Grand Theft Auto III hits double digits today, marking ten years of vehicle-stealing, tank-exploding, civilian-beating mayhem – in 3D. Join us as we look back over the pivotal titles in the Grand Theft Auto series – remembering, of course, to keep your gat cocked at all times.
Grand Theft Auto (1997)
Originally intended to be called ‘Race N Chase’, the first Grand Theft Auto saw you completing missions for crime syndicates via whatever means you saw fit. If that meant running over bystanders with stolen police cars before causing a few little explosions here and there with heavy firearms then so be it. GOURANGA!
Grand Theft Auto 2 (1999)
Retaining the overhead view of its predecessor, the second installment in the series added dynamic lighting, cops that pursued you off-road and gang warfare to the series. A total of seven distinct gangs, ranging from the yellow Yakuza-like Zaibatsu to the red Russian Mafia set a host of devious missions for you to complete – and started shooting at you if you were too closely tied to their rivals. SWAT teams made an appearance for the first time, resulting in numerous bullet-riddled confrontations.
Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001)
The first 3D title in the GTA series blew our minds with its open world sand-box freedom and went on to become the top-selling title of 2001 – and with good reason. We have many a fond memory of cranking up our wanted levels and wreaking absolute havoc with RPGs, sniper rifles, and tanks. Pure mindless violence – the best kind of fun.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)
Modeled after the 1980s Miami of Scarface and Miami Vice, the neon-bright setting of Vice City was a character in its own right – and for the first time, so was the protagonist, as Ray Liotta stepped in to give Tommy Vercetti a voice. Littered with cinematic references and hosting dozens of colourful characters, Vice City placed you in an interactive movie, making you the gun-toting star.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
If Vice City took the excesses of the 80s as its inspiration, San Andreas turned to the following decade, drawing inspiration from sources as diverse as Boyz n the Hood and Terminator 2. San Andreas put you in control of control CJ, a home-comer from Liberty City trying to investigate the events leading up to his mother’s murder. This was the first title in the series in which falling into water would not inexplicably halt your shenanigans – and you could range far and wide across countryside, deserts and not one but three cities. The infamous ‘Hot Coffee’ mod unlocked disabled interactive sex scenes, which caused quite a kerfuffle in more than a few content rating boardrooms.
Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
Smashing records by shifting 3.6 million units on its first day and raking in more than US$500 million in its first week, GTA IV put you in the shoes of Niko Bellic, an Eastern European war veteran stepping in to Liberty City in search of the American Dream. The sheer multitude of activities on offer was head-spinning – bowling, pool, drinking, darts and even vegging out on the sofa watching TV all added to the gritty realism. Old-school fans complained that it was a little too gritty – a concern that Rockstar addressed with the glitzy nightclubs and BASE-jumping lunacy of downloadable add-on The Ballad of Gay Tony.
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