going on in the US since the late 1960s, there was certainly less of a stigma attached to throwing your trash on the ground in the 80s when compared to today. In every city other than Vice City that is.
Obviously, the developers were looking for a clean, stylized look for their game and opulence is harder to portray with garbage all over the ground. That can be the only reason that this particular 80s city is shown as being so squeaky clean.
14 The Excess Is Over-Excess, Even For The 80s
The 80s were known as the decade of excess for a good reason. The levels of greed and indulgence in the 80s - often formed by new wealth - were like nothing that the world had ever seen before. That rise in opulence was part of the reason that the drug trade took off and it was how small time dealers became kings overnight.
The only real comparison in American history would be the 1920s and those years after World War I when business was booming and the population believed that peace was in place to stay. The 80s was like a dirtier version of this.
Vice City tackles this excess head on, but in doing so, it goes just a touch over the top in tying the excess into its storytelling. Scaling it back would have made for better realism, but a less fun experience.
13 Not Every 80s Night Club Was Full Of "Dancers"
If Vice City were to be taken as canon, then it would appear that every nightclub in the 1980s was full of strippers.
Not every club in the game features performing strippers, but there is a sense that every female character in the night clubs is employed in that profession. Perhaps this was true of 80s Miami - though it does seem unlikely - but the rest of the world had regular night clubs, with regular girls enjoying a night out during the decade.
You also have to remember that music was ever evolving during the 80s. There would have been more of a punk scene and even more of a New Romantic vibe to some of the clubs in the city. We never really get that in the game though, which is a shame.
12 Ronald Reagan Never Shot A Picture Of Mikhail Gorbachev
This one is a little tricky, but if you look hard enough under the wall at the Ammu-Nation in Downtown Vice City, you will come across a rather interesting Easter Egg.
The Easter Egg in question features a picture of Ronald Reagan shooting Mikhail Gorbachev. These were the presidents of the USA and the Soviet Union respectively when Vice City was set.
While there may have been times where Reagan would have enjoyed shooting photos of his USSR counterpart, it is unlikely that the standing US President would ever do such a thing. This is especially true in this era when Cold War tensions were at their highest and any diplomatic mistake could (theoretically) have triggered World War III.
It is still a cool visual though.
11 Not Everyone In The 80s Owned A Hawaiian Shirt
The 80s Hawaiian shirt is a thing of beauty. Tommy wears his with pride, while you will see countless others worn in the game by important characters and NPCs alike. The shirt is so iconic that you can actually buy retro 80s Hawaiian monstrosities at various clothing stores online.
The truth is though that during the 80s the Hawaiian shirt was only found in the closet of certain types of people. Wannabe gangsters were all about the Hawaiian, while actual gangsters shied away from them. Any Northern European visiting the US would take a boatload home and anyone who watched Magnum P.I. owned a red one or two. The everyday construction or office worker, however?
The everyday construction or office worker, however?
Not so much. Believe it or not, Hawaiian shirts just weren't that popular in places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
10 The 80s Was Not A Mashup Of Miami Vice And Scarface
Much has been made of how Vice City is essentially a mashup of a number of the most iconic movies and TV shows of the 80s. The most obvious influences for the game are Scarface - as protagonist Tommy Vercetti seems to be almost entirely based on the Tony Montana character from the movie - and Miami Vice, which lends its overall aesthetic and vibe to the game.
While there was a gangster element in the 80s that was more like the Scarface ideology than you would think possible, there were also tens of millions of Americans just living their lives as we do today.
The game would have you think that the whole world was living in this fantastical gangster movie and that is just not the reality of 80s living. People back then held down mundane jobs to pay the bills just like they do today.
9 Neon Was Big In The 80s, But Not This Big
Imagining Vice City without neon is almost impossible. It is as if Rockstar finished the game with a regular color palette and then dumped all the neon shades they could find in their developers kit ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE.
In Vice City, there is no such thing as too much neon and there is no such thing as an understated color. It works for the game for sure, as this vibrant and vivid design choice gives it not only a unique look compared to the others in the GTA franchise, but also a unique look from any other video game out there.
Obviously, this was not true in the reality of the 1980s. Yes, there were plenty of people wearing neon colors and buildings so bright they could be seen from space. Still, these were toned down by the bland concrete buildings you see in every big city and small town today.
8 Most People In 80s Miami Would Know How To Swim
Is there anything more annoying than a video game character dying because the programmers in the game were too lazy to develop the action of swimming?
That is what you get in Vice City as when Tony is completely submerged in sea water he reacts like it is a toxic substance. His health depletes at an almost comical rate, giving the player no chance to escape the water. The official line is something about rip tides in the ocean, but no one is believing that.
This gets even weirder when you consider that there are so many boats in the game. As a human, why would you get on a boat - with no life jacket - if the water was akin to lava?
