The Evolution of Grand Theft Auto
For the first time in five years, Rockstar are releasing a GTA game from the main series, taking us back to Los Santos (Los Angeles), and upon its release it’s an excellent opportunity to check out how far we’ve come over the last 16 years.
GTA V will be the 15th game in the series which includes prequels and expansions, and has revolutionized the gaming industry with its combination of violence, freedom to explore the fictional world and other elements which weren’t very common in video games when it first came out, seemingly only getting better with every new game.
Grand Theft Auto
The first game in the series came out in October 1997, launched on the MS-Dos, Windows, PlayStation and Gameboy Color. It caused quite a stir upon its release, but was quite a big commercial success. It featured the Liberty City – Vice City – San Andreas scenario for the first time, and showcased a freedom factor to the players’ actions that most games at the time weren’t even close to emulating.
Grand Theft Auto 2
GTA2 came out in 1999 on the PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast and the Game Boy Color, featuring a more futuristic look to the city the events take place in. One of the new features in the game, besides the smoother graphics, was being able to take on missions from different gangs, and actually save missions when entering a church and not when only completing a city-level.
Other improvements pertain to city activity. Passing vehicles and pedestrians are no longer cosmetic parts of the environment, but actually play a role in gameplay, and the introduction of side missions like driving a Taxi.
Grand Theft Auto III
The first among the 3D games in the series, the game was set in Liberty City, a fictionalized version of New York City, following Claude’s story as he works his way up the city’s crime ladder before confronting the woman that betrayed him.
It was the top selling game in 2001 (used on the PS2, Windows, Xbox, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X, iOS, Android), and is considered to be a landmark product in the gaming industry, creating the boom that spawned Vice City and a few prequels, while creating a lot of buzz due to the violence and the sexual content.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The next step in the GTA evolution was San Andreas (California), coming out in 2004. It was sold on the PS2, Windows, Xbox, Mac OS X, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game was insane in sheer size of the map, expanding to three cities: Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco), and Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas).
The setting was 1992, with the playable character being CJ, coming back home after the murder of his mother, and from there taking on a life of crime with his gang while unveiling the truth behind his mother’s death.
San Andreas has no load times when the player is in transit. The only loading screens in the game are for cut-scenes and interiors. Other differences between San Andreas and its predecessors include the switch from single-player to multiplayer Rampage missions (albeit not in the PC version), and the replacement of the ‘hidden packages’ with spray paint tags, hidden camera shots, horseshoes, and oysters to discover, and there was a huge emphasis on making it look like an RPG game, with great focus on the personalization of the main protagonist by adding many role-playing game elements.
The first in the HD generation, it came out in 2008, with the protagonist being Niko Bellic, an Eastern European coming to Liberty City (NY) to reconnect with his cousin and find the man who betrayed him.
It broke industry records with sales of around 3.6 million units on its first day of release and grossing more than $500 million in revenue in the first week, selling an estimated 6 million units worldwide.
The game is considered one of the best to ever come out, and it’s obvious that graphically it looked completely different than those that came before him in the series. The shooting sequences and driving were overhauled to look more realistic, dropping a lot of the RPG factors San Andreas presented, while also reducing the size of the world the game takes place in.