Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Entire GTA: Vice City Story Explained

Our very first visit to Vice City occurred in 1997 in the original top-down "Grand Theft Auto" game, back when Rockstar Games was still known as DMA Design. Even in this very first rendition, Vice City was clearly modeled after 1990s Miami and featured beaches, palm trees, and plenty of interesting characters. In October 2002, Rockstar released "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," bringing players into a neon-drenched 1986 version of Vice City in full 3D. "GTA: Vice City" tells a compelling story of betrayal and '80s excess, invoking not only the energy of that era, but the unique vibe of Miami itself. It also introduced players to fan-favorite protagonist Tommy Vercetti, voiced by "Goodfellas" star Ray Liotta.


"Grand Theft Auto 6" has us returning to Vice City, this time with next-gen HD graphics. With that in mind, what better time than now to recap the 2002 game's rollercoaster of a story and remind everyone why we should be excited to revisit one of the most iconic locations in the franchise?

In the beginning

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" begins in 1986 at Saint Marc's Bistro in Liberty City, kicking things off to the sound of "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister. The Forelli Family, led by the volatile Sonny Forelli, are discussing Tommy Vercetti, who is about to be released from prison on good behavior. Despite that fact, they fear it would be bad for business to have him roaming the streets of Liberty City. The Forellis devise a plan to get Tommy out of the city, then use his know-how to expand their territory in the south. Their plan involves sending Tommy to Vice City with some cash to begin a drug empire, allow him to grow it, and then eventually "pay him a visit" — implying they intend to forcibly take his business from him once it's established.


Soon after, Tommy Vercetti — alongside Forelli crime members Harry and Lee — are picked up by Ken Rosenburg, Forelli's contact in Vice City, and the group heads straight to a drug deal. This is where things take a turn. Once the cash and the product are out in the open, they're ambushed by hitmen. Harry and Lee are killed in the crossfire and Tommy is forced to escape, leaving both the cash and the drugs behind. A distraught Ken Rosenburg tells Tommy to get some rest and meet him the next day. Tommy's new life is already off to a rough start.

A chance at redemption

Tommy arrives at his suite in the Ocean View hotel and reluctantly makes a call to Sonny. Over the course of their chat, it's revealed that Tommy spent 15 years in prison after doing some dirty jobs for the Forelli family. Always focused on the task at hand, Sonny quickly turns the conversation to the deal. Once Tommy announces that the deal was a set-up and that Harry and Lee are dead, Sonny drops the nice guy act and immediately begins asking about the money, then loses it completely when he learns that Tommy doesn't have any of it left.


Tommy tries to reassure him he'll fix things, promising to retrieve the money and the drugs. To sweeten the deal, he promises to exact revenge on those responsible for the set-up (while using a rather colorful choice of words). Sonny reluctantly agrees to let Tommy handle the situation, reminding him that anyone else would have been taken out already for this failure. Sonny hangs up, but not before an ominous promise to stay in touch. In our first true introduction to Tommy's temper, the scene ends with him angrily slamming his phone into the ground.

The party

Tommy returns to a panicking and frantic Ken Rosenburg, who is pacing the room and rightfully concerned that the Forelli family will be paying him a visit. Tommy reassures Ken that he has everything under control. He tasks Ken with finding out who took the product, promising that he'll kill the responsible parties once they're located. Seemingly reassured by Tommy's resolve, Ken begins brainstorming their next move and quickly lands on Colonel Juan Garcia Cortez as a possible lead, since the Colonel helped to set up the deal to begin with. Ken reveals Cortez is holding a party on his yacht and that "all of Vice City's big players are gonna be there," making it the first opportunity to track down the people who ruined their deal. Ken hands Tommy his invite, explaining that there's no chance he'll be leaving his office while things are still as tense as they are. Tommy's on his own. As Tommy goes to leave, Ken tells him to dress for the occasion, mocking Tommy's default look of acid-washed jeans and blue Hawaiian shirt (a look that gamers have come to know well).


After changing into a suit, Tommy arrives at the boat and meets Cortez and his daughter Mercedes. The younger Cortez points out various big names at the party, including Ricardo Diaz, a man she unflatteringly dubs "Mr. Coke." Once Diaz notices her, Mercedes acts as if she and Tommy were just leaving, asking Tommy to take her to the Pole Position club and striking up a very unusual friendship between the two.

