|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||GRAND THEFT AUTO|
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|Distributor:||BMG Interactive||1 Player|
|Game Type:||Shooter/Driving||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||July 1998||Standard Joypad|
Setting the Scene
'There is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity.' "So, what do you want for your Birthday this year Billy?" said Aunt Lucy. "I wouldn't mind a Playstation game to play on my new console that Mummy and Daddy has hidden on top of the wardrobe in their bedroom," replied Billy with a look of innocence wiped across his face. "Ooh, that's a tricky one as I haven't much idea about these new fangled gadgets. Computers are so difficult to understand when you get to my age," was Aunt Lucy's response. "That's okay auntie, I understand. Perhaps I could help you make the right decision," prompted the spotty faced youth. "You're such a lovely lad, in fact you remind me of your dad when he was 13 years old," cooed Aunt Lucy. "My.... mate Jimmy said..... there is a terrific new game coming out called..... GTA," said Billy hesitantly. "That sounds super, what does GTA stand for?" quizzed Aunt Lucy. "Is is Guide To Astronomy? Or could it be Gardening Taught Attentively? "Emm.... Err.... Grammmph Therrrn Auuuuu," mumbled Billy. "Speak up boy," said Aunt Lucy sternly.
Billy's expression changed. His eyes widened. His fists clenched. His chest expanded and his voice deepened. He took a deep breath. "It's Grand Theft Auto. You get to steal cars and beat up the drivers. Your boss gives you orders that involve driving over 20 stolen vehicles around 6,000 miles of freeways, roads, city streets, alleys and dead ends in 3 sprawling cities where corruption, arson, murder, drug pedaling and hijacking are all part of your days work. You can mingle with prostitutes, shoot cops, slaughter pedestrians, set fire to Monks, smoke underage and rob shipment of high explosives." "Everyone is talking about it at school, auntie. Can I have it for my Birthday? Please. Please. Please." "Certainly not! What is this world coming to! Whatever happened to Action Man and Barbie Dolls," screamed Aunt Lucy. "Aww, piss off you old bag. I'll buy it myself from the cash I robbed from your purse last month."
Senseless, mindless violence sells and Grand Theft Auto will sell like the proverbial hot cake because of it's controversial theme. So how does the game look? GFT is viewed from a top down perspective as the camera follows every law breaking event on your wanton trail of destruction through the three massive sprawling cities. I generally find that top down views can be a little off-putting as the cityscapes loose that feeling of depth and dimension, but in this game the helpful camera automatically zooms in and out, offering you the best possible view of the proceedings. Each of the vehicles that travel along the urban highways have their own individual look to avoid confusion. Yellow Cabs, coaches, HGV's, motor bikes and open back trucks stand out for the obvious reason, but it is the sheer number of different makes and models of motor cars that impresses the most. Red cars, metallic blue cars, silver cars, green cars. Hatchbacks, sports cars, saloons, limousines. Each cars performance is affected by it's make and model so you know exactly what your getting when you steal it. If you wish to shake off the cops and mingle in with the traffic then grab an eight seater caravette and drive carefully. If you need a quick getaway then go for a top of the range sports car that has high acceleration and handling to match. As a last resort you can even steal one of the emergency service vehicles which are on active duty and can be hijacked. Every collision will damage the vehicles body work until it finally looks like a wreck, but thankfully there are a few dodgy back-street dealers where, for a small fee, your car can be re-sprayed and given new number plates. That should shake off the law. Pedestrians wander around the city going about their everyday business. They are visually small but leave a large nasty bloodstain on the sidewalk if, for instance, you decide to take a short-cut through a busy shopping mall in a bus. Your character is also quite small but stands out from the crowds with his thug-like appearance. The cities are massive and it will take you some time before you get your bearings. You must watch out for landmarks such as the city park, the docks or railway station. Some of the roads are wide multi-lane affairs while others are narrow back alleys that are tight to negotiate.
Sounds and Effects
The music that accompanies GTA is superb. In all there are over 60 minutes of original 16-bit digitally recorded new music that features many styles including Techno, Dance, Funk, Hip-Hop and Industrial. Check out the options to decide whether you wish to listen to the sounds through a car radio or the normal channels. The in-game sound effects are equally impressive. GTA contains the usual manic car horns, screeching tyres and every crash, bang and wallop that is normally associated with this type of game, but it's the additional touches that prick up your ears such as when a HGV is backing up, the clear sound of a reverse alarm is audible. Wailing police sirens are constant reminder that no matter where you go, the law is not far behind.
