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A brief history of GTA

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GTA Characters

It’s hard to believe, but Grand Theft Auto is a teenager now. What was once a bouncing little top-down sandbox game on our Pentium II knee has become a full-fledged adult that is more than willing to reenact Gouranga on our asses when it gets the keys to the car. Here’s a brief history lesson on that trouble-making franchise.

Grand Theft Auto – 1997

Grand_Theft_Auto

Development began back in 1995 for the original game, which was originally going to be released as Race ‘n Chase before Dan Houser mercifully put that title out of its misery. With a top down view, the first game in the series established the more traditional aspects of the game. Freedom, violence and consequences.

Looking to make their game stand out more, 2K hired publicist Max Clifford to help stir up some controversy. And it was a genius marketing move. Politicians felt a disturbance in the force that they could use to propel their careers with, and concerned mothers repeatedly asked for people to think about the children.

Thanks to the massive heat that this stunt generated, GTA sold ridiculously well, cementing it’s success into the genetic memory of gamers for years to come. As of December 2012, the original game has sold over 125 million copies.

Grand Theft Auto:1969 – 1999

GTA 1969

Back in my day, DLC was known as expansion packs! Following almost two years later, players got a chance to visit the swinging sixties of London. 30 new vehicles and 32 new missions made up the bulk of this expansion, which was later ported over to other consoles as well.

Grand Theft Auto:1961 – 1999

GTA 1961

Not too much had changed with the second expansion pack for GTA. Players went back even further into time, but only PC gamers got a chance to experience this extra slice of  sandbox as going back to 1961 was a strictly freeware experience back then.

Grand Theft Auto 2 – 1999

grand-theft-auto-2-3

After two expansions, it was time to take the game into sequel territory. GTA 2 may not have completely rewritten the book when it came down to it, but the improved visuals, sounds and structure made it a welcome sight back in 1999.

Multiple gangs, a reputation system that had you switching allegiances more frequently than a WWE wrestler and some guilty pleasure murder-simulating rampages were just some of the more charming aspects of this sequel, before the franchise ditched 2D for 3D when a new generation of consoles arrived.

Grand Theft Auto 3 – 2001

gta3pc_001

It’s 2001, and GTA 3 hit people with the full force of a bean and cheese burrito attacking a toilet the day after. Sandbox games were in their infancy back then, with titles such as Urban Chaos and Omikron: The Nomad Soul attempting to create a larger environment within which to explore and fight.

But GTA 3 nailed the formula perfectly to make sandbox games a genre worth exploring and investing in. Going from 2D to 3D, this was an entry in the franchise that had a story worth pursuing. A new graphical engine made the game popped, professional voice actors helped carry the story and there was always something new to discover.

GTA 3 may not have been the first of its kind, but it did raise the bar to a ludicrous height as sandbox games reached a new level of immersion.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City – 2002

unnamed

With GTA 3 a runaway success, Rockstar could do whatever they wanted with the franchise and still make a mint. Fortunately, they decided to keep the fun factor intact as they took players on another time warp, taking a jump to the left to the 1980s.

With Ray Liotta voicing the protagonist of Vice City, Tommy Vercetti, players had a better connection to their onscreen avatar as they paid homage to several classic films, wore pastel suits, bought property and indulged in a world that expanded upon and refined the GTA experience.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – 2004

GTA_SanAndreas

Jumping back in time once again, Rockstar ditched Miami for the streets of San Andreas, a very thinly veiled version of Los Angeles. Bigger, better and bolder than ever, San Andreas had players in charge of their character in this outing.

Players had to eat, chill and work out in order to stay alive, a gameplay idea that reflected on lead character Carl Johnson. Depending on how you looked after your lethal tamagotchi, Johnson could be a maniac with muscles or a fatass with a short temper, as San Andreas raised the bar yet again for the franchise.

And then it was lowered slightly when Hot Coffee escaped into the wild.

