Grand Theft Auto: Part III

Here we are at the most recent (hopefully not last) generation of GTA.

GTA IV cover

GTA IV: So here we are after having to wait until 2008 we finally got GTA IV…wait IV? The sixth full, proper title in the series (not including expansions/spin offs) is the “fourth” game? Errrrrrr, OK.
Anyway, this was the first GTA title on the the newest generation of game consoles. GTA IV was a long time coming…but was it worth the wait?

After the huge, expansive map from GTA: San Andreas with it’s 3 cities, numerous townlets plus even a countryside and desert area. People we already speculating at how big GTA IV could be, especially on the newer and more powerful machines. What would we get, 6 cities, 12…more?
What we would get was 1 city and just any city but Liberty City…again for the fourth time in the franchise already. However, this was not just a HD update of Liberty City from GTA III. No, this was a whole new city built from the ground up. Liberty City it may be…but it was not like any Liberty City was had experienced before in GTA.

Playing as immigrant Niko Bellic, you come to Liberty City to pursue the “American Dream” after your cousin Roman bragged about all the riches and huge mansion he now owns. Being in Liberty City also allows Niko to search for the man who betrayed his unit in a war fifteen years prior. Upon arrival to Liberty City, Niko discovers that Roman’s tales of riches and luxury were all lies concealing a cover up for his struggles with gambling debts and loan sharks, and you discover that Roman lives in a dirty, flea infested apartment rather than a mansion.

While GTA IV only gave us 1 city over GTA: San Andreas with it’s huge map of 3 cities and more previously. GTA IV offered the most detailed and rich GTA map yet. Using Rockstar’s own new game engine (RAGE) along with the Euphoria animation engine, this allowed the developers to really create a truly amazing gaming environment.
With pedestrians a plenty filling the sidewalks and streets, talking on phones, looking in shop windows, interacting with each other each one seemed to have their own life to lead and felt much more organic than ever before.

Diversity is the word to use when talking about GTA IV. While only 1 city, that city was so beautifully crafted and designed that each and every part of it felt so vastly different. From exploring the dock area where you start, to going to the slums. Even going to GTA’s version of Times Square, Central Park, etc all re-created from New York in that district GTA style.
Everything about this city felt “alive” and it was a huge playground with plenty to see and do. I honestly felt like a tourist the first time I played GTA IV full of wonder and amazement, taking in the sights of the city.

There was plenty to distract you in this new Liberty City. Go bowling at your local alley, play darts in a pub and even play pool. GTA IV also brought the internet into the game with plenty of sites to explore with some being story based and others just there for fun or even use dating sites to get girlfriends. The in game internet could also be used to buy ringtones and wallpapers for your phone and so much more.
You could go to one of your safehouses and watch some TV. If you wanted you could go to a comedy club and watch Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams “live” as it were.
There was just so much to do in GTA IV outside of the story and missions.

GTA IV was more than worth the wait and really showed what could be done with the new generation of consoles.
But as with previous games, GTA IV met with controversy with figures including George Galloway, Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton have criticised the game before it was even released…yeah thats fair.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) asked ESRB to change the rating of the game from “M” to “AO” due to the player’s ability to drive under the influence of alcohol. But shooting people in the head was perfectly fine?

Six teenagers were arrested in June 2008 after engaging in a crime spree in New Hyde Park, New York, assaulting and robbing several people, and attempting a carjacking. According to police, the teens claimed that they were “inspired” by Grand Theft Auto IV.

GTA IV’s release was met with universal acclaim, Metacritic’s average score was 98 out of 100. Many reviewers commented on the games open world and attention to detail as well as praising the game’s narrative and well written dialogue.

GTA IV certainly was a well made title, but there was still more to come in the form of DLC.

GTA LOTD cover

GTA: The Lost and Damned: Released in 2009 was the first piece of story expansion DLC for GTA IV. While still in Liberty City from GTA IV, we got to see a different side to the city and the game even offered new features.

