By Ben Salter
One of the most controversial and popular gaming series of the current and past generations, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto is one of the most talked about and played games of all time. The sandbox open-ended game features a mix of violence, action, adventure and driving and has gained a reputation for it's violent undertones and mature content. Beginning in 1997, nine games later in March 2008 the series has sold over 70 million copies worldwide.
The aim of the top down perspective Grand Theft Auto games was to complete a number of levels by accumulating a certain number of points. This could be achieved through a number of events such as destroying the city, and causing general mayhem. The points earned could be multiplied if a mission such as taxing people around was completed. The game featured a mix of driving and shooting in an open-ended world giving the player freedom to do as they wish.
The core gameplay of the 3D GTA games involves shooting and driving elements presented in an open-ended world in third person. When on foot the character is able to walk, run and jump, with climbing and swimming being included in some of the more recent titles. As well as using different firearms the player is able of fighting in hand to hand combat as well as with a variety of general objects such as a baseball bat. Different vehicles including cars, boats, helicopters, planes and motorcycles are available throughout the games all of which can be stolen. The open ended gameplay allows the player to do as they wish, while the main story missions are required to be completed in order to advance to new areas, they are not required and can be played through at the gamers leisure. The player can participate in various side missions, such as playing the role of a taxi or ambulance driver as well as finding hidden packages scattered around the city. If too much mayhem is caused you'll attracted attention from the authorities and get yourself involved in a good old fashion police chase.
Grand Theft Auto
Platform / Release
PlayStation / PC 1998
Gameboy Color: 1999
The original Grand Theft Auto was released on the PlayStation and PC in 1998. The top down 2D graphics were primitive even at that time as the world of 3D gaming was growing on the PC, Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation. The animations of walking appeared glitchy and the firing of bullets looked as if they had been ripped directly from an 8-bit console. These games featured no speech, instead they included gibberish found in games such as The Sims as text flashed across the screen.
The original game took place in three familiar cities, Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas, which played host to a variety of different levels. During these levels the player had a target number of points which they had to achieve and 5 lives to do so. There were 2 levels available in each of the three cities, players were directed to a pay phone were they would receive the first of a series of criminal missions which would aid in accumulating the required points but were not compulsory. Many players found this a frustrating and challenging task as there was no save system and after 5 lives it was game over. Players are free to do as they like to gain the required points, this could be through causing death and destruction or stealing cars to sell. To finish the levels faster it was possible to gain multipliers by completing specific missions, this would increase the score given for anything that the player achieved. These missions were scatter across the city and activated via a payphone. They varied from taxi jobs, to assassinations, car theft and getaways after bank heists.
A large part of the game, and why it gained many followers, was the ability to explore the city and do as you please. This involved stealing cars, acts of violence, finding hidden missions and causing general mayhem while trying to evade police. Many players chose to run amuck through the city with an arsenal of weapons including riffles, rocket launchers and flamethrowers rather than complete the designated missions.
GTA suffered average success critically due to the poor animations and the glitchy nature of the game. Many players still found enjoyment in it, enjoying the detail of different cars providing different speeds and handling and the music played on the radio that varied depending on type of car that you were using. Those who played GTA and enjoyed it did so not because of the large production value but for the games free roaming nature, the beginning of one of the biggest series in gaming was here.
Grand Theft Auto: Mission Packs (Expansion)
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
Platform / Release
Windows PC March 31, 1999
Dos March 31, 1999
PlayStation April 29, 1999
The first of 2 expansion packs to be released GTA: Mission Pact #1: London, 1969 was released in 1999. The expansion played very much like the original GTA with the exception of that it was based in London during 1969 as the title implies, rather than the fiction cities of GTA. If the player ran over a group of "soap dodging hippies" without slowing down they were rewarded with a cash bonus followed by a message saying "KEEP LONDON TIDY!" Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 was the first ever expansion pack to be released on the PlayStation.
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961
Platform / Release
Windows PC: June 1, 1999
The second expansion pack in the Grand Theft Auto series was set 8 years prior to the first in 1961 making it the earliest GTA game chronologically. The expansion featured new missions, 22 new vehicles and a multiplayer deathmatch map based on Manchester. The game was only available on PC and was free to download, although it required GTA: London 1969, which required the original Grand Theft Auto.