Grand Theft Auto Advance – 2004

GTA_Advance

With PC and home consoles now a base for several games, Rockstar decided to try their hand at making a portable GTA experience. The Gameboy Advance was the console chosen, and the end result was…not exactly groundbreaking stuff.

Developer Digital Eclipse had their work cut out for them when trying to create a GTA experience on handheld, but the limitations of the GBA hardware were more than evident. Players looking for the definitive GTA experience had to wait a little bit longer for that game to arrive

Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories – 2005

GTA-LCS-PS-Plus

And the wait was worth it. Liberty City Stories brought the full GTA experience to the Playstation Portable, as gamers got to walk through Liberty City once again, this time in the shoes of Italian mobster Tony Cipriani.

It was like playing the original game all over again, only this time in your hands as the trademark violence and 3D style of the franchise made a helluva splash on the PSP, before being ported over to the Playstation 2.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories – 2006

gta_vice_city arsofts786

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Vice City got the handheld treatment next, and much like it’s neon-coloured predecessor did, it was another smash hit for Rockstar. A tweak here and there, a new lead character with Vince Vance taking over Vice City and players were once again living high in the city of Miami Vice.

Grand Theft Auto 4 – 2008

GTA (1)

After seven years, it was time for the franchise to take another leap forward. GTA 4 went serious this time, as Niko Bellic, a Bulgarian immigrant that

RING RING

RING RING

HEY COUSIN! WANT TO GO BOWLING?

Dammit, where was I? Oh yes, GTA 4. While the sombre tone was adored by all, there was no doubting the ambitious nature of the game. Massive, gorgeous and filled with even more hidden games, missions and easter eggs than before, GTA 4 was a game that truly got the most bang out of its buck.

And at a reported budget of around $100 million, there was more than enough banging to go around. Not that kind of banging you perves.

Grand Theft Auto The Lost and the damned – 2009

GTA (2)

Deciding to experiment with episodic gameplay, Rockstar only released two such episodes of Liberty City GTA. The Lost and the damned was the first such game, an expansion that had players running around Liberty City as Johnny Klebitz, a badass biker with a shady past.

It had a few nice gameplay touches, and the biker influence extended into the gameplay itself, but a few flaws in the brotherly biker AI and other areas made this latest entry in the GTA franchise a flawed gem.

Grand Theft Auto The Ballad of Gay Tony –2009

GTA (3)

Continuing the episodic style of GTA content, the next game coming out of the GTA 4 stable would return a certain air of lunacy, craziness and all around insanity to the series. Colourful and charming, players took on missions for night club owner Gay Tony as his business partner Luis Lopez.

Rated higher than the Lost and the damned, Ballad of Gay Tony added all new activities to the game, with a storyline that allowed players to focus on having more fun for a change instead of ending on a sad note.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars – 2009

GTA (4)

The final game of the GTA 4 era, Chinatown Wars was originally a Nintendo DS exclusive, before it was eventually ported over to PSP and iOS. One of the defining games on that dual screen system, Chinatown Wars returned players to a top-down isometric perspective that also featured a rotating camera and some charming cell-shaded visuals.

Huang Lee was the man of this game, finding himself emroiled in a plot that had tangled up everyone from his family though to various Chinese Triads. Much like any other GTA game worth its salt, Chinatown Wars attracted some controversy from its drug-dealing activities, but not before it went on to earn numerous awards.

Last Updated: September 16, 2013

78 Comments

  1. Ah such fond memories, I remember as a kid playing GTA 2 and then 3 and vice city, and went mad in San Andreas. I played much bowling, and darts with Packie, then calling him for a bomb. Trying my best to impress my date with a nice ride, then riding over some people while showing her the sights…. But WAIT…. On the 17th of September a new Monster will AWAKEN!!! I give you TIMMY!! …… I honestly don’t know where I was going with that…. Oh well.

    Reply

  2. Martin du preez

    September 16, 2013 at 12:40

    Los Santos,then and now. Same spot.

