Lets go for a joy ride.
The most controversial, and entertaining, games to be released. The top down, 2D, criminal adventure that looks like Micro Machines made by Martin Scorcese, caused a lot of uproar, with it’s gratuitous violence and glorification of car theft. This was the first of many controversy courting games released by Rockstar, and although the violence is there, it’s very crude by today’s standards and somewhat laughable about the fuss that was made over it at the time.
Grand Theft Auto takes place over three fictional cities, Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas, with Liberty City being the starting point for the trail of crime and carnage, and the further you progress through the game the other cities are made available, adding a bit more variety into the gameplay, albeit mainly aesthetic.
The great thing about GTA is that you didn’t have to stick to a linear path to progress. There are missions which you can carry out, but as long as you make enough money, then progression isn’t a problem, meaning you can swan about, stealing cars and selling them, finding side missions, and various other bonuses. The missions, when you choose to accept them, mainly involve driving from a to b to pick something or dropping off, followed by a race against time time find the next of the mission, or gunfights, which can prove difficult when your enemies greatly outnumber you. As with all GTA games, some of the missions and themes borrow greatly from films and other mediums, and while it’s great to see a nod to some classic crime films in this game, the crude visuals restrict the execution.
The variety of vehicles on offer is rather vast, and much like the cities and place names, all have names resembling those in real life, and the types range from slow vans, trucks and buses, to extremely fast sports cars and motorcycles, some of which are too fast to handle. The motorcycles in particular, as super bikes are the one vehicle I’ve always struggled with in the GTA series, and none more so in this game. When zooming down a long stretch of road, it’s not too bad, but when trying to get round corners, or weaving in and out of traffic, things take a much more difficult turn.
As mentioned, there’s plenty to do outside of the available missions, and there’s nothing quite as fun as increasing your wanted level and seeing how long you can out run the law. The more crime you commit, the higher the wanted level. Eventually, if you cause enough carnage, the wanted level will increase so much that the army starts to intervene, even sending in the tanks, which if you manage to get hold of one, can be great fun and allow you to leave a great trail of destruction in your wake.
It wasn’t long before an expansion was released on PS1 and PC. Grand Theft Auto London, brought the game across the Atlantic and back in time. Set in swingin’ Sixties London, and with actual place names, the crime took on a more Cockney twist, paying homage to the Michael Caine gangster films of the era, as well as the mods and rockers and general stiff upper lip British-ness. The game not only reflected the age, but also the time in which it was released. You could say there was a mini 60’s revival at the time, as it coincided with the release of the second Austin Powers movie, which was massive at the time (despite it being shite). The vehicles were great, with the aforementioned Austin Powers-like Shag(uar), mod scooter and various takes on classic cars.
Something that wasn’t really a focal point before was now of interest, and that was the radio stations. In GTA they just served as background noise, but in this expansion, it felt like a part of the experience, with some great pop music from the time, and a cracking selection of Trojan Ska tunes.
As it was only an expansion, it’s by no means a huge game, but it showed the kind of potential the GTA series had to offer, and that the world really is Rockstar’s for the taking.
As small and simple looking as GTA may look these days, it’s a game that spawned many imitators and a game that set up a course for a lot of the games we see today.