The game is by British developer Rockstar North, who are still producing the GTA games to this day. Though back then they were still known as DMA Design and were more famous for making the Lemmings games. Yeah I know that everyone on Earth knows that already, it just amuses me that both Lemmings and GTA are by the same developer.
The game came out in 1997 for MS-DOS, Windows 95 and PlayStation... and was ported to the Game Boy Color two years later, man I've gotta see how that turned out. I'll be playing the updated PC port given away free from Rockstar's site, which has been tweaked to run properly on modern systems... in theory.
Annoyingly though, this free GTA turned out to be a limited time offer so I can't give you a download link. Well I can link to the download page, that's still there, but at the time I'm writing this the game is "currently unavailable". GTA1 is also currently unavailable on GOG, GMG, GamersGate, GameFly and any other shop beginning with G I could think of. It's not on Steam either I'm afraid.
Though I suppose I should've expected the developers of Lemmings and Walker to feature the slaughter of tiny little computer people.
Then I get to choose which city I want to play in: Liberty City, Vice City or San Andreas (huh, I feel like I've heard those names before somewhere...). Actually I'm stuck with Liberty City for the time being until I unlock the other levels.
That semi-readable yellow text across the bottom of the screen seems to be a mobile phone call telling me to get my ass to some pay phones for a job. Could I not just give them my number? Well I've got a yellow arrow and a car so getting there won't be an issue, and I'm sure I'll figure the rest as I go. I'm going down to South Park gonna have myself a time.
Actually first I'll use this break as an excuse to look at another version of the game.
|Grand Theft Auto (GBC)|
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I loaded it up, but it definitely wasn't this theme tune. It's... well... you'd better listen to it yourself: Grand Theft Auto GBC Theme (youtube). Even if I could think of the words I'd need to describe it, I doubt I could put them together in an order that would do it justice.
|Grand Theft Auto (GBC)|
You know, playing this has made it really obvious just how much the sound helps bring the PC version to life. Playing the other versions of the game I can close my eyes and hear the city around me, but the GBC version doesn't have this. It's missing quite a few other things as well, but the city would seem dead by comparison even if there were cars, trucks and people around.
Meanwhile back on the PC version, I started a new game and this time managed to follow the yellow arrow down to South Park without incident.
Oh, plus see that crate over there on the right? I noticed another one along the way here and drove right through it, which gave me a free bulletproof vest with three extra hit points. I'm not seeing any other hit points anywhere on screen so the thing seems absolutely essential.
Well it seems that my first mission is to run over the chief of police with a truck. I thought we might ease into a career of crime with some purse snatching or whatever, but the guy on the phone sounds confident that I'm ready for the big-time! I mean I imagine they sound confident; there's no actual voices in this.
I wonder how the GBC guy's doing right now.
|Grand Theft Auto (GBC)|
The cars in this don't behave anywhere near as realistically as in the PC version and I've been having real problems getting my guy to open the door and get in. Also there's never anyone in the cars! In the PC game when you carjack a ride, you have to pull the former occupant out into the street before you get in. I guess all the cars in this are driven by either ghosts, autopilot, or James Bond in the back seat with his remote control phone.
I do appreciate though how my car eventually snaps to follow the road when I've got it mostly lined up, that's a smart feature. It doesn't work around curves, but that's okay because there aren't any; not a single curved road in the entire city. Every single corner in the game is a right angle.
Well I've received my $50,000 for driving that truck a few hundred meters, but the mission's not over yet. Now I've got to trail some guy and waste him when he meets with his men. It's lucky I found a machine gun and body armour in boxes along the way really or else I'd be wasting my time instead.
Hang on, I just realised that bombing the precinct earlier counts as part of this mission, so I just failed that job as well at the same time. Fuck.
ONE MISSION LATER.
The green 'x 2' is my lives count by the way. Yep, the original GTA has lives! So retro.
LATER, ON A TAXI DELIVERING MISSION.
I doubt level one notoriety is going to cause me much problems though. Well, until I try to fight back anyway. Or swerve out to dodge a squad car and end up respraying the bodywork with a pavement full of pedestrians. That kind of thing tends to attract more attention and boost my wanted level I've noticed.
I say try to defend myself; you can see how much luck I'm having with this machine gun. There isn't the slightest bit of auto-aim, so hitting enemies takes patience and a chunk of my precious ammo. Walking backwards is far slower than walking forwards though, so if I don't get one of these bullets to connect in the next half-second I'm screwed.
SOME CHAOS LATER.
Oh hang on I'm getting a pager message. Quit ramming me for a second you assholes, I need to write this down! There apparently is a way to replay the last message received, but knowing my luck I'll have received another one by the time it occurs to me to this and the first message will be lost forever.
