Retro Love: Grand Theft Auto 2
Rockstar’s crimetastic Grand Theft Auto series is one of gaming’s most controversial. Which, natch, also makes it one of the most popular. What with the shit-your-pants success of the fifth installment, and the ongoing drama of its PC edition, good ol’ GTA is still making headlines.
So this week, our humble retro column is taking a look back at the second game. Scrape the congealing hunks of Elvis impersonator off of your windshield, give the Zaibatsu the middle finger and buckle up for some Grand Theft Auto, 1999 style.
Grand Theft Auto 2 hit the PC and PlayStation that year, and was a huge effing step further for the original’s free-roamy sandbox gameplay. This was during the series’ nuts to a plot era, so the setup is simple: you’re Claude Speed, a lowlife criminal. You’re wanged straight into the downtown area of ‘Anywhere, USA’ and tasked with achieving a certain score. This will let you pass into the next district, the game’s sprawling levels.
Sure, you can cruise the streets and rampage freely as you wish. Commandeer a taxi and collect fares in an odd almost-law-abiding sort of minigame, steal an ice cream truck and go on the slowest, most hilarious one-man crime spree you ever saw, the choice is yours. Free roaming is the name of the game, but the actual ‘purpose’ is to complete missions.
These are assigned to you by one of the area’s criminal syndicates when you visit their hideouts. They might have you take out a rival mobster, grab a certain type of car, deliver some drugs, all kinds of shady doings. Completing your objective will earn you that gang’s respect, and so elevate your status in their ranks. It’ll also piss off their rivals, and so ensure you a frosty reception in the others’ area of town.
So far, nothing new to Grand Theft Auto veterans. But the sequel does so much to add to that living, breathing city feel that became essential to the later games. The pedestrians have purposes of their own, places to go. Criminals have shootouts with police and rival gangs, and carjackers and muggers ply their dirty trade on the streets right alongside you.
Whether you’re batting for the Zaibatsu, the Yakuza, the Loonies or the Rednecks (complete with Confederate flag), Grand Theft Auto 2 is a much more interactive and involving experience. Kill frenzies, those Elvis dudes, the fancy garages for equipping mines, rocket launchers and other ACME products to your car… This was the series’ last 2D effort, and it really sent that style out with a bang.