Alright folks, it’s time to sit back and take a great big hit from the nostalgia bong. Today we’re going to be travelling back in time to when the Grand Theft Auto series was actually good and take a look at GTA2.
OK, I’d better clarify that statement before the slew of hate mail. The GTA series from the second installment onwards isn’t bad, it’s… well, it’s just not for me. The series took a turn for the gritty in recent years, and as a guy who grew up playing the original two games I can’t get used to the new stuff. You could say I’m one of gaming’s crotchety old men, moaning about the new whilst reminiscing about the old. But so what, old games are frickin’ awesome.
Graphics do not make a game, let’s make this unequivocally clear. Look at it this way – you can buy the finest wallpaper money can buy and plaster it neatly all over your walls, but if your foundations are made of rice paper and Pritt Stick your whole darn house is going to come crashing down about your ears before you can say ‘Oh fiddlesticks, I really wish I’d invested in some concrete’. The foundation in this case is good, fun game play. Yes, it’s true that GTA2 is no Crysis in terms of polygonal beauty. It utilizes a top down view and its graphics are representative of the PlayStation generation it originally belonged to, but behind that lies the most fun you’ll ever have in a GTA game, guaranteed (not actually guaranteed).
The premise is simple. You’re ‘some guy’ in ‘Anywhere USA’, ‘three weeks into the future’. That’s it. You don’t have any tutorials, no family members or friends blabbing in your ear, there’s just you and a huge sandbox city with cars waiting to be stolen and squishy pedestrians simply begging to be run over. The game is split into three distinct and colourful areas, each with three rival gangs. These include a bunch of mad scientists, an asylum full of loonies and the Hare Krishna. Each gang has a distinct set of missions to pull off which get more difficult as you earn their respect, earned by completing their easier missions or by slaughtering members of their rival gang.
GTA2 never takes itself seriously. It knows that people play GTA games to drive over people and do crazy stuff, and that’s what it allows you to do. Guns litter the landscape, tanks hide in shadowy corners, and ramps and runways allow you to pull off stupid driving stunts. For that reason I love it so, even more than my own girlfriend. If I had one, that is.