Pros: Lots of variety. Can be fun if you want it to be.
Cons: Can also be boring. Bad graphics, sound, control, etc, etc.
As a gamer, I am constantly perplexed by three questions: 1) how can anyone love a game like Metal Gear Solid? 2) How can any levelheaded person prefer the PlayStation controller to the Nintendo 64's? And lastly, why does everybody despise Grand Theft Auto?
Grand Theft Auto is, simply put, a game that makes you the bad guy. But before you get this privilege, you must first choose which thug you want to be. Once chosen, you can go to the telephone booths where you answer calls made by your boss who will give you various 'jobs' to do such as killing somebody, blowing somebody up, blowing a building up, etc, etc. You get the point. Or?
You can choose to do what I do: Have fun. If you make it so, Grand Theft Auto can be an insanely fun non-linear game. You can pretty much do whatever the heck you want, whenever you want, and how you want to do it, as long as it's illegal. If you're in the mood to hijack a car, go for it. Feel the urge to gun down some civilians? Be my guest! Do you really hate that cop that just pulled you over? Run him over! There are only two rules in Grand Theft Auto. Rule number 1 is don't get caught by the cops. And rule number 2 is DON'T DIE!
As you might have guessed from some of the things that I've told you above, this is a very mean spirited game. Call it Joe Lieberman's worst nightmare if you will. Now, I rarely ever say this because I don't think kids should be censored from violent games (I for one wasn't), however, I think I'll make an exception here. Grand Theft Auto is definitely not for kids. Well, it really just depends on which version you play. The PC version has lots of vulgar language, sexual references, and brutal violence. The PlayStation version keeps all the violence, but waters down the sex and language. Of course, it's up to the parents to decide what they want their kids to play or not play, but if you want my opinion, I'd say the PSX version is okay for teens.
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, what's the game like? Well, it plays from a 2D overhead view, which is a change of pace from all these 3D first and third person games released today. For those few people who've played the PC version of Dick Tracy, that's pretty much what this is like. I personally think the controls are horribly awkward (all but one of the control settings has you pushing buttons instead of up and down to go forward and backwards), and setting 5 is the only reasonably comfortable control setting. And for all those millions of gamers who are used to Resident Evil type controls, you'll feel right at home. Even though it's an overhead view, the game uses that beloved "turn, walk forward approach", but it really only gets in the way when you're trying to outrun police officers.
Speaking of cops, they play an important role here. Not only are they the only people besides other criminals that will use deadly force on you, but also can be a serious nuisance in completing your missions. In Grand Theft Auto, there's something I like to call "the PA meter". This meter at the top of your screen tells you exactly how high a priority stopping you is to them. The PA meter is measured with one to four cop heads. One cop head means there will be some squad cars chasing you and this is probably because you've killed a few people. Two and three heads are in between. And four means every squad car is looking for you and the police will set up roadblocks to take you down.
When you start out, the first thing you'll want to do is steal a car. Once that is in your possession, you'll probably want to look through one of the many crates you'll find on the side of the road which contain valuable items like guns, bullet proof vests, and extra lives. Now, this is the point where you decide how you want to play the game, and I will explain each in the next two paragraphs.
If you choose to go answer the phones to get jobs, you are choosing the linear path the creators of the game set up for you. Pretty much all you'll be doing is following the arrows to certain destinations and doing what you're told to do. Whether it is stealing drugs from a rival gang, or murdering the mayor, it's all pretty much played out in the get from point A to point B fashion. And to be honest, this gets very tedious, and due to the fact that the majority of the time you have tight time limits and must do the job on time or do everything over again, it's also very frustrating. That's not to say that it's always boring. There's one mission that I particularly like where you have to blow up your boss' mother's car with a remote controlled car strapped with a bomb. Yeah, it's cruel, but it's fun.
Or, you can choose to forget those missions, and just go crazy! This is my preferred way of playing. I like creating my own missions like trying to shoot down as many cops as possible before getting caught or killed. Or how about murdering the gang of thugs rather than just stealing their drugs? The possibilities are endless.
Graphically, the game looks like it was drawn with crayons by a two-year-old. Everything's flat, ugly, bland, and lacks detail. The ant-like characters are indistinguishable, very little variations in cars, and on top of all this, the game is choppy! Needless to say, graphic whores can feel free to pass this one up.
The sound isn't much better. Depending on what car you step into, one of many cheesy music tracks will start playing, all of which are terrible. The punches, gunfire, and engine noise all sound like they are being sampled through a tin can.
Grand Theft Auto is a difficult game to review. It's not acceptable graphically, sonically, or even control-wise, yet it just has something special that most games don't. How much fun you have with it depends entirely on how you choose to play, and that's why I'm giving it 3 stars.