This video game had once started with a bumpy ride with production issues threatening it to never see daylight. But, then, it came into being somehow and went on to become one of the most popular and biggest commercial hits of all times.
This bit, readers, is about the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) video game, one of the most notorious of its kind ever developed. Car thefts, bank robberies, assassinations and prostitution – over time, the plot of GTA has managed to pick up controversies more and more. So, what’s the story so far?
It began in 1997, the big GTA mania.
Back then, Rockstar North was DMA Design. And BMG Interactive was still BMG Interactive. They shook hands and out came GTA, of course, after a lot of struggle. But, there was no looking back after that.
DOS and Windows had tasted it first and then PlayStation – all in the same year. Graphics were simple but the concept, the same as it is now. Initially named Race’n’Chase, the first GTA release had two major and distinguishing drawbacks – the game could not be saved until a city level was finished and without armor, a player could be wasted in a single hit.
Some sidekicks quickly came crashing in, GTA Mission Pack London 1969 and Mission Pack London 1961 being their names. Interestingly, London was the only real name of a city used in GTA.
Then came GTA 2 in 1999.
DMA Design was still existing then. And the game was published by Rockstar Games. The setting, this time, was retrofuturistic and in yet another fictional city – the Anywhere, USA. GTA 2 is the only game in the entire series to have a digit in the name rather than a Roman number and also the only GTA game to own a T-rating.
Overall, the original concept of GTA was nicely retained in GTA 2. But, yes, the drawback of saving the game only on the completion of a city was overcome here. And it turned out that GTA 2 was much more engaging than the original GTA.
It was a mixed reaction for GTA 2. But, the next in the series, GTA III (2001), had met with unbelievable success and controversies too. One big reason behind this – it had opened the doors to the advent of 3D gaming environment for the GTA series.
GTA III could be played from a first person perspective wherein the player had the liberty to engage more with the game surroundings. Concept the same with a twist in the storyline, this single-player game had gone ahead to become the best-selling video game of 2001 – something which is still considered to be a gold standard in the industry.
GTA III had met with some huge controversies and raised eyebrows too, regarding the violent, abusive and sexual content it had portrayed. Nonetheless, it was still the 2001 best-seller. Its 3D gaming environment wasn’t something new (Remember Hunter, 1991?) but still did the magic.
So, how really was GTA III different from the previous versions?
Well, it provided indefinite ‘lives’ to the player unlike GTA or GTA 2. That meant that a player could practically go on and on forever without possibly losing the game ever. And then, GTA III revolved more around story-unfolding and mission-completing rather than just collecting money for survival.
GTA Vice City, which came after GTA III in 2002, essentially sounds like its sequel. But, the fact is that it was technically and setting wise, its prequel (set in 1986). After that came GTA Advance (2004). Although planned to be a chunk of GTA III, Advance ultimately had become a new game altogether. And then, there was GTA San Andreas in 2004, set in a 1992 environment. That made it a sequel to Vive City and a prequel to GTA III. San Andreas was much more advanced than its predecessors with improvised and customized settings.
Two more releases named GTA Liberty City Stories and GTA Vice City Stories came in 2005 and 2006 respectively completing the 3D universe saga.
The game industry was undergoing some mammoth changes back then. Winding up the 3D environment with Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, GTA, too, stepped into yet another phase in 2008 – the history making High Definition era, with the brand new GTA IV. It was a new Liberty City in the game designed for the players along with an online multiplayer mode now. With another storyline and the concept intact, GTA IV had marked the beginning of a major-league transition of the GTA series.
Came 2009 and two more cut offs from GTA IV were released – GTA: The Lost and Damned and GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony. The plots for them were interconnected but the protagonists were changed. The year had also marked the release of two other sequels, GTA: Chinatown Wars and GTA: Episodes from Liberty City
And finally, in 2013, there was GTA V in the stores, already doing the rounds after Rockstar had declared it to be the biggest open world game ever developed. Metacritic gave it a 97 out of 100, making it the fifth highest rated game by the website ever. GameRankings gave it a 97% with reviews like “colossal feat of technical engineering” (- The Daily Telegraph), “remarkable achievement” (- Egde) and “one of the very best video games ever made” (- IGN) pouring in. Of course, GTA V wasn’t without criticism and accusation like being misogynistic.
And now in 2014, fall winter, the news is that GTA V is getting a major, phenomenal update – the open-world first person shooter feel. This new perspective promises players to give a better, improvised and more intense face view of the game environment. The visuals have apparently become even more real now, including increased numbers of pedestrians on the streets and a very hard-to-comprehend weather effect. Further, GTA V will include 20 new wildlife species, 150 new scores, 32 new cars and more and louder talking from the pedestrians.
So, is this the beginning of yet another benchmark phase for the Grand Theft Auto series? We’ll see.