With the player controlling Jonathan “Johnny” Klebitz, Johnny is the vice-president of The Lost Motorcycle gang, but has been the acting president for a year because the club’s president, Billy Grey, has been in rehab after being arrested for narcotics possession.
As acting leader, Johnny has established The Lost throughout Liberty City by making truces and deals after suffering several financial troubles. Mainly caused by Billy’s poor leadership before being sent to rehab. The most notable truce is with The Lost’s biggest rivals, The Angels of Death. Which has allowed The Lost to operate their drug deals and gun running operations more freely.

Once released from rehab, Billy immediately reverts to a life of crime and tensions quickly grow between Billy and Johnny, who cannot agree in which direction to lead The Lost. Johnny wants to keep the gang running smoothly, deeming war with other gangs as immature and bad for business. But Billy prefers acts of random violence and mayhem. As such, Billy quickly leads the Lost to assault the Angels of Death Clubhouse, breaking the truce set up by Johnny and beginning a gang war against the Angels of Death.

GTA: The Lost and Damned gave the player a chance to revisit missions from GTA IV, but playing them from a new angle. The title also brought a few new additions over GTA IV aside from new weapons and vehicles, GTA: The Lost and Damned also offered the player the ability to call on your gang members to help by providing weapons and armour or even bringing you a new bike.
Also included were gang wars; Once the player has completed 10 gang wars a new weapon would spawn in the clubhouse/safe house. Every subsequent 10 gang war up to 50, a new weapon will spawn. During some missions and gang wars, Johnny is accompanied by a team of bikers. As each biker takes part in more missions, they will gain experience and become better over time.
The game included mid-mission checkpoints for the first time in the GTA series as previously if you failed a mission, you’d have to start from the beginning. This title allowed you to start from the last reached checkpoint.

GTA: The Lost and Damned was a welcome addition and expansion to GTA IV and was well received upon initial release.

With one more piece of DLC, GTA IV was almost at an end.

GTA TBOGT

GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony: Was the second piece of DLC for GTA IV and released in 2009. Just like GTA: The Lost and Damned before, GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony was also set in Liberty City from GTA III.

Luis Fernando Lopez is the playable character in this title and after witnessing the heist of the Bank of Liberty (carried out by Niko Bellic and Packie McReary in GTA IV), Luis goes to see his employer, the titular “Gay” Tony Prince. Owner of the successful clubs Maisonette 9 and Hercules, Tony is in serious financial trouble having taken out massive loans from the Ancelotti crime family and Mori Kibbutz in order to keep his clubs running.
Tony asks Luis to work for Mori and Rocco Pelosi, an Ancelotti gangster, in order to satisfy his debts.

The game’s plot intertwined directly with the events and characters of GTA IV.

GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony brought plenty of new features to GTA IV with new weapons and vehicles, but also the parachute allowing you to base jump and skydive which itself had it’s own set of challenges to complete. The game also introduced a new driving range activity. As well as the ability to visit Tony’s nightclubs, where you could participate in drinking and dancing-based mini games and also manage the club’s security. Players could also enter an underground fighting tournament.

GTA: The Ballad of Gay Tony had metascore of 89 on Metacritic. Plus at the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards, Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony was awarded the Best DLC award.

Both DLCs were offered separately or even as as a standalone compilation called: Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City.

There was an all new GTA title released for the Nintendo DS.

GTA CTW

GTA: Chinatown Wars: Was originally released on the Nintendo DS in 2009 and later ported to the PSP. The title takes place in the Grand Theft Auto IV rendition of Liberty City, with the exception of the Alderney district.

Playing as Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a recently murdered Triad boss. Huang arrives in Liberty City with Yu Jian, a sword that Huang’s father won in a poker game and has decided to use as an heirloom. Huang decides to deliver the sword to the new patriarch of the family, Huang’s uncle Wu “Kenny” Lee.
Shortly after arriving in Liberty City, Huang’s escorts are killed by assassins and he is shot and kidnapped. The assailants steal the sword and, thinking Huang is dead, dump his body in the water. Huang survives and informs Kenny that the Yu Jian sword has been taken. Kenny explains that he had intended to offer the sword to Hsin Jaoming, the ageing Triad boss in Liberty City, as a means of securing a position as his replacement. Kenny is dishonoured and reduced in power due to the loss of Yu Jian, leaving him and Huang working to keep their businesses afloat.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars took a leaf from the original GTA games and decided to opt for a top down view, but still using a 3D graphical style, and also uses cel-shaded polygons with black outlines to produce a comic book-like aesthetic.