    Reply

    • The Noble TiMsTeR

      September 16, 2013 at 12:48

      I might of creamed in my pants..

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        September 16, 2013 at 12:49

        “I might of ”

        Typing one handed?

        Reply

        • The Noble TiMsTeR

          September 16, 2013 at 12:51

          I couldn’t help myself. These urges of late….

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 12:52

            I might of have the same XD

          • Admiral Chief of Rivia

            September 16, 2013 at 12:54

            You want to get a room with Tanya?

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 12:56

            Only if you turn the lights off, he’s nice and waxed and I get to call him Tanya.

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 12:57

            0_0

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:05

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:11

            I think something is wrong with her eyes.

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:08

            I think they both might of enjoy it.

  3. M-m-m-monster John

    September 16, 2013 at 12:43

    I still have my original GTA and GTA London from 1997

    Reply

  4. Alien Emperor Trevor

    September 16, 2013 at 12:46

    Omikron was such a WIN! game back in the day.

    Reply

  5. Hammersteyn

    September 16, 2013 at 12:48

    The Ballad of Gay Tony was a better game than GTAIV with Niko Bellic. Even though it was a lot shorter. Maybe if Niko was more like a war criminal and killed his cousin as soon as he got off the boat?

    Reply

    • The Noble TiMsTeR

      September 16, 2013 at 12:51

      I liked the whole Russian thing, but I agree should of been like: Niko arrives to find out Roman was lying about his life in America. “You lied to me Roman! you fat bastard! I shall shoot you like a little dog!” in Russian accent. Then put his feet in cement blocks and throw him off a pier. Then game starts. 🙂

      Reply

  6. Tero

    September 16, 2013 at 12:48

    GTA is a dam awesome game

    Reply

  7. That Tall Twit

    September 16, 2013 at 12:52

    Man did I enjoy GTA 2!! Was epic!!

    Reply

  8. JJNutter

    September 16, 2013 at 12:53

    RING RING

    RING RING

    HEY COUSIN! WANT TO GO BOWLING?

    hahaha, thanks for reminding me

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      September 16, 2013 at 12:55

      I only went drinking with him.

      Reply

      • The Noble TiMsTeR

        September 16, 2013 at 12:57

        Then you never bonded.

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          September 16, 2013 at 13:01

          With that fat bastard? No thanks

          Reply

      • JJNutter

        September 16, 2013 at 12:57

        Yeah was fun getting trashed then jacking a car…the drive was carnage

        Reply

  9. Admiral Chief of Rivia

    September 16, 2013 at 12:53

    GROVE STREET FO LIVE YO!

    Reply

  10. ElimiNathan

    September 16, 2013 at 13:05

    GTA 3 is still the one I have best memories of, Vice City just behind it

    Reply

    • Skyblue

      September 16, 2013 at 14:22

      Vice City was far superior to GTA 3.

      Reply

      • ElimiNathan

        September 16, 2013 at 14:33

        Ye but GTA 3 had that whole wow factor of being to first 3D one, I think that”s what stood out for me more. But ye Vice City was amazing

        Reply

  11. Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

    September 16, 2013 at 13:07

    the old gta games looks kak i like games with cool grafix.

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      September 16, 2013 at 13:08

      THERE HE IS!

      Reply

    • oVg

      September 16, 2013 at 13:08

      Said like a BOSS

      Reply

      • The Noble TiMsTeR

        September 16, 2013 at 13:09

        no he didn’t.

        Reply

        • oVg

          September 16, 2013 at 13:10

          OK, like an employee.

          Reply

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:11

            even that is too grand a title.

          • oVg

            September 16, 2013 at 13:12

            Like a FOX 🙂

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:13

            What sound does a fox make?
            * Just saw your link 🙂

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:13

            Gering ting ting ting ting ting ting?

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:14

            LOL that’s one sound.

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:18

            I seriously don’t know why they killed that song with the fox shit. The rest of the song is pretty cool.

        • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

          September 16, 2013 at 13:11

          games age badly i wod never play gta1 or 2 becuase they look bad. same with other games. old games must be thrown away.

