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This article contains plot details.
The story begins in 1986, in Liberty City. Tommy Vercetti, the main character, is a loyal member of the Forelli Family who has just finished serving fifteen years for killing eleven people in 1971. Sonny Forelli, Tommy's boss, fears that his presence heighten tensions with the other families and draw unwanted attention to his own family's criminal activities. As such, Sonny promotes Tommy to a Capo and sends him to Vice City.
Tommy's "guardian" is a Mafia lawyer named Ken Rosenberg and his job in Vice City is to act as the family's buyer for a series of cocaine deals. By doing this, Sonny hopes to expand his family's activities down south and overrun Liberty's drug market, creating a monopoly on it. Tommy and his bodyguards meet Ken, at the Escobar International Airport, who gives them info on the deal and takes them to the docks. There, they meet the Vance Crime Family and their leader, Victor. As soon as the deal is settled, they are ambushed by armed and masked men. Victor and Tommy's bodyguards die in the ambush while Tommy and Ken escape. Due to this, Tommy loses both Sonny's money and the cocaine.
Sonny loses him temper after learning about the ambush and threatens Tommy for attempting to cheat the Mafia. Tommy promises that he'll retrieve both the money and the drugs and kill whoever ordered the ambush. Afterwards, Tommy meets Ken at his office and Ken tells him to meet a retired colonel and mid-level drug dealer named Juan Garcia Cortez. Cortez was Victor's contact and the man who organized the deal between the Forelli and Vance families.
Cortez tells Tommy that he is going to find out who was behind the ambush. During this, Tommy meets Cortez's daughter, Mercedes. Mercedes then becomes Tommy's confidante. As Tommy waits for the results of the investigation, he meets cocky record producer Kent Paul, real estate mogul Avery Carrington, and a man named Lance Vance, Victory's younger brother. Lance wants revenge for his brother and he also wants the lost drugs back.
Over time, Tommy befriends Cortez and does work for him as a errand boy and a hit man. During once job, he has to work with Lance to protect a deal going on between a drug baron named Ricardo Diaz and the Cubans. The deal is ambushed by a group of Haitians, however, Tommy kills them, in turn saving the deal and Diaz's life. Due to this, Diaz hires Tommy for his own agenda. Despite Tommy disliking Diaz's character, he takes the work anyway because it pays well.
During another job from Cortez, Tommy must meet a French courier in order to receive some missile chips that were stolen from the French government. They are ambushed by French agents and the courier flees with the chips. After taking down the agents, Tommy goes after him and takes him down as well, retrieving the chips.
Cortez tells Tommy that his lieutenant, Gonzalez, was partially responsible for the ambush. Seeing as he's the only one besides Cortez who knew about the deal, Cortez asks Tommy to kill him. Afterwards, Cortez lays suspicion on Diaz. Tommy prepares his attack but is forced to save Lance after his own revenge plan fails. The two then go to kill Diaz and raid his mansion. Once Diaz is dead, it turns out that Cortez is running from the French. This causes the established drug empire in Vice City to crumble and allows Tommy and Vance to take over.
Tommy decides to start his own organization, the Vercetti Crime Family. However, the more rich and powerful Tommy becomes, the more Lance starts to show signs of paranoia and sociopathic behavior. This causes Lance to abuse his own bodyguards and call Tommy in states of hysteria. Because of this, Tommy suspects that Lance is up to something.
Tommy makes an alliance with the Cubans against the Haitians. However, he is hypnotized at the same time to help the Haitians as well. Once he is no longer hypnotized, Tommy and the Cubans sneak explosives into a Haitian drug factory and blow it up. This allows the Cubans to take over Little Havana.
The Forelli family eventually find out that Tommy has taken over most of the action in Vice City. Sonny feels enraged and betrayed by Tommy and sends out collectors for the money that Tommy owes him. Tommy kills them and intends to not let the Forelli family interfere. Sonny soon arrives in Vice City with a small army, intent on taking the money by force.
At Tommy's mansion, he attempts to give them the counterfeit money he made. However, Lance betrays Tommy and says that the real money is inside Tommy's safe. Lance explains that he told Sonny about what was going on because Tommy was starting to disown him and treat him unequally. He also states that he wants to rebuild the Vance Crime Family.
Tommy becomes enraged and starts a gun fight. During the fight, Tommy chases, ridicules, and kills Lance. He then storms downstairs and faces Sonny. Sonny says that he's the one who set Tommy up fifteen years ago. Tommy kills Sonny and establishes himself as the undisputed crime kingpin of Vice City.
The game was released to universally critical acclaim.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has been labeled as violent and explicit and is highly controversial. In Australia, the game was censored in order to receive a rating.
Cuban and Haitian groups in Florida targeted the game, accusing it of inviting people to harm people from those nations. Rockstar released a press statement saying that they understood the concern but that the issue was also being blown out of proportion.
A lawsuit was brought against the makers and distributors of the series in 2005. The lawsuit claimed that the games caused a teenager to kill three members of Alabama's police force.
In 2006, another lawsuit was launched, claiming that the game caused a boy to kill his father, stepmother, and stepsister.