The game brought with it a few new ideas not used in a GTA title before. The player can disable police cars as possible means to escape the police instead of leaving a “wanted zone.” like in previous GTA titles. The more stars the player has, the more police they have to take out for each level. For example, for a six star level, they have to take out six police cars to get down to a five star wanted level, and so on.
There is also a drug dealing sub game which allows players to peddle heroin, acid, ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine and antidepressants around the city. Players can make a profit by recognising market conditions and demands based on geography and plying their wares accordingly making it a trading mini game. Destroying CCTV cameras decreases the chances of being caught while making a drug deal.

The Nintendo DS touchscreen was also utilized well by controlling the PDA, GPS, the radio, access to the people and places on the map or even using Molotov cocktails and grenades. You could also draw tattoos and even using tools to unscrew car panels. Also by whistling into the DS microphone could also hail a taxi.
Stealing a moving vehicle is similar to that of previous GTA games, however Chinatown Wars uses a different system for stealing parked/locked vehicles. Depending on the car, it can be started in one of a few ways. Older cars require a few turns of a screwdriver in the ignition, while other cars require hotwiring. Newer, more expensive cars require the player to “hack” the computerised immobiliser, all done via the touchscreen.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars received widespread critical acclaim. On GameRankings, it is the highest rated Nintendo DS game ever. The game holds a 93 aggregate score on Metacritic which is the highest score on that site for a DS game.
At the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars received the Best Handheld Game award. It also won the Best Nintendo DS Game of 2009 Award from GameSpot.

But of course, this is a GTA title so it has to have a bit of controversy attached. Because of a drug dealing mini game that includes heroin and ecstasy. Protesters against the game include Darren Gold of the anti-drug abuse charity Drugsline, who stated: “Anything using drug-dealing as entertainment is sending out the wrong message. Glamorisation doesn’t help our work trying to educate kids of the dangers of substance misuse.”

This generation of GTA was coming to an end, but would it end with a bang or a whimper? We had to wait until 2013 to find out…

GTA V cover

GTA: V: This is the juggernaut of the GTA franchise, the one that broke all those records mentioned in part I, the one that is still selling millions of copies (as of writing) due to the remastered re-release on the Xbox One and PS4 plus of course the long awaited PC version. From 1997-2015 and still going, the GTA franchise shows no signs of slowing down.

This time around you do not control 1 character but 3. All with their own backgrounds and stories that intertwine with each other throughout the main story.
Nine years after a botched robbery in Ludendorff, North Yankton. Former bank robber Michael Townley is living under witness protection with his family in Los Santos, San Andreas, under the alias Michael De Santa.
When Michael discovers his wife Amanda in bed with her tennis coach, he chases the coach to a mansion and destroys it out of anger. The mansion’s owner is Mexican drug lord Martin Madrazo’s girlfriend. Madrazo demands compensation, so Michael and his accomplice Franklin Clinton perform a jewellery shop heist to pay the debt.
Michael’s sole surviving partner in the Ludendorff robbery, Trevor Philips, hears of the jewellery heist and realises that it was Michael’s handiwork. The two reunite after Trevor tracks Michael down in Los Santos.

GTA: V takes us back to San Andreas from GTA: San Andreas, but like GTA: IV over GTA: III. The whole area has been completely redesigned and built from the ground up. This time around, San Andreas was not 3 cities and only 1, but you still had a lot of places to explore from the mountains, to a desert and again smaller towns/villages alongside the main city of Los Santos.
Considering the game was originally released in the twilight of the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles lifespan, the development team really managed to squeeze out every bit of processing power out of those machines and make a game that was not just simply stunning to look at. But looking a bit closer one would find a 101 tiny little details within the world of GTA V that I’m still seeing new things even today. This was most definitely the most detailed, diverse and rewarding GTA game so far. It was/is a creative masterpiece.

