Grand Theft Auto

“In my day, there was a different kind of gangbanging.”

1_1Who would have thought a series as massive as GTA could be spawned from a game so… plain? It’s definitely fun and a classic, but it’s still a game that rode more on the controversy train than anything massively revolutionary. But that’s being too harsh, since Grand Theft Auto does let you do a couple of things that most games don’t – play as the bad guy, and play him in a massively open ended environment. You’re just another street thug looking to get to the top in Grand Theft Auto, but before you get there you have to pull some wet work for the current big boys.

Like any up-and-coming hood, you’ll need to take on jobs such as car theft and murders to prove you’re up to the task. You get your instructions by answering pay phones scattered around the city. If you’re on foot, just car-jack someone and away you go. From here, you guide your little thug persona from a top-down perspective around the vast expanse of a city filled with patrolling police and innocents, wreaking havoc wherever you go.

Bad Day on the Streets

One of the problems in Grand Theft Auto is that it doesn’t have a normal save feature. Instead, each level has a target score (usually a couple of million points), and without the save game it’s pretty damn hard to progress to the next level. (Especially with the police always breathing down your neck.) So you end up spending a good deal of time struggling through a level, playing because you’ve invested too much time to quit.

Fail at a mission? Oh well, you’ll just have to make the cash by becoming a freelance criminal, scavenging for dough by offing citizens and cops or stealing and selling cars. This open-ended game style is definitely fun, but it’s still all brought down by the throw-away saving system. Another major letdown is the chaotic overhead camera, which only becomes tolerable on the best of days. The game automatically zooms in and out based on how fast you’re going, but the zoom usually doesn’t flow right.

Criminal World

What is cool in GTA are the cities – enormous in size and littered with various power-ups and secret areas. There are trains that you can ride or hijack, working police, fire and ambulance departments, and most importantly, tons of innocent civilians in their lovely cars, all available for your stealing and driving. Each car performs as you would expect, and due to their wildly divergent characteristics, a major strategy in the game is trying to determine what vehicle is best for any given job.

5_1All those things said, I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed Grand Theft Auto. The missions are original, and cover the gamut from simple murder to collecting “payments” from local businesses. The point system used to progress to the next level encourages your anti-social behavior, and keeps a running total of the number of crimes you’ve committed. Additionally, the severity of your crime affects how badly the cops hate you.  Reckless driving isn’t an infraction, but start shooting or running over people gratuitously and you’ll have squad cars behind you in no time.

And then what can you do? Spray shops are situated throughout the city – go to one and they’ll get you clean plates; then the cops will be off looking for the closest donut shop. While these spray shops are a wonderful last minute reprieve, you’ll have to know where to find them. Luckily, maps of each level are included – in the manual. In the end, the simple fact that you are the bad guy and that you must kill people has a certain twisted appeal to it, and GTA has that despite its flaws.

System Requirements: 80486DX4 75 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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