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SummaryFreedom... so much freedom
The GoodNear the end of my high school years, an old friend of mine installed a computer game that was all the rage at the time. It was known as Grand Theft Auto, and when he started a new game to show me how it worked, he moved his character around for a bit before deciding that it wasn't the game for him. The thing is, he didn't get very far into the game before reaching his decision, as the game's blocky graphics put him off despite his system meeting the requirements.
This year, playing the original game from 1997/98 is my first foray into the GTA world. The game is spread across three fictional cities (based on New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami, respectively) with two levels each. The game involves you doing anything you like in three fictional cities based on the real-life US counterparts. You can, for example, walk around the three cities in the game, steal a car and drive around, go on a killing spree, and other stuff (with all your actions likely attracting the police). However, the highlight of this game is taking on a set of missions, most of them involving stealing cars, killing or following gang members, bombing their hideouts, and other stuff. You don't have to successfully complete each and every mission, just enough to reach your target score and advance through the game.
A huge variety of cars are on offer, ranging from the useless-as-shit Beetle to the super-fast Beast GTS. You can steal any car you like, but a faster car is recommended if you are on missions with strict time limits. Then, you can drive like a hoon, risking people's lives and smashing up the car you are driving to the point where it is about to explode, in which case you can steal another one. I like the Beast GTS as it helps me get to destinations quicker, while smashing into heaps of cars and mowing down a few pedestrians. Steal too many cars, and the police will be onto you.
Grand Theft Auto uses CD audio tracks but doesn't play them constantly throughout the entire game. Instead, they play only when you get in your car and start driving around. You see, each car is tuned into its own radio station, with only two of the worth listening to. The radio stations pause as soon as you get out of the car (unless you change the music mode to "constant") and continue when you get back in. The tracks can be accessed outside the game, meaning that if you enjoyed listening to a particular station, you can load up the track and start listening it as many times as you like without any interference.
Scattered through each city are crates, containing something that will help you get through the missions, and it is either a weapon or a power-up. There are four weapons to choose from, with the most effective ones being the rocket launcher and the flame-thrower. I found the power-ups quite useful as well.
There are a couple of things that I found amusing, if you are on foot. One is encountering the monks with their orange robes and getting in their way on purpose. They follow you no matter where you go, even when you cross the road. Another is deliberately bumping into people so that they curse at you.
You are supplied with three maps - one for each city - which have to be used to make your way around the city, to find out the best route to your target destination. All of the maps are clear and show the complexity of each city. They point out the number of bomb shops and respray shops that you need to go into every now and then. In my opinion, Grand Theft Auto taught me how to read maps properly.
The graphics are excellent, and there are a total of six FMV clips which you only get to see when you have completed a level. These clips have a character having a word with you, and this is the same character who gives you your missions. Some characters congratulate you, some insult you. My favorite is El Burro, the gay Mexican that you get to deal with when you reach San Andreas.
The BadLike many games of its time, your progress through the game gets saved. Unfortunately, you can't just go to the menu and choose the "Save Game" option (there is none). Instead, you have to wait until you complete the level. This is a major let-down of the game since levels take ages to complete.
Also, I didn't like the zooming effects as you drive around the city, smashing things up and doing other stuff.
The Bottom LineI believe Grand Theft Auto is the first game that allows you to do anything. You can, for example, you go on a killing spree in the three cities or complete missions to earn money. The latter option is recommended as you earn more money by doing things that may or may not attract the police. To get around the city, you can steal cars and use the arrows to direct it to your destination, and listen to some great tunes along the way. As I just mentioned, maps of the three cities are supplied with the game, and I recommend that you use them as a reference. There are up to four weapons that you can use, with all of them become useful in certain situations.
GTA is possibly the best game that I have played so far. Right now, I am walking around Liberty City and blowing up police cars as I go along. But I would love to play all the missions again, especially the ones that I missed. I look forward to playing the sequels, especially the games where the view is presented in third-person.
There are several cheats for the game, but I found that some of them make certain missions unplayable. Enabling the "All Weapons" chat, for example, will cause the game to not let you pick up the flame-thrower you need to blow up a limo. The only way I could fix this is by not entering the cheat as one of my names and start the level again.