Grand Theft Auto (series)
Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a video game series created and primarily developed by Scottish developer Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design), published by Rockstar Games and debuted in 1998. It includes eight stand-alone games and two expansion packs for the original. Film veterans such as Michael Madsen, Samuel L. Jackson, James Woods, Joe Pantoliano, Frank Vincent, Robert Loggia and Ray Liotta have all voiced major characters. The name of the series and its games are derived from “grand theft auto”, a term referring to motor vehicle theft. As of September 26, 2007, the Grand Theft Auto series has sold over 65 million units.
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The games allow the player to take on the role of a criminal in a city, typically a lowly individual who rises in the ranks of organized crime over the course of the game. Various missions are set for completion by the figureheads of the city underworld, generally criminal, which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Bank robberies, assassinations and other crimes feature regularly, but occasionally taxi driving, firefighting, pimping, street racing, or learning to fly an airplane are also involved as alternate adventures, which can be done at any time during the game, with the exception of the periods performing main missions.
In later titles, notably those released after Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is given a more in-depth storyline, in which they are forced to overcome an unfortunate event. This served as a motivation for the character to advance in the criminal ladder, and eventually leads to the triumph of the character by the end of the storyline. Furthermore, the storylines tend to intertwine with one another, creating a vast network of associations between people and locations that results in the appearance of certain characters and locales multiple times throughout the series.
The Grand Theft Auto series is notable for the large amount of freedom given to the player in deciding what to do and how to do it through different methods of transport and weapons. Unlike most action games, which are structured as a single track series of levels with linear gameplay, in GTA the player can pick and choose which missions they want to undertake, and their relationships with various powers are changed based on these choices. The vast cities of the games can also be roamed freely at any point in the game, offering many accessible buildings and minor missions. There are exceptions: Missions follow a linear, overarching plot, and some city areas must be unlocked over the course of the game.
Grand Theft Auto: III and subsequent games have been notable for their storylines, high quality of voice acting, and “radio stations,” which simulate driving to music with satirizing DJs, radio personalities, commercials, talk radio, popular music, important news breaks, and American culture. All of this is seamlessly integrated in the realistic setting of a dysfunctional urban environment which parodies a real-life city. Players also often cite the music and humor of the series in explaining its appeal.
The game’s influence on teenagers and adults alike has created a “cult” scene of GTA fans that see past the merits of the game itself and appreciate the retro feel and the good-old-days vibe the game emanates. People remember or imagine the time the games are set in and can enjoy the music, the atmosphere, the fashion, the slang and the cities from their favorite decade, namely the 1980s or the 1990s.
The use of vehicles in an explorable urban environment provides a basic simulation of a working city, complete with pedestrians who obey traffic signals. Further details are used to flesh out an open-ended atmosphere that has been used in several other games, such as The Simpsons Hit & Run and the True Crime series, which have less emphasis on crime or violence. Some compare this to open-ended RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls series, and foresee action games using a similar design.
The series has courted a great deal of controversy since the release of Grand Theft Auto III. This criticism stems from the focus on illegal activities, in comparison with “hero” roles that most other games offer. The main character can commit a wide variety of crimes and violent acts while dealing with only temporary consequences, including the killing of policemen and military personnel. Opponents believe that players will try to emulate this behavior, while proponents disagree for a variety of reasons. For specific incidents, see the individual game articles.
The Grand Theft Auto series may be divided into eras, based on the inclusion of a numbering after the recognizable title name (e.g. Grand Theft Auto III) after the original Grand Theft Auto‘s release, and to a certain extent, the type of graphics engine used. For further information on each title, see their respective articles.
The original Grand Theft Auto (Windows version)
Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto, the first title in the GTA series, released for DOS, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation in 1997/1998 as well as a reduced Game Boy Color port, and subsequently two expansion packs were offered:
Grand Theft Auto 2
Grand Theft Auto 2 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation and Dreamcast, was released in 1999. Set in the unconfirmed future, it featured updated graphics and somewhat different gameplay based upon the player’s appeal to various criminal organizations. A reduced Game Boy Color port was also produced.
Grand Theft Auto 2 (Windows version)
Grand Theft Auto III
- Grand Theft Auto III (2001), set in fictional Liberty City (based on New York City) during the release of the game (October 2001), brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. While not the first of its kind, the gameplay engine expanded the explorable world of GTA III, doing away with a traditional game structure where the player faces a “boss” at the end of the level and moves onto a new level, opting instead for more realistic mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay), but GTA III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and storyline (in previous GTAs, there was speech only in short animated cut scenes between levels, other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen). Pop culture also is cemented into GTA III, drawing many aspects and ideas from popular films and shows such as Scarface, Goodfellas, and The Godfather.
