Ever felt like stealing a bus, picking up a bunch of innocent people and delivering them to the Russian Mafia, only to oversee them being stripped and minced before you take them (as hotdogs) to a restaurant? Well I hope not, but if you have you may find some psychiatric help very useful or even better buy this game. Grand Theft Auto 2 is an updated take on the idea, which retains most of the good features of the original.
As before you are a criminal and must earn cash to proceed through the levels. The major difference this time is that each of the three city maps you play on are divided into four sections - neutral territory and the three gangs patches. The idea of competing gangs has been developed in this version, each gang has its own territory and unique jobs and characteristics - you choose who to work for. Obviously the gangs are in competition so you will have to be careful; working for one gang annoys another (in a paper, scissors, stone type cycle).
In case you haven't played earlier versions I´ll give a brief rundown of the basics. First you must arm yourself and there are a variety of weapons to choose from (look out for molotov cocktails and the immensely fun electro guns). Next steal a car, stationary is easiest but watch out for alarms. Cars can be kitted out with explosives, machine guns, mines or resprayed at garages (marked on map). Now in GTA 2 you must choose who to work for, gangs will only offer you jobs if you have enough respect and this can be increased by successfully completing jobs or by killing their rivals. Jobs are found for each of the gangs at the payphones in their respective territories. Watch out for police at all times (the top of the screen will warm you when the police are onto you by displaying yacking cop heads, the more there are the more trouble you are in). You may also want to look for armour, power ups and kill frenzies (green skulls which challenge you to kill a certain number of people within a time limit with a set weapon).
In order to save the game you must visit the chapel (it will say Jesus Saves on the sign next to it). You go around doing criminal jobs for the various gangs and building up your savings, money can also be made by killing people but they have removed the steal and sell car option. The gangs are different on each level except for the Zaibatsu who are present throughout and represent the big business end of crime. Killing gang members does not bother the police unless you do it right infront of them and it will make their opponents like you. However watch out, if a certain gang hates you and you have to enter their territory on a mission they will shoot you, in fact the more they hate you the better their weapons will be, right up to the deadly molotov cocktails and flame throwers.
The missions are probably more complex than in the first game but less realistic. My main criticism of the game would be that they have characterised the badguys and made them "cartoon evil", this version doesn´t have the realistic feel of the original. On the plus side - you have more choice about who to work for and can play off the gangs against each other. My favourite were the Loonies, with their anarchic world view, but they are all worth trying. Within gang territories you will find that gang members, armed to the teeth, fill the streets and openly shoot at police.
The sound is once again excellent and they retain the individual car music - as if each one has been set on a radio station, which suits that particular car. This clever technique adds to the game enormously. The gameplay is also good although a bit more sluggish than the original. The graphics are more cartoony, and cars more unrealistic, than the first game but basically it looks the same.
This game has an 18 certificate and it is pretty nasty in places although I think they have tried to make the violence less realistic. You will need a Pentium 200MHz, 32MB RAM, at least 65MB of hard disk space, and a decent graphics card to play. Again the action takes place looking down from above. I have found it to be jerky at times, especially during high-speed chases, I think this can be aided by setting a frame limit.
Other good improvements include more secret power ups and locations (just explore) and more complex and difficult missions. The scariest change, which I was unprepared for, is what happens when you reach the maximum wanted level. Basically they apply martial law and army guys with tank support appear everywhere, if you haven´t found a garage by the time this happens you are going home in a body bag - they don´t take prisoners.
This game is not as good as the first one but it still held my interest even after completion (because of the free choice about who to work for the replay value is higher). The game is very playable, witty, violent and it looks and sounds good. If you enjoyed the first one then you should definitely buy this.