Part 80: Behind The Scenes - Vigilante
"Vigilante" is - along with Supply Lines and the 8th Trucking Mission - considered by many one of the toughest missions in all of San Andreas. The basis of the mission is that whenever you find yourself in control of a police vehicle (bike, cruiser, rancher, SWAT truck, FBI Car, Army Helicopter) you have the option to become a "Vigilante", much like you can be an unofficial Paramedic, cab driver or Fireman.
The difficulty lies in the fact that your progress isn't saved (like when you're a Cab Driver), and you need to complete 12 levels of killing criminals before you gain the prize, 150% armor for the rest of the game. You can only complete a level if you are inside of a police vehicle, so if you kill a criminal while not in a vehicle, the level doesn't "end" until you step back inside of a police vehicle. With only limited time - one minute - allowed outside of a vehicle, and with criminals armed with AK47s and Shotguns AND with the police after you as well, the level of randomness can wreak havoc with your attempt.
For myself, I compounded the problem by leaving Vigilante so late in the game. Normally I would tackle it as early in the game as possible, but left it till later for storyline purposes. Having unlocked the map, I also unlocked all possible spawn locations for the criminals, meaning that if I started in Santos, it was possible for criminals to spawn further and further along until you could end up all the way back in Venturas. Not too much of a problem, except police vehicles aren't invulnerable, and if THIS happens:
then there is every chance you're not going to be able to get ahold of a new police vehicle in time.
Driving in police cars/ranchers is also a problem because it means you have to ride up right alongside a criminal to destroy their vehicle. Getting that close usually means they can unload multiple rounds into your ride, setting it alight, and you have to dump it and grab a new vehicle as quickly as possible. To avoid this, I normally use motorcycles which let me shoot from behind and avoid as much of the criminal's firing range as possible. This also means you're driving a far weaker vehicle than you could be, though luckily every successful level completion appears to repair a small amount of the damage to your bike.
This is just a cool shot
The other reason you want to avoid regular cars is because if you get hit at speed on a bike, you generally just get sent flying off of it and can get back up, jump back on and ride away. If you're in a car, however, THIS can happen:
Of course, your bike does have that pesky low "hitpoints" thing going against it.
In the early to mid-levels, the criminals aren't the big problem, it's the police. Kill enough criminals, you get roadblocks thrown up and SWAT vans coming after you, and even if they can't catch you they can cause enough problems to fuck up your pursuit of late-level criminals, who use Ak47s and powerful, powerful shotguns.
My strategy for dealing with these problems has always been fairly simple. Build up a time buffer (every successful level adds time to your "remaining time" tally) and when your armor is used up and you've got a ton of police after you, stop pursuing criminals and head for the nearest Pay and Spray. Grab a civilian car, park inside and get the respray. Jump out of the car, wait for your wanted level to disappear entirely, then jump back into or onto your vehicle and head for the nearest Ammu-Nation to stock up on your armor. If you have a chance, pop your vehicle into a safehouse garage to repair any damage, then you're basically at full health with no police on your tail. Another option is to try to chart your path through police bribes, which lower the amount of stress on you. Time this right, and you've got a free run once you reach Levels 10-12, where the real problems begin.
See that? It took TWO shots to kill me, taking me from full health to dead. That's with the Paramedic mission completed and a permanent 150% health bonus - imagine attempting this without that bonus. Shotguns from the criminals pack a hell of a punch, and it is best to entirely avoid anything but laying an ambush for end level criminals in Vigilante. It can be soul destroying to make a perfect run up to level 12 and DIE with one criminal left and have to start all over.
If you get spawns in the right place and good luck with your shots (a well placed shot to the rear of a car can hit the gas tank and insta-splode the entire thing), you can complete a 12 level run of Vigilante in 15-20 minutes easily. I've always found Vigilante challenging but never anything close to impossible like others have, so it was with some surprise that I found myself completely unable to finish the mission this time around. In the end, I can guess that it took me roughly six hours of attempts (spaced out over a couple of days with long pauses in-between, of course) to finally complete this mission. What caused me the problem? The cops? Armor? One-shot kills? losing my vehicle?
Nope, it was pure random chance, chaos personified in a vendetta by the Universe against me that conspired to prevent the successful completion of this mission.
These are only the shots I got, but this kind of thing seemed to happen during Vigilante far more often than other similar styled missions or set pieces involving frenetic action. My car would roll, I'd be clipped and go flying through the air, or somehow lose soooo much control of my vehicle that I'd slide 5000 meters into the ocean, or somehow bounce over a tiny wall and end up in someone's fenced off backyard that I cannot get out of without abandoning the vehicle... and suddenly the 25 police who have been chasing me all fuck off so I can't get a new car.