Grand Theft Auto III uses 3D graphics, unlike its predecessors
Grand Theft Auto III sold very well and became the first blockbuster game in the series, setting the precedent for subsequent GTA titles to be very successful. GTA III also attracted heavy criticism for its violence against police and its indifference to innocent bystanders, making future games in the GTA series synonymous with violence. Following the success of GTA III, the following titles released are stand-alone sequels (though all take place before GTA III chronologically):
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), set in 1986 in Vice City (based on Miami). Influences for the game include movies such as Scarface, Carlito’s Way and the TV series Miami Vice. In fact, the entire basic storyline of the game is an homage to Scarface, including the climactic gun-fight in the main character’s mansion at the end.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), set in 1992 in the fictional state of San Andreas (based on California and Nevada, specifically Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas). Inspiration comes from movies such as Original Gangstas, Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society, and early 90s west coast gangsta rap culture and groups such as N.W.A.
- San Andreas also attracted controversy when a sex minigame that was cut from the game, but remained in the game code, was discovered in both the console and PC versions of the game (see Hot Coffee mod). As a result, GTA: San Andreas was pulled from a number of retail outlets and was re-rated from “M” (Mature) to “AO” (Adults Only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB); the first game in the series to be given an AO rating. Rockstar has since released an edited version of the game for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, and has reclaimed the “M” rating.
- Grand Theft Auto Advance (2004), originally intended to be a topdown conversion of GTA III for the Game Boy Advance, it ended up becoming its own completely original adventure, set roughly a year before GTA III. Unlike the Game Boy ports of I and II, Grand Theft Auto Advance did not tone down the excessive violence and adult dialog common to the GTA series and is one of few Game Boy titles to receive an “M” rating.
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (2005), a PlayStation Portable GTA III prequel set in 1998 Liberty City. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on June 6, 2006.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (2006), the second PlayStation Portable game, was released on October 31, 2006 and set in 1984 Vice City. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on March 6, 2007.
Grand Theft Auto IV
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The next installment of the series, Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA IV), was originally slated to be released in October 2007 worldwide for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released simultaneously on the PlayStation and Xbox platforms. It is called Grand Theft Auto IV as Rockstar have said it is a “worthy successor” to Grand Theft Auto III. However, it was announced on August 2, 2007 that the game will be delayed until Rockstar’s Q2 2008 (which ends April 30, 2008). It has been confirmed that episodic content will be released on the Xbox 360 exclusively. Microsoft officially announced a strategic alliance with Rockstar Games over the rights to episodic content through their Xbox Live service at their X06 event. An announcement regarding the release of episodic content for the PS3, however, is still expected, whilst fans speculate that each console will receive its own exclusive episodic content via their respective download services (Xbox Live for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3).
GTA IV’s game engine is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (a.k.a. RAGE) used in Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis. The game once again takes place in a redesigned Liberty City that very closely resembles New York City, much more than previous renditions.
Cities and states
- Liberty City – A city based on New York City. Setting of Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Advance, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto IV. Appears in one mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- Vice City – A city based on Miami. Setting of Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories; the Vice City and Vice City Stories renditions of the city reveal Vice City to be located in the state of Florida.
- San Andreas – A state based on California and Nevada. Setting of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Note that the GTA1 version of San Andreas is significantly different from the GTA: San Andreas version: The GTA1 version is a city based on San Francisco, while the GTA: SA version is a state.
- Anywhere City – Setting of Grand Theft Auto 2. Unknown location.
- Carcer City – Most likely Newark or Detroit. Said to be neighboring Liberty City. Manhunt takes place in Carcer City; mentioned in Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
- London – Setting of both Grand Theft Auto mission packs (London, 1969 and London, 1961)
- Manchester – an add-on, multiplayer-only city featured in Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961
- Salford (featured in The Introduction, a Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas prequel film)
- Claude Speed – The name of the Grand Theft Auto 2 character, as revealed by the FMV introduction’s credits.
- Claude – Grand Theft Auto III. In San Andreas a phone call upon completion of the game reveals his first name is in fact Claude. In GTA III, he is only referred to by nicknames Fido and (The) Kid. Since the release of San Andreas, many players speculate that Claude is in fact Claude Speed, the protagonist in GTA2, though this is unknown.
- Tommy Vercetti – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
- Carl “CJ” Johnson – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- Mike – Grand Theft Auto Advance.
- Toni Cipriani – Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
- Victor Vance – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
- Niko Bellic – Grand Theft Auto IV.