The lead goes cold

Tommy returns to Ken Rosenburg having learned very little from the party, so Ken points him in the direction of a "music industry slimeball" named Kent Paul. Ken tells Tommy that Kent can usually be found at a club called The Malibu. Sure enough, Tommy finds a drunk Kent Paul at The Malibu, doing an absolutely abysmal job of flirting. Tommy interrupts and introduces himself as a friend of Rosenburg's, which Kent mocks, making an absolute terrible first impression. Tommy mentions the drugs and Kent immediately acts dismissive, calling drugs "a mug's game." Fed up with Kent's attitude, Tommy roughs him up a bit, spooking the talent manager into telling him about a chef on Ocean Drive that has been dealing drugs out of their kitchen.


Tommy encounters the chef, Leo Teal in a back alley — but instead of getting him to talk, Tommy ends up beating him to death and taking his phone. Soon after, Tommy is approached by a mysterious stranger who mocks Tommy for killing his primary lead. Tommy threatens the man, who reassures him that they're both after the same thing. After a group of vengeful knife-wielding chefs approach them, the man hands Tommy a gun and they escape. 

Shortly after completing this mission, Tommy gets a call from his new phone. The man on the other line mentions a drug deal and drops Diaz's name, giving Tommy (and players) the first clue that Diaz is ultimately responsible for the botched deal.


Tommy's time isn't just spent tracking down the folks who snitched on him, however. After a brief stint intimidating jurors to prevent Sonny's cousin from doing five years for fraud and assisting real estate king Avery Carrington with some corporate espionage, Tommy gets a call from Cortez.


Cortez promises that he and his men are looking into the botched deal and asks to speak with him on his boat. Upon arriving, Cortez tests Tommy by having him kill Cortez's previous right hand man with a chainsaw. Fans of "Scarface" will no doubt find this scene to be pretty familiar, as "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" takes a bunch of inspiration from the film. After doing that deed, Tommy returns to Cortez, who has yet another mission: collecting some missile guidance chips from a French courier. After being ambushed by French special forces, Tommy succeeds in killing the courier and returns to Cortez, who has the audacity to ask for another favor. This time, Tommy's asked to watch over a drug deal involving none other than "Mr. Coke" himself, Ricardo Diaz.


An unlikely partnership

Before sending him to the deal, Cortez tells Tommy to pick up some weapons he has stashed in a parking garage. Whilst collecting the firepower, Tommy is approached by the mysterious man from the alleyway once again. Tommy suggests that he make himself useful, instead of just following him around. Seemingly impressed, the man finally introduces himself as Lance and follows Tommy to the alley where Diaz's deal is set to go down.


As Tommy and Lance watching from their vantage points, the deal is suddenly ambushed. It's up to Tommy and Lance to protect Diaz from a torrent of Haitian gang members. One of the gang members manages to take the deal money and escape on a bike, forcing Tommy to pursue him through the alley. Tommy kills the thief and returns the money for Diaz, further strengthening his reputation among the drug cartel. Not long after completing this mission, Tommy gets a call from Diaz, who asks if he will work for him.


After agreeing to work for Diaz, things escalate pretty quickly. The first mission Tommy takes for Diaz involves tailing someone who has stolen from the crime lord, followed by a full-scale assault on the thief's fortified hideout from a helicopter. As they're boarding the helicopter, Lance lets slip that he believes it was Diaz who sabotaged the deal seen at the beginning of the game, which resulted in the death of Lance's brother. Tommy asks him to keep his suspicions quiet, because he feels Diaz is beginning to trust him. Once the dust has settled from this mission, Tommy get a call from Cortez, who also suggests that Diaz was responsible for the set up that put Tommy on thin ice with the Forellis. When Tommy pushes for him to elaborate, Cortez just says he is "thinking out loud."


Diaz tasks Tommy with stealing a boat and cutting off a gang of stealing a super-fast boat and then use it beat other Vice City hopefuls to a time-sensitive drug deal out in the ocean. As Tommy gets in the boat, he finds Lance waiting for him. Once again, Lance pressures Tommy to take care of Diaz. Tommy responds, "The more we learn now, the less we have to learn when we take this town over."

Hostile takeover

Kent Paul asks Tommy to meet him at The Malibu, where he tells Tommy that Diaz kidnapped Lance after Lance failed to kill him. Paul lets it slip that they're holding him at the junkyard across town. After fighting through Diaz's men, Tommy rescues Lance, but not before berating him for ruining Tommy's careful planning. After a tense chase with Diaz's men, Tommy gets Lance to the hospital.