GTA: V’s world was/is so full of life and detail it’s almost unreal and really showed what could be done within an open world environment. From real time reflections in wing mirrors on vehicles and even reflective sunglasses, those little “tink tink” cooling off sounds cars make when the engine is turned off, sweat will seep through clothing if you run or exercise for an extended period of time or don’t change clothing for a while, after being discharged from the hospital, your character will still have cuts and bruises and many, many other details that just make everything feel “real”.

GTA: V was a vast improvement over GTA: IV, not just graphically but also from a character, story and dialogue perspective. The game would also feature plenty of easter eggs to find from returning characters from GTA IV and many references one can miss easily if you do not pay attention.
This was much more than “just a game”, it was an experience and one that rewards you if you played around a bit. With so much to do in terms of minigames and distractions…
You can go to a cinema and watch films, play full games of tennis (with better game physics than most proper tennis games), play golf, buy businesses, play the stock market, use the internet, go skydiving, explore the ocean and seabed in a submarine, go to a strip club, get drunk at a bar, go hunting, find aliens (yes aliens), uncover a murder plot…plus so much more.
You could even bump into people that need help like returning a stolen wallet or giving them a lift somewhere. Some of which would lead to gaining people to help out with future heists…yes you can pull of robberies. While there are the simple “point a gun at a clerk” style robberies. There were also more intricate and detailed full robberies in the story where you would have to hire help, make a plan, etc.

One of GTA: V’s best additions was the aforementioned ability to play as 3 characters. Some missions in the game would allow you to switch to the characters on the fly, giving you the option of playing the same mission differently and see the events from a different perspective. Even better was the ability to switch characters when in free roam where you would jump into the character that goes about their everyday life even if you are not playing. Switch to Michael and he might be sitting poolside enjoying a nice cool drink or just sitting at home watching some TV. Change to Franklin and you could find him washing his car or playing with his dog (yes you get an interactive dog too). Then switch to Trevor and find him waking up on a mountainside in a dress (don’t ask) or in the middle of a police chase.
Each character had their own lives lead by their personalities and events in the game that they would live even if you were not controlling them. Plus another great feature was the ability, when controlling one character, to bump into one of the other 2 and dialogue would start and you could chose to hang out together maybe play a round of golf or go to a bar, etc.

In addition to the pedestrians all over the place which all have even better AI then before, GTA V also brought us wildlife. From birds flying around to mountain lions. There is plenty of animals to admire…and even hunt if you like.

There is just so much to do in GTA: V, I could probably write a whole article on this one game alone.

Returning once again is Rockstar’s polished and well done writing. Whether it be from the script and dialogue or the radio stations, every line seems to have been done just right. The story is even really well done and believable with twists and deceit being weaved into the plot. There is also great use of humor form the radio stations or the characters themselves.

Of course a new GTA title means new controversy.
Australian department store Target pulled the game from their 300 stores following a petition against depictions of violence toward women in the game. (But violence toward men is fine?)
“Actress” Lindsay Lohan filed lawsuits against Rockstar in allegation that a character in the game was based on her likeness.
A mission that requires players to use torture equipment in a hostage interrogation received criticism from politicians and anti-torture charity groups.

GTA: V is an amazing and creative piece of art, so rich in texture and density. Us fans just can not wait to see what Rockstar do with the franchise now the next generation of consoles is here. If they can make a game this diverse and deep now, and on age old hardware at the end of it’s life…what can they do with a proper GTA game on the Xbox One and PS4?

Released at the end of 2013, GTA V is already a year and a half old…but rumors abound say Rockstar are not done with the game yet with the possibility of story some based DLC and the welcome return of Michael, Franklin and Trevor. GTA V could be around for a while yet…

So that is my retrospective on the GTA franchise as it stands as of writing.
Please join me in my final part IV where I do a quick look back on my personal favourite games and parts of the series and share my memories and even hopes of the franchise in the future.

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