The Grand Theft Auto series defines the times we are living in. Most people in their right minds would not plan to spend their weekends committing auto thefts or getting into fights with strangers. In that sense, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) redefined virtual entertainment for these same acts. Some critics and parent groups call it—quite justifiably—downright insane; some enthusiasts call it the biggest gaming revolution since Mario and Doom.
This best-selling series has become a modern-day cultural icon and is listed as a top game on most charts more dominantly than any other game today. The core reasons for this immense success are perhaps the great gameplay plots of the GTA franchise—which have been given more focus after GTA II—and the freedom provided by the genre, in which a player enjoys a non-linear flow of the plot and has choices like free-roam and non-mission activities.
In the GTA games, the protagonists who gradually rise through the echelons of the crime world are often forced, pushed back or pushed into a life of crime because of tragic events. GTA does not, as opposed to the common notion about it, glamorize crime. In fact, it lets the players see how dirty crime is. The game would be clean of controversies if only parents and some obstinate children really understood the significance of the ratings and leave GTA for grownup gamers. GTA is not mindless gore and not solely about thefts and shootouts; it is about emotions; the problems of underprivileged communities (hoods); families and friends (e.g. your ‘homies’ in GTA San Andreas); of love—lost and found; and above all, the lifestyle we are still strangers to.
In GTA, gameplay progresses with missions, side-jobs and bonus activities which are unlocked serially excusing the series the need to have a separate training module for novice players. The player and the character both grow from being a newbie to an expert in driving and shooting skills, and in newer GTA games, flying, and even wooing girlfriends!
With releases like the GTA Chinatown Wars on the Nintendo DS, PSP and the iPhone, GTA is now available on all gaming platforms. Nevertheless, I have had better experiences on the PC because only a keyboard and mouse combination justifies the rich array of controlling options provided by the games. However, the controls are intuitive on all platforms.
However, in terms of animations and physics, GTA has continued to be weaker than most games of the genre. Cars still crash like toys and damages are not always convincing. Collisions, braking, drifts and motion simulations are getting better with new releases but have still not been meticulously taken care of. Characters look funny after they get shot and act stupidly when they have to climb into your car stopped right next to them—they often seem to not spot you.
The award-winning music and the voiceovers are the best features this franchise has to offer. The GTA games have parodied many components of Western culture but, most ridiculously, they have successfully made the US look like a place where stealing others’ cars is just as easy as entering into one’s own. GTA has itself been parodied in the spoof movie Meet the Spartans.
GTA allows you to witness the crime world by immersing yourself in it. It will take some time for crime-based games like GTA, which are actually about the human inside criminals, to get acceptance among sceptics. For everyone mature enough, this is a must have.