Grand Theft Auto 2
Platform / Release
PlayStation October 22, 1999
Windows PC: October 27, 1999
Dreamcast: May 2, 2000
Gameboy Color: Dec 25, 2000
The sequel appropriately named Grand Theft Auto 2 made some minor attempts to advance the series. GTA2 is not set in any specific time or city, and is only ever referred to as 'Anywhere City'
, although a radio presenter refers to the millennium coming suggesting the setting is 1999. The city is made up of the The Downtown Area, The Residential District and The Industrial District each with their own unique buildings.
You play as a man named Claude Speed, who has been released from prison but has amnesia, his goal is to become king of the city, using any means necessary. The game introduced gangs to the series, by completing missions for one gang you increased your reputation with them but at the same time lost favour with rival gangs. Heading into the territory of a hostile gang would see them open fire on you, your standing with each of the different gangs could be viewed by a series of information bars on screen.
As you progressed through the game your were able to purchase new weapons and improve your cars. Apart from this the game played and looked similar to the original, the primitive top down 2D graphics were still in use as was the system of accumulating points to progress to the next level. Grand Theft Auto 2 improved the saving feature from the original which only allowed you to save when finishing a city. Now if Claude entered a church with $50,000 a voice announced "Hallelujah! Another soul saved!" notifying the player the game had been saved. If Claude did not have enough money the voice would say "Eternal Damnation! No donation, no salvation!". Besides some minor upgrades GTA2 was very similar to its predecessor.
Grand Theft Auto III
Platform / Release
PlayStation 2: October 22, 2001
Windows PC May 20, 2002
Xbox October 31, 2003
In 2001 Grand Theft Auto III made it debut, not only did it revolutionise the Grand Theft Auto series, it revolutionised gaming. GTA III took the series into 3D with the move into the new generation and the hardware of the PS2. Gone were the days of the detached 2D top down perspective, GTA III allowed you to explore the city in full 3D from a third person perspective. The new view brought you much closer to the action, now you could see the people you were shooting or running over, it gave the game a more realistic feel.
You take the role of a nameless criminal who was betrayed by his girlfriend, now you must climb up the criminal ladder in order to confront her. The game is set in Liberty City, in the autumn of 2001. The new perspective gave players added incentive to explore the city as everything appeared much more realistic than the previous games with names on storefronts, buildings to visit and signs to read. The game implemented the day/night system adding more realism to the series as well as licensed music which rotated through different radio stations.
The style of the game had not changed from the first two instalments, you were still able to explore the city as you wished, shoot people, steal cars, cause general mayhem and get involved in a police dispute. Not only was this now in full 3D, it was also supported with a well written plot and thought out missions. In your rise to power you must complete missions for gangs, corrupt police and the media while becoming close to the mafia bosses wife Maria.
I'm not too worried about it
For those not interested in the main story of GTA III there was plenty of other tasks to keep you occupied. Half the fun was committing various crimes to raise your 'wanted level', the more crimes that were committed the higher this would be raised and higher authority would come to aid the police persuing you. You could also participate in side missions by stealing emergency vehicles or taxies, which included going on vigilante missions in police cars chasing down criminals in an ironic twist.
Upon it's release GTA III receive very positive reviews, consistently ranking above 90%. Many review publications labelled it as 'revolutionary' and deservingly awarded it game of the year for 2001. The first two games in the series had received underground success but GTA III was the first title to gain mainstream success along with very positive reviews. Many 'GTA Clones' have emerged singe the release of GTA III which base themselves on the same sandbox open-ended style of play as the GTA games. As of March 2008 it has sold 14.5 million copies worldwide.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Platform / Release
PlayStation 2 October 27, 2002
Windows PC: May 13, 2003
Xbox October 31, 2003
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released a year after the series third instalment and had an expectation to live up to following the revolutionary ways of its predecessor. The game built on what was established in GTA III, adding more style to the game by including an amazing soundtrack full of life with signature tracts from some of the hottest bands of the 1980's. The Miami like Vice City allowed you to steal boats, motorcycles, and helicopters as well as cars to joy ride in the large city.
