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Backtracking: Remembering Grand Theft Auto: Vice City With Retro City Rampage's Brian Provinciano

We run pretty far away, all the way back to 2002, with the designer of Retro City Rampage to talk about his love for Rockstar Games' 80s opus.

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Retro City Rampage not only parodies Grand Theft Auto, but Metal Gear, TMNT and others.
Retro City Rampage not only parodies Grand Theft Auto, but Metal Gear, TMNT and others.

We’ve been waiting for Retro City Rampage for what seems like forever. I first saw the game at PAX 2010, the same year Supergiant GamesBastion was shown for the first time, and it’s still not here.

Retro City Rampage’s official release isn’t far off, however, and the game was just announced for even more platforms: Vita and PlayStation 3 (via PlayStation Network). It's also coming to Xbox Live Arcade, Steam and, WiiWare. Yep, it's still coming to WiiWare.

The open world parody is the brainchild of Brian Provinciano. With Retro City Rampage almost done, I reached out to Provinciano to ask him about his favorite game of all-time. It should come as no surprise his selections comes from the genre he’s lampooning.

When asked, Provinciano picked Rockstar Games’ beloved Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

I’m still tweaking the format of this feature, too. Suggestions welcome.

GB: Why is Vice City your favorite video game? What makes it stand above everything else?

Provinciano: Maybe it was the right game at the right time, but it evokes such great memories. While I love Super Mario and Tetris and so many others, the game mixed with its soundtrack and tone was just right. There's so much you can do, and you get great feedback satisfaction playing it, doing insane stunts and so forth. It really is the less is more, because while San Andreas expanded the world so much, and GTA IV expanded the detail, Vice City is still my favorite. It's funny though because everyone tells me to pick up Saints Row and that I'll love it, but I just haven't had the time. I played the first half hour of SR3 but need to play more to see if it can stack up.

GB: Do you know how old you were when you first played Vice City? What do you remember?

Provinciano: It feels weird that I'm not saying a game that came out when I was super young. I was 18 or something. I remember going to EB Games on launch day to find out they were sold out but were getting a shipment in the afternoon, so I was hanging around the mall for hours like Jay and Silent Bob until someone walked by and said that Toys R Us had gotten them in, so I rushed over there and nabbed one. I really should've just preordered.

GB: And do you return to Vice City every so often? How come? What changes when you go back?

Provinciano: I do. I even picked up a second copy, the Xbox version just to play it with slightly smoother visuals. It definitely felt weird going back to it after playing Crackdown and GTA IV. The driving felt like it was on rails, like there was a magnet keeping me onto the road. I guess the more realistic (and more difficult to control) physics in games today have made me that much more skilled, where driving in Vice City now seems too easy. At the same time, I'm a fan of fun over realism.

GB: Has Vice City influenced the way you make video games? In what ways?

Provinciano: Absolutely. I can't imagine that I would've created Retro City Ramapage in the first place had I not been such a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series.

GB: When you first played Vice City, you just played games for fun. Today, you make them. How does that color the experience?

Provinciano: It's definitely changed it, a lot. I see and appreciate the craftsman ship of games now more than blindly sit back and enjoy them. However, I still get just as inspired by that as I did my love for the games before that was the case.

GB: Can you point to any part of Retro City Rampage that was specifically influenced by Vice City?

Provinciano: Probably the tone of the game, both its humor and visuals. Although RCR’s humor is far wackier and over the top, Vice City’s humor in my opinion is the best in the series. It’s also unquestionably the most colorful and vibrant, evoking “feel good” vibes not really seen in the others with their gloomier, grittier atmosphere.

GB: Do you have a favorite moment in Vice City?

Provinciano: The game as a whole was great. The story arc worked very well and was the perfect length. When I reflect on my memories though, I see myself driving up and down the strip listening to the soundtrack, flooring the gas and and hitting jumps. In fact, I still pop the game in once and a while and usually just cruise for a bit.

Vice City Stories was part of Rockstar Games' big push on the PSP.
Vice City Stories was part of Rockstar Games' big push on the PSP.

GB: Part of the reason people so deeply love Vice City is the game's spectacular soundtrack. What're your highlights?

Provinciano: We all have our favorite songs, and man, when you’re playing for a while and they come on, it’s just the greatest. That could even be my actual favorite moment come to think of it. There’s some strong connection with the music, where I’d hear a song in real life and feel a strong urge to go and play the game more and vice versa. I felt this with the Midnight Club 2 soundtrack too, it just had that magic to it.

GB: Since you enjoyed Vice City so much, you must have loved Vice City Stories, right?

Provinciano: It’s so weird that I couldn’t get into Vice City Stories even though I like Vice City so much. Maybe the story was just right for me. I’m sure the chosen protagonist had a lot to do with it too, and I know he wouldn’t have been the same without Ray Liotta. It could just be that there are only so many you can do missions based around driving and shooting, so it just didn’t feel as new and exciting. Hard to say.

I know many people at the various Rockstar studios, and they’re all among the hardest working in the industry. They put their all into each game, which is why they’re always so polished and impressive. I’m sure the VCS team put just as much soul into it as the original studio did with Vice City. I’ve probably just had too many years to build up an unbreakable wall of nostalgia towards it, and nothing could ever compare. It makes me wonder if I’d rather have a proper sequel or a next gen remake, and my gut tells me a remake.

GB: In a single sentence, explain to anyone reading this why, if they haven't, they should play Vice City.

Provinciano: Vice City is perfect hit sweet spot, showing these days that less is more.

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