These messages are kinda important too as they point me towards parked cars with secret missions attached and I'm fast burning through my limited supply of phone jobs so I need all the missions I can get.
I should really ditch it and find a more reasonable car, preferably one that isn't ticking like a time bomb.
Wait, that's the first rule of Interstate '76. Whatever, it's a sensible rule.
Getting killed didn't actually fail my important taxi collecting mission, but it has deducted one of my lives and then teleported me outside of a nearby hospital with all of my gear confiscated. So long then, machine gun. The crates don't seem to respawn and there's no Ammunation gun shop in this city, so whether I can find another machine gun in my travels is up to the whims of fate. I guess I'm supposed to be keeping track of where all the gun crates are located over multiple playthroughs.
EVENTUALLY, MANY MISSIONS LATER.
By the way, there's a good reason I was playing around on the railway line just then instead of earning money. You see, after finishing a few more jobs, some wildly successful, some less successful, I found myself in an interesting situation: I had nothing left to do.
You only get the one shot at each mission and then it's gone forever. Then it seems that you're stuck with earning cash the hard way: running people over, crashing into things, selling cars etc. And that's the story of how I got bored and tried to nick a train.
Let's start a new game and give this another try then.
Well at least I'll get to see how good I am at driving an explosive truck to a police station when there's a squad of cop cars trying to ram me off the road the whole way there.
Hey it even gave me a free machine gun. I'll just park up over here and rain havoc upon traffic then I guess.
Though $20,000 is always nice. Plus apparently it's perfectly legal to murder people during a kill frenzy as I'm not even being hunted by the cops afterwards.
These cops only have to walk up to me and I'm immediately busted, and it happens very fast.
Look at that smug bastard squinting at me from the bottom left. I'm the guy who just got away scot-free with a paragraph's worth of criminal misadventure, so why is he smirking like he's had the last laugh?
Man this is turning into Die Hard with a Vengeance, except without the riddles. I'm really going to have to get these people my mobile number or something because this isn't working out well for anyone. I mean what if I miss the phone call huh? They'd be forced to scrap the job entirely!
But... there's those orange guys in the bottom right again. I know this is going to set off the entire police force again but I have to give it another shot. I HAVE TO. I know that if I line my car up right I can wipe the lot of them out in one go. It's just a little tricky when the camera zooms in tight as I slow down.
I on the other hand slow down to a crawl if I so much as brush against a building. I'd spin around and try to shoot him, but that slows me down too! I really wish there was a way to escape the police in this, besides police bribe pick ups and auto shops right now.
The cars actually seem to follow a few traffic laws (they're aware of traffic lights at least) so catching one on street isn't that hard. It's just a shame I can't turn the radio onto Chatterbox when I get inside; that was the best bit of GTA3!
But look who was waiting outside the precinct for me! They've latched on and won't leave me alone. This is terrible! The ultimate humiliation.
SEVERAL (SUCCESSFUL) MISSIONS LATER.
I ran out of phone missions a while back, but I was ready to write down all the pager messages this time, so I was able to find the secret missions too without much trouble. Well I think I did pretty well seeing as I didn't have the map open anyway. The game doesn't have an in-game map by the way and it's a real pain in the ass trying to navigate without one sometimes because the yellow arrow points towards the target, not the road I need to get there.
Though hang on, the yellow arrow has just changed red... that's very interesting.
Oh wait, there's still one last thing I need to do first.
Grand Theft Auto was always a game out of time I reckon; with one foot in the PlayStation age but the other still stuck in the 16-bit era it looked pretty dated even back when it was first released. I mean it came out just 4 years before GTA3, but the games are light-years apart in sophistication.
On the other hand this game pretty much invented the sandbox crime simulator genre, though I am surprised at how different it is to its descendants. It has limited lives, there's no story, no cutscenes, no saves, no checkpoints, you only get a single chance to play each mission, and you win by getting a certain score. Also the combat is pretty bad, but that's practically a tradition for the GTA games (I haven't played GTA5 yet, so please don't yell at me if they've got it right this time).
It feels like it's deliberately trying to be everything that video game protesters were scared of, even down to giving out Death Race style point bonuses for hitting pedestrians! But no matter how many kill frenzies you carry out or how many drug packages you deliver, there's no darkness to it. I mean visually it might as well be a Lemmings spin off; everything's so tiny and distant and tame!
I did like it, but I think that's in spite of the retro 'charm' rather than because of it. Later games like GTA 3 and Saints Row the Third took this foundation and built something amazing on top of it, leaving this one kinda redundant. But that's hardly a reason for me to withhold its shiny golden star, as it successfully managed to hold my attention despite overwhelming distractions. For a bit.
Enough of my incessant insipid blather, what do you think about what I think about Grand Theft Auto? What are your own thoughts about the game? What are your own thoughts about my site in general? Answer me!