At one point, I was on level 11 with no police after me, I had just picked up some new armor and eaten some food to increase my health. With over ten minutes left on the clock.... my game crashed.
MY FUCKING GAME CRASHED!
I mean seriously, what the fuck? How does that happen, the one time in history that San Andreas has crashed on my computer and it happens ON LEVEL 11 OF VIGILANTE!?!
Of course, not everything was down to random change, I had my fair share of BUSTED's as well.
Some of there were my own fault, I'd be backing up from a kill and a cop would run up from off-screen and slap me off of my bike, and that was it, mission over. Some of these happened early in the mission, others far later. Sometimes my bike would roll up on a cruiser and as I was struggling to get clear, I'd be swarmed by cops and arrested.
But some... some were just weird.
In this case, the car in front of me was on fire and I was backing up to avoid the explosion. A cop ran in from off-screen (he hadn't been chasing me, just apparently walking a beat off to the side where I couldn't see him) and smacked me off of my bike. As the BUSTED sign came up, the car exploded, a piece of shrapnel decapitated him (my way of explaining his head exploding randomly) and I was knocked off of my feet. I proceeded to get back up as the screen was fading to black, half my health gone but still very much alive, staring down at the dead cop next to me. Then the screen went entirely black, and I'm not sure what happened while the screen was black, but I assume the cop's head exploding caused Carl to question his life and moral code and go and turn himself into the police office, since once the picture came back in, I was standing outside of the police station several hours later.
But this was even weirder:
Again, a car was about to explode so I was backing up. But this time I saw the cops coming and jumped off the bike to prevent the insta-bust (I'm so glad GTAIV will finally address the issue of your character just meekly surrendering to cops). However, at the same time ANOTHER cop pulled up on a bike right where I was standing. The cop moving to bust me elbowed his fellow Officer off of the bike and to the ground, pulled his piece and covered the cop to keep him from getting up... while I just stood there staring at the case of mistaken identity.... and still got the mission failed screen anyway, and ended up in front of the police station again. Maybe Carl went to the station to give a statement and see the other cop booked?
And finally I was going to complain about how you can't complete levels unless you're in a police vehicle (which is true, you don't get the new level until you're back in a vehicle), until I just now discovered something. On one of my VERY early attempts, I made it all the way to Level 12 only for my police cruiser to catch on fire as I knocked the final car I was pursuing off of a cliff down onto the road. I ran to the edge of the cliff and ran down the side as carefully as I could, opening fire on the surviving criminals knowing that if I could kill them the mission was complete.
I killed him and felt immense satisfaction, until realizing I hadn't got the "Mission Complete" image. Realizing I needed a police vehicle to "finish", but without a wanted level, I went crazy blowing stuff up in the hopes of drawing out the police and jumping into a cruiser, a rancher, ANYTHING! But where before cops had come out of the woodwork at the slightest sneeze, they were nowhere to be seen now. I watched in horror as the time ticked down and was told my "time as a law enforcer" was over, I couldn't believe it, I'd killed all 12 levels and STILL hadn't completed the mission GODDAMMIT!
Until just now, when I was looking through my screenshots and saw this.
I fucking beat this mission A DAY EARLIER THAN I THOUGHT!
Well don't that just beat all. I beat the fucking mission, didn't realize, and reloaded an old save and lost that progress. Fuck.
Part of the problem is that your "Mission Completed" image is a small black box in the upper left saying "level 12 complete" and you can then go on and do more and more missions, up until you die, can't get to a police vehicle or run out of time. With each additional level you make a little more money, but get no other concrete rewards.
So that's Vigilante, and my fun adventure completing it (twice!). Hopefully those tips will stand you in good stead, but if not (or you just can't be assed), here is an easier way to do it.
PS2 - There is apparently a glitch that lets you complete this mission without firing a shot. Find a building that Carl can enter, then trigger the Vigilante Mission. Walk into the building, wait 20 seconds and you'll hear the "beep" indicating the criminals have been killed. Walk out, walk back in, and after all the criminals for a level have been killed, you reach the new level. You can get all the way to level 12 (and higher) like this, if you time it right, though some people have reported they can only get as far as level 8 or 9.
PC/PS2 - The Hunter Helicopter you get for all Golds at the Flight School at Verdant Meadows counts as a "Police Vehicle". Get into it and trigger the Vigilante Mission (called Brown Thunder, though as far as I know it counts as the Vigilante Mission despite the different name) and it's simply a matter of flying close to the criminals and opening fire, and they pretty much instantly explode. I personally have trouble piloting the helicopters, even if they're supposed to be easier than the planes, but others find this an incredibly easy way to complete the missions.
Of course, if you want to just cheat, enter a cheat code! Make yourself invincible and blow them all to hell! Just because I'm not using cheat codes doesn't mean you don't have to!