- From Grand Theft Auto III
- From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
- From Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- From Grand Theft Auto Advance
- From Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
- From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
- From Grand Theft Auto IV
Because of the success of the Grand Theft Auto series, notably Grand Theft Auto III and subsequent games, several other developers have attempted to emulate GTA’s driving/shooting formula and open-ended sandbox play. Notable games that are often seen as doing so include DRIV3R, The Getaway series, The Godfather: The Game, True Crime: Streets of LA and True Crime: New York City, Saint’s Row, Scarface: The World Is Yours, The Simpsons Hit & Run, Just Cause, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction and Total Overdose.
Billboard in GTA: San Andreas mocking True Crime: Streets of LA.
As a result of such similarities, Rockstar has placed several Easter eggs to mock the competition. One such Easter egg in GTA III references Tanner, the protagonist of several games in the Driver series. In a mission called “Two Faced Tanner” players must kill a “strangely animated” undercover cop who is “useless out of his car” (they even go so far as to give the pseudo Tanner a female pedestrian’s walking animation).
In GTA: Vice City, during the mission “Autocide”, the targets that the player must kill are subtle references to the main characters of Driver 2 (Dick Tanner, after Tanner), The Getaway (Marcus Hammond and Franco Carter, after Mark Hammond and Frank Carter), and True Crime: Streets of LA (Nick Kong, after Nick Kang Wilson). DRIV3R responded by sticking floatie-wearing characters named Timmy Vermicellis, after the protagonist of Vice City, Tommy Vercetti, since none of the protagonists in the GTA series could swim before GTA: San Andreas.
In San Andreas, while breaking into Madd Dogg’s mansion, players will see a man playing a video game and making fun of the way the main character walks stating “How could Refractions [a parody of Reflections Interactive] mess up so bad? Tanner, you suck ass!!” (Tanner’s walking animations were often criticized). Another San Andreas Easter egg mocks True Crime, which was depicted on several billboards in the city of Los Santos, in addition to the “TRUEGRIME” garbage truck cheat code, which also mocks the game.
Official soundtrack releases
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Official Soundtrack Box Set available on Epic Records
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City OST – Greatest Hits also available on Epic Records
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Official Soundtrack available on Interscope Records
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Official Soundtrack Box Set also available on Interscope Records
Notes and references
- ^ Take-Two Interactive Software at Piper Jaffray Second Annual London Consumer Conference (Webcast: Windows Media Player, Real Player). Thomson Financial (2007–09-26). Retrieved on 2007–10-22. “Grand Theft Auto III launched in 2001 and sold over 12 million units. We then shipped another sequel in 2002 which sold over 15 million units, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. And then in 2004 we shipped Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which sold a remarkable 20 million units … the entire franchise has sold over 65 million units…”
- ^ The actual release date of Grand Theft Auto is not clear. While Rockstar Games asserts in its official website that the game was released in October 1997, GameSpot and IGN indicated that the game was only released on February or March 1998, respectively.
- ^ Grand Theft Auto 2‘s manual uses the phrase “three weeks into the future”, and phrases such as “X weeks into the future” or “X minutes into the future” are common phrases meaning “near future”; fictional journal entries on the game’s official website, however, suggest 2013 .
- ^ According to the final entry of the official Liberty Tree “online newspaper”, Grand Theft Auto III is implied to be set around the first release of GTA III, specifically, October 2001.
- ^ MCWHERTOR, MICHAEL (2 August 2007). Take-Two Execs Explain GTA IV Delay. kotaku.com. Retrieved on 2007–08-02.
- ^ Totilo, Stephen (2007–03-29). ‘GTA IV’ Revealed: Game Returning To City That Made It Famous. MTV. Retrieved on 2007–04-01.
- ^ True Crime: Streets of LA, IGN, October 31, 2003
- ^ Gameranking PS2 Average 77%
- ^ Douglass C. Perry, Saints Row Review, IGN, August 28, 2006
- ^ Chris Roper, Scarface: The World is Yours Review, IGN]], October 6, 2006
- (German) Grand Theft Auto Wiki
- GameSpot: The History of Grand Theft Auto
- GTA storyline, a detailed explanation of the GTA storyline by chronological order of its timeline
- GTAGaming.com, a fansite with the latest news and GTA information.
- The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto: Critical Essays, an academic book published by McFarland Press that collects essays examining the meaning and cultural implications of the Grand Theft Auto video game series.
- Grand Theft Auto series at MobyGames
- Grand Theft Auto: The Phenomenon, a timeline of the Grand Theft Auto series and the controversy spawned from the franchise.