You wouldn't, and nor should Tony.
7 Little Havana Was Hemorrhaging Cubans In The 80s
Little Havana is one of the most iconic districts that people remember from Vice City. While no one would ever claim that the game was loaded with pedestrians roaming the streets - especially compared to modern games - it was still a place which seemed to be bustling with Cuban activity.
If the game had been set earlier in the decade, then this would have been a fair reflection of the community. In 1980, Cuban immigrants made up 85% of the population of the district. Since then though the numbers have dwindled as immigrants from other Latin American countries have crashed the party in Little Havana.
A truer representation of Little Havana in 1986 would have seen many more Nicaraguans in the area, but that didn't fit the narrative of the game.
6 Later Versions Ignore The Racism Against Haitians In 80s Miami
Any community with a massive immigrant population is going to have its issues with racism. That was as true in the 1980s, as it is today. In Miami/Vice City, that immigrant population was almost exclusively Hispanic and within those Hispanic immigrant groups, social tiers rapidly developed.
A number of factors - including language, religion, and economic issues - quickly saw the Haitian community fall to the bottom of the social standing. The initial copies of the game at least addressed this issue, but it was in such a violent and "Rockstar" way that lobbyist groups for the Haitian communities had the content removed for later versions of the game.
While this may have made sense given the dialog that was cut from missions, it means that the game really doesn't touch too much on what was a huge social issue in the game's region in the 80s.
5 It Over Glorifies The Drug Scene
The cocaine boom of the 1980s, fueled by the drug coming up from South America in larger quantities than ever before, was a very real thing. Vice City actually does a pretty good job of showing this lifestyle in its initial stages as the circles Tommy rolls in would have been big players in the cocaine scene.
What the game does not do a good job of however is showing the ugly side of the cocaine industry and the lives that were ruined as the drug took hold. There is a reason that law enforcement stepped up efforts to control and shut down the cocaine trade as the 80s wore on, since more and more Americans were getting hooked on the drug. This got to the point where the drug industry was seen as the No. 1 problem in the entire country by the end of the decade.
4 Hurricane Hermione Was A Thing In 2016, Not 1986
Most Grand Theft Auto games since GTA III has used some version of the closed bridges strategy to stop gamers exploring the whole map from the very beginning. This makes a ton of sense because it allows the developers to slowly open up the world and create bigger and harder challenges as the game goes on.
Most games in the series try to develop a reasoning for various sections being cut off by these raised bridges. Vice City really writes its own background here as the location is perfect for some kind of hurricane issue.
In a radio announcement during the first mission of the game, it is revealed that the bridges are closed for traffic due to Hurricane Hermione. This named hurricane, in reality, did not appear in 1986 but instead made landfall in 2016.
3 The Soundtrack Is Missing Some 80s Classics
When you talk to people about their memories of Vice City, it is always the game's soundtrack that is mentioned first. There really was nothing like cruising down Ocean Drive in a Banshee or on the back of a Freeway while blasting "Africa" by Toto or "Too Young to Fall in Love" by Motley Crue. It was pure 80s nostalgia.
The soundtrack was varied, it was eclectic, but it was not complete. There are still a host of 80s hits that, for one reason or another, didn't make the cut. It is a shame really as the Vice City soundtrack was a classic or two away from being the ultimate 80s compendium.
Just imagine how the game would have been taken to the next level by tracks such as "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions and "Forever Young" by Alphaville. It's a missed opportunity for greatness.
2 Cops Did Not Pay You For Punching An Escaping Criminal In The 80s
One of the quirks in Vice City happens when you help out the friendly neighborhood cop. Sure, five minutes ago you had a wanted level that had the military chasing your tail, but the law is a fickle thing in the Grand Theft Auto Universe.
In the game, if you punch a criminal that is running from the cops you are given a $50 bonus for being a good citizen. Having never punched a criminal fleeing from the cops in the real life 1980s it is hard to comment on exactly what would have happened in the same situation. It does seem unlikely however than an on the spot, cash in hand style reward would be given out by Officer Joe Smith.
If that was the case then it seems like an excellent scam strategy that was overlooked.
1 The Fashion In The 80s Was Way Worse Than Shown In Vice City
There just aren't enough shoulder pads in Vice City. There are not enough popped collars, random women wearing exercise gear and leg warmers in lurid color combinations, or parachute pants either. We also needed to see far more black lace in edgy styles.
As wild as the fashion is in Vice City - and we give the game plenty of credit for its 80s fashion nonsense - it just didn't go far enough with how over the top and ridiculous people tended to look during the decade.
When we look back on the hairstyles and the clothing choices of the 80s it is with a sense of wonder at exactly how and why these trends occurred. Vice City is a massively over the top game, but it doesn't get close to being as over the top as the source material it was given from the 80s.