Shortly after, Tommy and a recuperated Lance meet up at nearby Starfish Island. Thanks to Lance's sudden supply of assault rifles, the two manage to launch an all-out assault on Diaz's mansion and execute the drug baron in his home, effectively taking over his turf. In a meeting between Tommy, Lance, Avery, and Ken, the group discuss how to go about making their control over the city absolute. Avery suggests using legitimate fronts to launder money, while Lance is more concerned about local businesses refusing to pay their usual protection money after Diaz's death. Tommy's answer is to send a message to local business owners by vandalizing storefronts at the local mall. Not long after this, Tommy gets a call from Sonny, who tells him that he's aware of Tommy's recent moves and that he's not off the hook.


Man about town

After taking over Diaz's business and making sure the locals know that he's the new guy in town, Tommy begins buying assets around the city that will generate revenue. At this point in the story, Tommy begins getting calls from a desperate Lance, who is worried that he's not getting "a fair slice" of the business. Tommy plainly tells him that he needs to be less sloppy, and then maybe things can change. Lance, determined to play the victim, does not listen.


As Tommy builds up enough capital, he buys even more businesses, including a movie studio, a taxi firm, an auto dealer, an ice cream company (don't worry; it's a front for a drug ring), and the Pole Position club. The two business that prove to be pivotal to the story are The Malibu Club and the Print Works. The former becomes a secondary base of operations, where Tommy starts cooking up a plan for some kind of heist. With the help of Ken Rosenburg, Tommy begins building a crew.

The bank job

Tommy and Ken amass a team of people for a risky bank heist. This includes Cam, a safecracking expert whom Tommy has to bust out of a holding cell by moonlighting as a cop. Then there's Phil Cassidy, an arms dealer and gun-for-hire who joins after Tommy beats him in a shooting competition. The final member is Hilary King, an accomplished driver who will only work for Tommy if he can beat him in a race.


With this team by his side, Tommy attempts to the rob the bank. Dressed in blue jumpsuits and white hockey masks, they pull off the heist with relative success, despite the presence of an angry SWAT team. Unfortunately, Hilary is killed in the ensuing firefight as they attempt to leave, forcing Tommy to drive them to safety. Cam's fate, on the other hand, is left entirely up to the player. If he dies, Tommy and Phil get a bigger cut.

Funny money

Sometime after the heist, Tommy receives another threatening phone call from Sonny, asking when Tommy will be cutting him in on his new businesses. Before Tommy can respond, he hangs up the phone. Tommy devises a plan to utilize the Print Works in a new way: making counterfeit bills. He plans to use funny money to pay off Sonny, all while keeping the real cash for himself. To get this operation started, he needs to find special plates that will allow Print Works employee Earnest Kelly to print authentic-looking designs on the fake bills. Tommy visit Kent Paul to see if he knows where to get these, which in turn leads Tommy to a Triad operation down at the docks.


This being Vice City, there's no simple conversation involved in getting the plates. Instead, the following mission involves taking down the courier carrying the plates. Tommy leads an assault on the docks when the plates arrive at their destination, then steals the plates and brings them back to the Print Works to truly begin their counterfeit operation.

A fateful visit from Sonny

Tommy gets a call from Ken, who says there's a problem down at the Print Works. When Tommy arrives, Earnest says he was attacked by mobsters. It turns out that Sonny has sent his guys to steal from Tommy's businesses. After clearing up that mess in his own violent way, Tommy is asked to return the mansion, where Ken reveals that Sonny is personally paying them a visit.


Tommy's plan is to give Sonny 20 million in counterfeit cash and make sure that Sonny understands that his new empire in Vice City belongs to him alone. When Sonny arrives, he reveals some interesting new details about how Tommy came to be imprisoned. Tommy was sent to kill one man, but found 11 men waiting for him. Despite being set up by Sonny, Tommy killed all of them, earning him the nickname of "The Harwood Butcher." Sonny gets increasingly agitated during the meeting, eventually revealing that Lance has sold Tommy out and spilled the beans about his plan to double-cross Sonny with the fake cash.

The final mission begins with Tommy fending off the mafia and defending his safe from the top floor of his mansion. While this is in an obvious reference to the final scene of "Scarface", the protagonist emerges victorious in this case, putting both Lance and Sonny on ice. The game ends with Tommy and Ken basking in their victory, safe in the knowledge that nobody else is coming to claim what they've earned. Credits roll.