          Reply

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:12

            What would you consider as old?

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:12

            Puberty probably……

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:14

            all games oder thn 2010

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:15

            So the year you were born basically?

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:16

            no year i started playing games

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:18

            old games need to put be in meuseum.

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:19

            Its *museum

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:23

            yes old games go there

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:24

            I would love to go there, can you please be so kind to tell me the name of the Museum that keeps these games.

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:26

            THAT OLD GUY HAMMERSTEYNS HOUSE

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:29

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:30

            So much win

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:27

            I have a pretty respectable shelf filled with my games from around 1996

          • Hammersteyn

            September 16, 2013 at 13:21

            no year? so zero years?

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:22

            Year zero

          • That Tall Twit

            September 16, 2013 at 13:25

            Apparently year dot.

          • That Tall Twit

            September 16, 2013 at 13:20

            *older than

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:22

            yes

          • oVg

            September 16, 2013 at 13:13

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:13

            COD has very old ideas that they keep reusing.

          • Major FoxHoundR - what the fox

            September 16, 2013 at 13:15

            only ppl who think gta 1 is better tjan call of duty are old people.

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:16

            I wouldn’t say tjat.

          • That Tall Twit

            September 16, 2013 at 13:20

            I wouldn’t say tjat either.

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:21

            tjats a bad idea. troll lol

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:23

            Tjis day keeps getting better.

          • The Noble TiMsTeR

            September 16, 2013 at 13:25

            I know, and Fast and furious 6 tonight on DVD!!! hells to the yeah to distract me from you lucky people getting Gta 5 tonight.

          • M-m-m-monster John

            September 16, 2013 at 13:27

            Kewl

          • That Tall Twit

            September 16, 2013 at 13:29

            I know. Have tjas cup of coffee.

    • M-m-m-monster John

      September 16, 2013 at 13:09

      Your attention to detail cannot be overstated.

      Reply

  12. Skyblue

    September 16, 2013 at 14:21

    Vice City > the rest put together

    Reply

  13. brad coetzee

    September 16, 2013 at 15:10

    who in south africa eats let alone knows the effects of bean and cheese burrito’s? where was this article ripped from?

    Reply

    • Gavin Mannion

      September 16, 2013 at 15:16

      You have never had a bean and cheese burrito? You have not lived!!!

      Also this article came out of the darranged mind that is Darryn… who knows where he got that from

      Reply

    • Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      September 16, 2013 at 15:17

      Until not too long ago, even Spur made burritos. Plus, we go to LA every year for E3, and tend to live off El Pollo Loco’s cheap menu, which includes, yes, a cheese and bean burrito. It costs a dollar, and tastes amazing. The after effects aren’t too lekker though.

      Reply

      • brad coetzee

        September 16, 2013 at 16:59

        Cool thanks man, LA every year explained it all!

        Reply

    • Major Commodore 64 Darryn B

      September 16, 2013 at 15:17

      I make bean and cheese burritos. So I’m well versed in broken toilets. As for the plagiarism accusation, that hurts man, that hurts. I spent my Sunday working on this.

      Reply

      • brad coetzee

        September 16, 2013 at 16:55

        Ah Im sorry man! It just sounded like such an American comment, its also so well written and compiled that I had that ‘no way it can be local’ train of thought going.

        Reply

  14. Grant Nicol

    September 16, 2013 at 15:42

    The Lance Vance Dance was the Shit

    Reply

  15. hairyknees

    September 16, 2013 at 16:36

    ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS FOLLOW THE DAMN TRAIN CJ!

    Reply

  16. Nick de Bruyne

    September 16, 2013 at 17:47

    My Chinatown Wars review is still out there on Lazygamer, if you still haven’t played it, go read this and then immediately buy it for your DS, PSP or iOS device: http://www.lazygamer.co/review/lazygamer-review/gta-chinatown-wars-reviewed-nintendo-ds/

    Reply

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