Grand Theft Auto 2

Re­vis­it­ing the weird­est GTA.

PC GAMER (US) - - REINSTALL - By Andy Kelly

fter the run­away A suc­cess of the first GrandTheftAuto in 1997, DMA De­sign— now known as Rock­star North—had to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing with a se­quel. GrandTheftAuto2 was re­leased in 1999, and re­fined the freeform struc­ture that made the orig­i­nal such a hit, but with a wildly dif­fer­ent vis­ual style and a new re­spect sys­tem. Re­views were mixed, and sales were lower than ex­pected, but it was an im­por­tant step to­wards the se­ries’ in­flu­en­tial leap to three di­men­sions with GrandTheftAu­toIII in 2001. While the first game fea­tures con­tem­po­rary car­i­ca­tures of New York, San Fran­cisco, and Mi­ami, GrandTheftAuto2 takes place in the en­tirely fic­tional Any­where City, a retro-fu­tur­is­tic me­trop­o­lis with a bleak, dystopian at­mos­phere. Promo ma­te­rial for the game de­scribes it as “a fully dys­func­tional ur­ban hell” and ex­plains that the artists mod­elled the city on apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sions of the fu­ture from the ’70s and ’80s movies This is an early ex­am­ple of cult cin­ema, par­tic­u­larly from Amer­ica, in­flu­enc­ing Rock­star’s games.

The ve­hi­cles are es­pe­cially stylish, tak­ing vin­tage ’50s de­signs—all curves, chrome, and gi­ant grills—and giv­ing them a fu­tur­is­tic twist. “As if Ha­vana got trans­ported to the 21st Cen­tury,” says the game’s charm­ingly retro Flash-based web­site, which is still avail­able on­line, al­most 20 years later. It’s the most heav­ily styl­ized and vis­ually imag­i­na­tive game in the se­ries, rep­re­sent­ing a cu­ri­ous di­gres­sion be­fore the stu­dio even­tu­ally set­tled on GrandTheft Auto be­ing a satir­i­cal par­ody of the worst of modern pop cul­ture.

But there are traces of the wry satire that would come to de­fine the se­ries, mostly on the tongue-in-cheek ra­dio sta­tions that play when you en­ter a ve­hi­cle. There are 11 in to­tal, some of which can only be heard in cer­tain parts of the city, play­ing a va­ri­ety of mu­sic recorded es­pe­cially for the game. And be­tween the songs there are puerile com­mer­cials ad­ver­tis­ing fic­tional prod­ucts, which would even­tu­ally be­come a se­ries sta­ple, in­clud­ing ‘Or­gasmo’ choco­late bars (“Cold, hard, and surge af­ter surge of creamy caramel”) and ‘Lad Rover’ SUVs (“A fanny mag­net women just can’t avoid”).

PO­LICE state

Not ex­actly Rock­star’s sharpest satire, but it’s in­ter­est­ing to see (well, hear)

an im­por­tant part of the se­ries slowly tak­ing shape. In fact, the whole game al­most feels like a pro­to­type for the se­ries’ tran­si­tion to 3D. It ex­pands on the wanted sys­tem, bring­ing in SWAT teams, road­blocks, and the mil­i­tary when you cause enough may­hem. The AI is smarter, which means fights can break out be­tween the po­lice and gangs, and some­times you’ll even be pulled out of a car you’ve at­tempted to steal by its fu­ri­ous owner. We take this stuff for granted in GTA to­day, but in 1999 it was all brand new. You can see the first seeds be­ing planted for the an­ar­chic, emer­gent AI in­ter­ac­tions that would make Los San­tos feel so vi­brant and alive in GTAV.

There are six wanted lev­els, rep­re­sented by the float­ing heads of po­lice of­fi­cers at the top of the screen. A mi­nor crime (at least in GTA terms), such as mur­der­ing a few pedes­tri­ans, gets you one star and a po­lice chase. Keep killing folk and you’ll es­ca­late to two, then three, which sends more cops af­ter you and more ag­gres­sively. But it’s when you hit four heads that things get dicey. SWAT vans car­ry­ing four heav­ily ar­mored of­fi­cers will come at you. At five heads ‘spe­cial agents’ (the FBI, ba­si­cally) with si­lenced ma­chine guns are sent in. Then, fi­nally, at six heads the na­tional guard will be mo­bi­lized, throw­ing tanks and ar­mored cars at you. By this point it’s a mir­a­cle if you sur­vive for more than a few min­utes,

but there’s a thrill in see­ing how long you can last when the city is throw­ing ev­ery­thing it has at you. And, of course, you can drive a tank your­self and un­leash your very own sym­phony of ex­plo­sions.

Even two years af­ter the first game was re­leased, be­ing able to freely roam the map and tackle mis­sions in al­most any or­der you wanted was still a nov­elty. As was the ad­di­tion of bonus mis­sions and op­tional ob­jec­tives, like the in­fa­mous Kill Fren­zies (later ‘re­branded’ as Ram­pages) that chal­lenge you to kill X amount of peo­ple in X amount of time with X weapon. The map was also lit­tered with spin­ning to­kens, a pre­cur­sor to the hid­den pack­ages, pi­geons, and ra­dioac­tive waste in later se­quels. Yes, even at this early stage open world games were fill­ing their maps with ar­bi­trary col­lectibles.

Read­ing re­views from the time, ev­ery sin­gle one of them (in­clud­ing our own) crit­i­cizes the vi­su­als. The real-time light­ing ef­fects and sharper sprites are an im­prove­ment on the orig­i­nal, but it’s still fairly ugly, even by 1999 stan­dards. Some­thing the de­vel­oper ac­tu­ally ad­dresses on the game’s web­site. “We spend time on game­play rather than throw­ing mil­lions of poly­gons around,” it says, pre­dict­ing the crit­ics. “We’ve got com­plex, in­ter­ac­tive AI and fun, elab­o­rate mis­sions.” It adds that while a “typ­i­cal game these days” will use 70% of its pro­ces­sor time on vi­su­als, GTA2 has an “em­pha­sis on con­tent, with 50% used for game code”. A rare time when Rock­star wasn’t at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy.

But of all the sys­tems GTA2 ex­per­i­ments with, the re­spect me­ter is the most in­ter­est­ing and am­bi­tious. Seven col­or­ful gangs rule the city and its var­i­ous districts, and your stand­ing with them con­stantly changes as you play the game.

The Zaibatsu Cor­po­ra­tion and the Loonies, for ex­am­ple, are arch ri­vals, which means com­plet­ing jobs for one will of­fend the other and al­ter your re­spect. And some gangs won’t even of­fer you any work un­til you’ve spilled the blood of a com­peti­tor. A me­ter at the top-left of the screen lets you keep tabs on what each group thinks of you, and some of the most lu­cra­tive mis­sions are only avail­able if you have max­i­mum re­spect.

Some of the Kill Frenzy mis­sions are crazy dif­fi­cult.

You can save your game at these churches.

No, this is not a hand­some game.

Serv­ing up cold death.

The real-time light­ing in ac­tion.

Hey, at least I wasn’t wasted.

Don’t drive into the wa­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.