The appeal of Grand Theft Auto

Earlier this week, Rockstar Games sent the interweb and social network into a crazed when a teaser trailer on the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V was release.

You can click on the video above to see the new game in action and first impressions are we are going back to San Andreas!

I have been a big fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, ever since the British game developer DMA Design – who are now Rockstar North – made the classic 1997 overhead view action game in the original GTA. Sure, it was full of controversy when the game went on sale – and to this day the various GTA games still cause many controversial moments with many themes and issues.

I used to play the PC version to death, perfecting the handbrake turn with a touch on the spacebar and completing the many missions escaping from rival gangs and the police, that my desktop computer crashes every time due to long excessive plays!

I even got the special mission pack for the original GTA when the setting switched to London in the 1960s. The game play made it really addictive to drive fast, kill bad guys and escape with many wanted attention from the police!

Grand Theft Auto 2 was release in 1999 with enhancement to the visuals, city activities, missions and game play. I actually found GTA2 to be quite difficult to play and didn’t enjoy it as much as I would like compared to the original.

But my feelings were soon dismissed when the impressive third-dimension environment in Grand Theft Auto III was released in 2001. The breakthrough in creating 3D visuals in the life, breathing fictional place called Liberty City (based on New York City) was simply amazing and even though the game is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, I still find it fun and engaging to play.

What made GTA III so special? The ability to fully explore all the parts of Liberty City in 3D was quite refreshing. The various radio stations and characters made the city came alive, plus the chance to create havoc with a host of destructive weapons made it entertaining and amusing.

I have many copies of GTA III on various formats including the PlayStation 2, PC and Mac. Rockstar Games are now marking this special tenth anniversary milestone by releasing it on handheld consoles including the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. It will be fascinating to see and play without the aid of physical buttons, especially on the iOS devices.

The impressive 3D game engine developed by RenderWare allowed Rockstar Games to develop rich environments full of detail and life. In 2002, the setting of GTA was changed to the 1980s with the awesome Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

In my mind, this is my favourite in the series. The wonderful 1980s soundtrack made it so special as you drive past the Miami-inspired city of neon lights, beaches and high-rising buildings creating mayhem along the way! The voice acting, story and missions made a joy to play and it’s not surprising to hear that many gamers still favour Vice City as their most-liked GTA.

Rockstar Games actually made spin-offs on GTA III and GTA: Vice City for the PlayStation Portable (and was later adapted to the PlayStation 2) with Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. The two games were set in a different timeline to the originals with new characters, story and missions. I brought these titles for the PSP when it was first released in 2005-06 and even though I was impressed by the ability to play GTA on a handheld console, I wasn’t pleased by the long loading (blame the UMD disc) and short battery life on Sony’s portable gaming machine.

In 2004, Rockstar Games unveiled their most ambitions GTA with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game was set in 1992 focusing on California gang life and the awakening of the drug epidemic brought on by crack cocaine. The setting was in the fictional state of San Andreas, which was based on some California and Nevada cities, specifically Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Their counterparts are Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas respectively.

Like the other GTA in the series, San Andreas composed of elements from driving games and third-person shooters, and features open-world game play that gives you full control in the 3D environment. For the first time in the series, you can customise your cars and character, and even interactive sexual relationships!

I was impressed by the huge, expansive world in GTA: San Andreas. The chance to gamble in the Las Venturas casinos, fly aeroplanes over San Fierro and performing drive-by shooting in Los Santos was mind-blowing. The large gaming environment made it fun to play but so easily get lost due to the many interactions with characters and side-missions.

Embarrassingly, to this day I have yet to complete the final mission in San Andreas when I got this game on the PlayStation 2. I have since brought the many versions available on the PC, Mac and Xbox but still unable to find the time to complete it!

By that time, I have invested in new consoles such as the Nintendo DSXbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo GameCube and Nintendo Wii playing a whole host of different games that I never went back to San Andreas! Yes, it’s a real shame but not to worry, Rockstar Games had an exciting title up their sleeve.

And that was the spectacular-looking Grand Theft Auto IV. Running on a new game engine, the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) plus the Euphoria physics engine, GTA IV was technically brilliant. The level of detail was striking and playing it in full High Definition on my Xbox 360 back in 2008 made it a complete joy.

Grand Theft Auto IV had a much more realistic game play than its predecessors, especially on the vehicle handling. The game once again takes place in a redesigned Liberty City that very closely resembles New York City, much more than previous renditions. In fact, you can visit the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square in GTA IV.

I simply love GTA IV. The music from the various radio stations, the humour, the missions and the different characters you interact with made this game so enjoyable to play. I even purchased the two downloadable content – Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned and Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony to expanded the fantastic game play.

The multiplayer mode in GTA IV was also great. The ability to join and host an Xbox Live party with my mates competing in races, missions and other fun activities made it a real pleasure. Amazingly, GTA IV is still in the top ten of most played multiplayer on Xbox Live to this day despite being an old game!

With the release of that trailer on Wednesday, November 2nd 2011 as the next Grand Theft Auto, the level of attention and coverage from gaming blogs, websites and magazines is sure to put big pressure on Rockstar North to fulfil everyone’s expectations and desires in Grand Theft Auto V.

After watching that short video clip, I am full of excitement into what’s in store in Grand Theft Auto V. The graphics do look incredible over what was quite an impressive-looking Grand Theft Auto IV.

The setting in Grand Theft Auto V is Los Santos, the fictional version of Los Angeles and its California surroundings, including Hollywood (Vinewood) and rural hills and valleys.

Rockstar Games announced that Grand Theft Auto V was in full development and that it would take place within Los Santos and its “surrounding hills, countryside and beaches”, and that it would be “the largest and the most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created”.

Rockstar parent Take-Two calls GTA V “a bold new direction in open-world freedom, story telling, mission-based game play and online multiplayer,” while confirming that its story will focus on “the pursuit of the almighty dollar in a re-imagined, present-day Southern California.”

The most telling aspect is what platform this game is coming out on. Will it be the usual suspects with the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC? Plus there were no details on release date. Only Rockstar Games has the answer and after watching that teaser trailer, I want to find out more!

4 thoughts to “The appeal of Grand Theft Auto”

  1. Great review Elton for this iconic series.

    I have to admit while I do like the games, I’ve never really had to time to play them and really get involved. I did play Vice City to death though back in my single life and I hope to give GTA 5 a lot more time. I should have played GTA IV a LOT more, as this was a great game, but life just got and still gets in the way along with films and TV.

    As for the early PC versions, I completely missed them. I remember hearing all the hype about them, but with no PC till 2001 at least I think, I just played on my SNES.

    My second PC was a killer machine and guy I’d bought it off had patched Vice City. Now instead of cars looking a bit like real cars, this version had the real thing. Lambos, Ferraris, Scoobys all sorts. It was massive fun playing around with them reaching humungous speeds.

    Looking at the trailer we do seem to be an updated San Andreas. I never liked SA and rarely played it, but it did have an awesome sound track which, if my memory serve me correctly, featured Guns ‘n Roses. The whole character customisation was a big turn off for me.

    So God be willing, this time round I’ll get to play it to death. Know one knows when this will be out, but all I can say is even considering the lack of release, I’m more excited about this than tomorrow’s Call Of Duty… whatever number they’re on. A big fat MEH for that title.

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