Set in the 1980's you take the role of Tommy Vercetti, a member of the mafia who has recently been released from prison. You had been double crossed in a drug deal and now have to set out to find who had betrayed you, as you climbed up the criminal ladder of Vice City. As in GTA III you had to search for missions from a variety of sources, and could also participate in different side missions such as finding hidden packages and robbing shops in malls.
Vice City added more features and style through both visual and audio aspects to the winning formula of GTAIII. It received extremely positive reviews from the media receiving above 95% from a range of gaming publications. It was highly praised for its open ended gameplay and re-created 1980’s atmosphere. As of March 2008, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has sold over 17.5 million copies worldwide.
Grand Theft Auto Advance
Platform / Release
Gameboy Advance October 24, 2004
Prior to the release of San Andreas GTA made its way to Nintendo's Gameboy Advance in Grand Theft Auto Advance, GTA had previously been ported to the Gameboy Color. The game went back to the top down perspective of the first 2 titles, but introduced some new features such as the ability to roll cars.
Set in Liberty City during 2000 the game acted as a prequel to 2001's GTA III, although it was initially planned to be a port of the third game redesigned into the top down perspective, however this was ultimately rejected due to hardware limitations. You play as Mike, a small time criminal working for Vinnie. The two planning to retire from the crime game decide to go out on a high note, in which Vinnie is killed. Mike then swears to avenge the death of his friend, and without his connections he must now work for various gangs to climb to the top. GTA Advance received average reviews and being released so close to the superior San Andreas was over looked by many.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Platform / Release
PlayStation 2: October 26, 2004
Windows PC: June 7, 2005
Xbox: June 7, 2005
In 2004 GTA: San Andreas thought bigger and better as it increased the playable location from a single city to an entire state comprised of 3 different cities. Players start off in Los Santos and move their way up to San Fiero and Las Venturas all of which include landmarks recognisable from the real-life cities that they were based on. As in Vice City the game was packed with music from the era as well as voice acting from celebrities such as Samuel L. Jackson. Nearly 200 vehicles were available in the game including some new additions such as bikes and a variety of different planes.
Set in the early 90’s you play as Carl "CJ" Johnson, who’s returned from Liberty City due to his mothers death to his home town of Los Santos. Not long after arriving in the rough city CJ is confronted by crooked cops who force him back into gang activity. Similar to the previous titles you earned respect in your gang by completing different missions, San Andreas offered even more variety to what you could do including drive-by shootings allowing you to take out an enemy gang with the aid of others in your vehicle. Surprising San Andreas introduced some role-playing elements to the series, CJ could level up his fitness in the gym, eating too much food made him fat and his skills increased in combat and driving with practice.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas met all of its expectations and was received extremely well, receiving scores even higher than those obtained by the previous 2 titles, including multiple scores over 98% from leading gaming publications. The game was praised for the open-ended play, the storyline, incredible voice acting and the sheer size of San Andreas. It did receive some criticism for poor character models and glitchy graphics as well as some control issues especially with aiming. Some reviews noted that it included a lot of new content and features, but the gameplay itself had not been redefined. Overall GTA: San Andreas was considered the game of the year for 2004 by many and has gone on to sell over 21.5 million copies as of March 2008.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Platform / Release
PlayStaion Portable: October 25, 2005
PlayStation 2: June 6, 2006
GTA made it’s way to the PSP in 2005 in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and was later ported to the PS2. It is the first game in the series to include a serious type of multiplayer allowing up to 6 players to partake in 7 different games modes wirelessly
Set in 1998 Liberty City you play as Toni Cipriani, who has just emerged after lying low for the past few years. As with the previous games in the serious you must complete a variety of different missions for your contacts to increase your social standing. The city was tweaked to meet the PSP's needs and also reveals that motorcycles were banned in the 21st centaury to explain their absence in GTA III. As of March 2008, Liberty City Stories has sold 8 Million copies world wide.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Platform / Release
PlayStation Portable: October 31, 2006
PlayStation 2: March 6, 2007
In 2006 GTA continued its handheld run on the PSP with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories which would later be ported to the PS2. The game played similar to Liberty City Stories with some new weapons and vehicles thrown into the mix. It also acted as a prequel for GTA: Vice City as Liberty City Stories did with GTA III.
