Retro Recap: Grand Theft Auto
To be quite frank, I wasn't as excited as many for the arrival of GTA V today. The few who I have spoken to seem to be on the verge of wetting themselves in anticipation for their copy of the game, even amongst the multitude of Instagram and Facebook photos that leaked all over the internet days in advance. It's like they think people have never seen a game before. Come on guys, it's not like the release of Final Fantasy XV as that would be a cause for excitement! But even with my indifference to the franchise, I can't argue its popularity. Therefore, this week's Retro Recap is none other than the game that started it all off, the first Grand Theft Auto!
The first game differs in many aspects from the more recent versions, notably the camera. GTA was originally a top down view, which warranted a number of merits. Firstly, it made it easier to see the surroundings and assess the situation in such a way that camera-behind-the-player views cannot. That is not to say that top down views are better, yet there's just something unique about being able to see more of the map than you normally would. Another feature that has been lost in the modern versions is the way the game progresses. Later GTA's are the typical quest based storylines that we've all come to know (not necessarily love), yet the first GTA was a points based system. You didn't even need to do the main missions set out for you. You could literally go through the game doing as the game describes and stealing cars and killing civilians. How times have changed. To certain extent, you could say that this is the most free roaming GTA game of the entire franchise.
You can choose between a variety of starting characters, albeit the play style is exactly the same for each one and you progress through each location, moving onto a different place when you've accumulated enough points. Each location are the places that many GTA fans have come to familiarize themselves with. You begin in Liberty City, move onto Vice City and finally San Andreas. Each new map provides a fresh look on the gameplay and progresses you through the basic story of your dealings with local crime syndicates.
In order to navigate said worlds, one must acquire a vehicle of some sorts. I know what you're thinking, with enough hard work, the protagonist (antagonist?) could save up for a sweet ride. Or steal the nearest car and replace it with a faster one when spotted. This is where the title of the franchise lives up. Can you even buy vehicles in GTA? I don't know, I've never played past GTA 1, yet somehow, it would ruin the whole image of the game if you could. Besides, everyone knows a stolen Impaler is better than any other vehicle you could ever get (and had the best name too).
So where exactly is the fun in breaking the law and becoming a mass murderer? GTA seems to have this inane ability to soothe the soul. On one particular level for example, you can find the hidden tank and just go ham all over the map. Blowing up various vehicles because they were there, inciting police confrontation, only to rampage through them and cause all hell of destruction. You can't tell me that ain't fun. After a particular stressful day, nothing is more satisfying is cracking on a video game and committing mass homicide.
Fun fact about GTA that all the die-hard fans (not the movie) already know:
- The first GTA was almost cancelled due to production issues
- You accumulated more points by running over pedestrians with a Police car than you did with a regular one
- If you removed the CD from the tray and replaced it with an audio CD, it would play a random track from that the next time you entered a vehicle
- Grand Theft Auto was originally named Race 'n' Chase
- The front cover of the game is of a NYPD 1980's Plymouth Gran Fury rushing through the intersection of 5th Avenue and 56th Street with Trump Tower in the background (if that means anything to anyone)
- Not the first GTA but R2, R2, L1, R2, Left, Down, Right, Up, Left, Down, Right, Up. I didn't even own the damn game
Despite what conceptions this article may provide, I did actually enjoy playing GTA (and others too), albeit never owning once since the first installment. As mentioned, it is definitely satisfying to run around with your favorite weapons and proceed to beat the living daylights out of anyone who was in the vicinity (mostly prostitutes of course). The simpler nature of Grand Theft Auto 1 provided a lot of fun back then, but fans of the series begged for more and more, leading to the gigantic size of the current GTA map. Is there such a thing as too much to do? GTA V will definitely tell you soon enough.
What was your experience of playing the first GTA game? Did it make you become a fan of the franchise? Could I give it a negative review without being heckled to no end? Let us know in the comments section below!