There are many things that Grand Theft Auto will undoubtedly be accused of but there is no way that it could be found guilty of lacking in gameplay. Not only is the playing area the size of a rather large city but there are over 200 different missions and thousands of crimes and misdemeanors to carry out before you can move up the ranks from being a petty thief to the city's most wanted gangster. Before you begin a character must be selected from the rogues gallery where the profiles of Travis, Bubba, Troy and a particularly nasty looking bastard Kivlov, are displayed. You are given a set number of lives which can be ended by getting busted, taking too much damage, failing a crucial mission or even dying. When all lives are lost your criminal record is displayed on the screen showing a total of game points and a list of offenses which include hit and run, stunts and bumps, bank jobs and murder one. Points are awarded for successful missions and damage created. These points can also be used to purchase firearms, lose a hot car or pay off an associate. The game is basically mission based where you receive your instructions via a number of suspicious sources. A popular information point is the public phone booths outside the city park. Your character begins trudging the streets on foot and when you arrive at this location the telephones are ringing merrily away. To receive your first set of instructions simply walk up to a booth, press the action button and the juvenile will pick up the receiver. Your contact will quickly babble out a few lines which appear in text format on the bottom of the screen. Missions are wide and varied. Some are timed, others require thoughtful planning. The game has a gentle learning curve and you are initially only expected to carry out a few 'trivial' crimes such as dropping off suspicious packages, unloading hot cars and following corrupt lawyers. Before you know it you are drawn into the seedy world of crime with bigger and more profitable offers - the odd assassination here and the occasional terrorist activity there. Petty larceny becomes big time bank robberies and passing drug packages becomes planting bombs in busy shopping centres. (Are you listening kids, crime never pays in real life - For and behalf of Inspector Plod.) Each mission is put across in a rough and ready way. 'Bring the stolen car to West Park. Move it as we've got some fresh pussy here.' 'This bus you've stolen is a trap. It's rigged to explode if you drop under 50 mph.' 'Take me to West Island as Bobby's got a sticky love nest there.' 'Steal two yellow cabs and take them down to the docks.' After a certain number of missions you are left to fend for yourself. To do this you must search the streets for vehicles parked in suspicious circumstances and upon entering the vehicle your new instructions are offered. Of course getting around the city on foot would be insane as the cops would pick you up in no time. You need wheels and to obtain the motor of your choice is a simple enough process - walk in front of any vehicle and it will grind to a halt. Press the 'enter/exit car' button and the thug will grab the owner/occupier by the scruff of the neck, rive him from the drivers seat, throw him to the ground then take off in his vehicle, pausing only to run him over if it has been a bad day. Simple process - devastating effect. Any vehicle may be commandeered in this fashion but some missions involve stealing specific vehicles. If you are feeling particularly brave you could attempt to take off with a patrol car which has the best road handling at maximum speed, but if you mess too much with the law enforcers they will come down on you heavy handed and create road blocks on every junction. This usually ends up in a gun fight which you have little chance of survival. To drive the cars you have an accelerator, brake and reverse. On the wide open highways the cars handle quite well. Top of the range cars can powerslide around corners and the steering is responsive enough to weave in and out of oncoming vehicles. Where the game becomes frustrating is down those narrow backstreets and due to limited space you can easily become jammed in between vehicles and buildings. To help you to find your objective point there is a helpful on screen arrow which points directly at your destination, although negotiating the complex routes can often lead to you becoming hopelessly lost. Although the arrow always points from A to B there may be a river blocking your direct route, therefore quite often you must backtrack and find a bridge to cross over onto the other side of town. On your travels you will come across the occasional information icon that offers advice on the deeper aspects of the game such as where to purchase weapons. To collect this helpful tip simply drive through the icon. Another point worth mentioning is that you don't always have to complete each mission to continue. Sometimes you will meet up with crime bosses on your travels who may offer you a more dangerous but rewarding alternative job. It's up to you to decide if the risk is worth taking. The AI is set very high and the whole playing area appears to be a living, breathing city. Should you start a fire a fire engine will roll up to curtail the flames. Flatten a few pedestrians and an ambulance will arrive to aid the wounded. All clever stuff.
Value for Money
Regardless of what I say there will be many who will rush out and buy this game because of it's 'touchy' contentious subject. To the rest of you I say don't expect a graphical treasure but the gameplay will take take some time to complete while raising a few smiles on the way.
Theft Auto may not be the best looking game I have seen, but it sure
packs a punch with the amazing amount of controversial gameplay that has
been crammed onto one CD.
The city's are enormous and you really have to drive around for quite some time before you get your bearings. Each mission is put across in such a 'tongue in cheek' fashion that I cannot see too many people getting upset at the content, although planting bombs in busy shopping malls may bring out a few placards.
If only the handling of the cars had been a little more responsive then the value of the game would have matched the potential created by the subjects mass of advanced publicity.