Ever felt like stealing a car, mowing down some pedestrians and being chased at high speed by the entire police force? Well this is the game for you, you can do all those things and without the actual death or imprisonment. Grand Theft Auto came out in 1997 and has an 18 certificate due to its rude and violent nature. I vaguely remember a bit of a fuss about it at the time but naturally that only served to sell more copies.
As the game begins you have to choose from four male and four female characters and enter a name. The object of the game is to reach a certain number of points as this allows you to progress to the next stage. There are a number of ways to score points and all of them are criminal.
The view during gameplay is from above and maps (provided with the game) are useful for getting around. Graphics are partially sacrificed for playability. There is a variety of useful info on the screen which will tell you how you are doing - top left of the screen is your pager (jobs and personal messages), top middle of the screen is the name of the area you are in and your wanted level (represented by moaning cop heads), top right is your bonus multiplier (raised each time you complete a job) and your score. First thing to do is to find a weapon, anything from a pistol to a rocket launcher. Weapons are sometimes just lying around dangerously on the street and sometimes hidden in crates which open when rammed, punched or shot.
Next you will want to steal a car, either find a stationary one or wait until the traffic slows and jump in one you like the look of. If the car is occupied you will automatically turf out the driver and if you are in a bad mood can add death to injury by reversing over the owner before you speed off. There are a wide variety of vehicles to choose from each with its own unique speed, value and handling abilities, you must learn what ones are best to steal. For example if the cops are after you and you jump in a lorry you may find it difficult to outrun them. My recommendation is to steal a cop car as these are the fastest available, but you will have to avoid attracting attention - this means resisting that impulse to zoom around with the siren blaring. Cars can be turned into points by delivering them to the docks (these are marked on the map). However it will take a long time to rack up the necessary points from car theft, you need some real criminal contacts. Jobs working for criminal gangs can be found at the pay phones, simply run up to one that is flashing and some evil hood will instruct you to pick up drugs or bomb the police HQ. During the job a handy arrow will appear in the center of the screen pointing the way you should be going.
There are a wide variety of jobs available for the violent or sneaky, ranging in difficulty from pick ups to assassinations. The game is very playable and easy to control and it becomes addictive very quickly. You can choose your own pace to progress, if you feel like taking it easy, just steal cars for a while, if you get bored, go on a wild killing spree - you choose.
The cars are all unique and this is an excellent feature of the game. In addition to the handling differences there is also different music playing on the radio in each car. This is such a cool idea, it really adds to the depth of the game and allows you to choose a car you really like before inevitably wrecking it in high speed chase. Once you are tooled up with weaponry you should look for armour, a get out of jail free key or some of the other hidden power ups and objects. There are also kill frenzies which prompt you to murder a set number of people within a time limit with a specific weapon (some of these are hard to complete). The controls are easy - directions, fire, jump in car and the special key which makes you fart or burp when on foot and sounds the horn when you are driving.
This game is excellent fun, the cars are fun to drive, the missions are suitably dodgy and often challenging, and the design and sound is top quality. Considering you can get this for as little as a fiver now it is well worth buying. I played this game to death, the city grids are permanently branded on my brain, and at some point it became too easy to evade the brain-dead police. However no game can stand up to constant repetitive playing forever and this undoubtedly did better than most. It is fast and furious in places and tremendously satisfying when you complete a difficult mission or successfully evade the police. There are also a number of extra hidden missions and objects which considerably raise the re-playability of the game. Although the game is violent it does have a sense of humour and should not be taken seriously - where else will you get the chance to run over a large group of Hare Krishna`s and be rewarded for it? A perfect outlet for all that pent up aggression, I suggest you buy it.