The games allow people to take on the role of a criminal in a big city, typically an individual who rises through the ranks of organized crime through the course of the game. Various missions are set for completion by the figureheads of the city underworld, generally criminal, which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Assassinations, and other crimes feature regularly, but occasionally taxi driving, firefighting, pimping, street racing, or learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft are also involved as alternate adventures, which can be done at any time during the game, with the exception of the periods performing main missions.
In later titles, notably those released after Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is given a more developed storyline, in which they are forced to overcome an unfortunate event (e.g. being betrayed and left for dead), which serves as motivation for the character to advance in the criminal ladder and eventually leads to the triumph of the character by the end of the storyline; specific examples of this are the plots for Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
The Grand Theft Auto series, belonging to a genre of free-roaming video games called “sandbox games,” grants a large amount of freedom to the player in deciding what to do and how to do it through multiple methods of transport and weapons. Unlike most traditional action games, which are structured as a single track series of levels with linear gameplay, in GTA the player can determine the missions they want to undertake, and their relationships with various characters are changed based on these choices. The cities of the games can also be roamed freely at any point in the game, offering many accessible buildings and minor missions. There are exceptions: missions follow a linear, overarching plot, and some city areas must be unlocked over the course of the game.
Grand Theft Auto III and subsequent games have more prevalent voice acting, and radio stations, which simulate driving to music with disc jockeys, radio personalities, commercials, talk radio, pop music, and American culture.
The use of vehicles in an explorable urban environment provides a basic simulation of a working city, complete with pedestrians who generally obey traffic signals. Further details are used to flesh out an open-ended atmosphere that has been used in several other games, such as The Simpsons Hit & Run, which has less emphasis on crime or violence.
The Grand Theft Auto series may be divided into canons, based on the inclusion of a numbering after the recognizable title name (e.g. Grand Theft Auto III) after the original Grand Theft Auto’s release, and to a certain extent, the type of graphics engine used.
The original Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto
Main articles: Grand Theft Auto (video game) and Grand Theft Auto: London
Grand Theft Auto, the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series, was released on Windows PCs in 1997/1998 and also for PlayStation . The game is set in three different fictional cities, Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City. A reduced Game Boy Color port was later released.
Subsequently, two expansion packs were offered, both under the name of Grand Theft Auto: London. Although the concept of eras was not formally implemented until Grand Theft Auto III, it can be inferred that Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961, the second of the expansion packs, is the last game of the first Grand Theft Auto era canon.
Grand Theft Auto 2
Main article: Grand Theft Auto 2
The fourth game in the series, Grand Theft Auto 2, was developed for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation and Dreamcast and released in 1999. Set in the indeterminable future, it featured updated graphics and somewhat different gameplay based upon the player’s appeal to various criminal organizations.
A reduced Game Boy Color port was also produced. Unlike the other games of the Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto 2 was the only game released in its era. It is also the only game to have a “T” rating. It is also the only sequel to have a digit in the title instead of a Roman numeral.
Grand Theft Auto III
Main articles: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto Advance, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto III was released in October 2001, and served as the breakthrough for the franchise. The game’s setting takes place around that time, in fictional Liberty City, which is loosely based on New York City, but also incorporates elements of other American cities. Grand Theft Auto III brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). For the first time, the problem of navigating in the huge sandbox game was solved by implementing a constant GPS triggered mini-map that highlights the player’s position as well as those of current targets. Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. The gameplay engine expanded the explorable world of GTA III, using a mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay), but GTA III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and plot (in previous games, there was speech only in short animated cut scenes between levels, while other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen).
After the success of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released in 2002. This game was set in 1986 in Vice City, which was based on Miami. The game’s plot focuses on the cocaine trade during the 1980s. Vice City was the first game to introduce fully functional flying vehicles that could be used by the player, such as sea planes and helicopters. It also featured a variety of new weapons and vehicles.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, released in October 2004, is set in 1992, focusing on California gang life and the awakening of the drug epidemic brought on by crack cocaine. The setting was in the fictional state of San Andreas, which was based on some California and Nevada cities, specifically Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. Their counterparts are Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas respectively. The game also included a countryside in between Los Santos and San Fierro and also between Los Santos and Las Venturas, and a desert in between Las Venturas and San Fierro.
Grand Theft Auto Advance, for the Game Boy Advance, was also released in 2004. Originally developed as a top-down conversion of GTA III, became an original game. Unlike the Game Boy Color ports of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, Grand Theft Auto Advance did not tone down the violence and profanity common to the GTA series. The game received an “M” rating from the ESRB. It was developed by an external developer, Digital Eclipse.
In 2005 and 2006, Rockstar released two games for the PlayStation Portable, both developed by Rockstar Leeds. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III and set in Liberty City in 1998. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on 6 June 2006.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories was released for the PlayStation Portable on 31 October 2006 and set in Vice City in 1984, two years before the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. A PlayStation 2 port of the game was released on 6 March 2007. It is the last instalment of the third generation series, and the final game in the Grand Theft Auto III canon.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Main articles: Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto IV was released on 29 April 2008, after a six month delay. It was the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released simultaneously for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles. In August 2008, Rockstar announced that it was going to publish GTA IV for PC. GTA IV’s game engine is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (also known as RAGE) used in Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis and the Euphoria physics engine. The game once again takes place in a redesigned Liberty City that very closely resembles New York City, much more than previous renditions.
Microsoft officially announced a “strategic alliance” with Rockstar Games over the rights to episodic content through their Xbox Live service at their X06 event. This content was released as Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned on 17 February 2009, and it is available for download, exclusively for the Xbox 360. The expansion adds some new elements to the existing game and focuses on Johnny Klebitz, the vice president of “The Lost” motorcycle gang. The second Grand Theft Auto IV Downloadable Content will be called The Ballad of Gay Tony .
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released on the Nintendo DS, and was announced at the E3 Nintendo Press Conference on July 15, 2008. This game has several new features, such as touch screen mini-games. The game was released on 17 March 2009 in North America and 20 March 2009 to Australia and Europe. The game is rated 18+ by PEGI and the BBFC (Europe, UK) and M by the ESRB (North America).
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