Vice City Stories sees Victor Vance dishonourably discharged from the US Army for drug use and bringing prostitutes into the barracks. Taking place during the 80's 2 years before Vice City, Vic is caught up in a web of lies, drugs and betrayal. The game received generally positive reviews averaging in the 80% bracket and was considered to be the PSP game of the year for 2006 by many. The game did not fair as well on the PS2 as the port to the superior hardware had less features, with the custom sound track and multiplayer player modes being omitted for the home console version.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Platform / Release
Xbox 360/PS3: April 29, 2008
Windows PC: December 3, 2008
April 29 saw the worldwide release of GTA IV on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. The improved graphics and presentation gave the game a more life like feel taking full advantage of the new generation of consoles. The combat system in GTA IV has been redefined to control better from a third person perspective. Players can now take cover, blind fire, and free aim using an over the shoulder camera system to assist in targeting individual body parts in the remastered targeting system. Wanted level operates differently from the previous games, when wanted by police a radius appears on the map in which the police will search for you in, the more wanted stars that have been obtained the larger this radius will be.
You play as Niko Bellic an immigrant who has come to Liberty City to live the American Dream. The game takes place in a redesigned Liberty City, designed to be closer to the real life New York City. The civilian characters walking along the streets have been made more life like and with the detailed graphics produced by the RAGE and
Euphoria engines GTA IV has been made to feel more alive than any of its counterparts. When stealing a locked car Niko must first break the window and hotwire it before he can go anywhere, no longer does everyone conveniently leave their car open with the keys ready to go in the ignition. Vehicle control has been made more realistic to match the level of detail present in car damage. GTA III saw the series go 3D and brought the player closer to the action, GTA IV brings that action to life.
First I get the money, then I get the power, then I get the women
GTA IV is the first game in the series to enter the realm of online gaming and does so with 15 available modes of play. These modes include death matches, team based missions, and all against all. While waiting for other players the city becomes the lobby, giving you full access to explore and cause mayhem in Liberty City before the game has even started. The game features no LAN or split screen multiplayer modes, although these were hardly required with the unexpected depth of the online multiplayer mode.
GTA IV received extremely positive reviews with many reviews rating it over 98% and many of the leading gaming publications awarding it a 9.9 or a perfect 10/10. It was praised for the realistic open ended world, the entertaining storyline and the engaging multiplayer. Grand Theft Auto IV holds the Guinness World Record for the "Highest grossing video game in 24 hours" after selling 3.6 million copies on its first day on sale. As of May 31 2008 (one month after the games release) GTA IV has sold 8.5 million copies worldwide.
Points of Interest
- GTA was originally titled "Race N Chase"
- Jack Thompson has filed a number of lawsuits against the GTA series, he is now facing permanent disbarment.
- GTA IV holds the record for "Highest grossing video game in 24 hours"
- GTA IV - 6 Million sales on its first week available
- The Hot Coffee mod in San Andreas allowed a sexual mini game to be unlocked, consequently the game was banned in Australia.
- The Xbox 360 Version of GTA IV will receive 2 downloadable episodic pack, starting later this year costing Microsoft US$50 Million.
- GTA III was banned in Australia after it's initial release with the OFLC feeling it was unacceptable for a MA rating, a censored version took its place.
- GTA Vice City was altered for Australia to avoid being banned, the ability to pick-up prostitutes was disabled.
- Rockstar were known as DMA Design until the success of Grand Theft Auto III
- Released by DMA Design in 1998 for the N64 the open-ended Body Harvest allowed players to do as they wished and is believed to the straight-forward predecessor to GTA III
Grand Theft Auto III Commercial
GTA IV Trailers 1 and 2
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Sources: WikipediaGamespot.com youtube.comign.com