Vehicular Combat

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File:Drive-by shooting (GTA3).jpg
The player guns down Yakuza members in a drive-by shooting in GTA III, the first game allowing the player to perform such an action.

Drive-by shooting is an ability introduced in Grand Theft Auto III that allows the player to fire a gun from within a vehicle. The feature has been recurring in the series since.


GTA III — GTA Vice City Stories

Prior to Grand Theft Auto IV, players must have any sub-machine gun in hand in order to perform drive by shooting. While in a vehicle, the player may look left or right to view the target and take aim, then fire their weapon, discharging bullets to the target.

The aforementioned concept has remained the same between GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, but underwent several changes. From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City onwards, players are also allowed to shoot forward while on a motorbike or bicycle, which is usually far more effective than conventional drive-by shooting in cars due to the player being able to watch the road and shoot at a target at the same time; "drive-by" shooting on boats are made possible. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA Vice City Stories allow for non-player passengers of a car to perform drive-by shooting, shooting with pistols or sub-machine guns; however, the effectiveness of this feature is dependent on how close the car is to targets.

An example of a third-person drive-by on a motorbike in GTA San Andreas.

The ability for the player to shoot as a passenger was first explored in GTA Vice City, during "Phnom Penh '86" (positioned on the side of a Maverick) and "Supply & Demand" (positioned on the back of a Squalo), when the player is able to free-aim, but use only weapons with first-person view (the M-60 and Ruger). In GTA San Andreas, free-aiming first person view is additionally utilized while the player is seated as a passenger in a motorbike and a car, during Just Business, Reuniting the Families and End of the Line. In the mission Reuniting the Families, the player is supposed to use an AK-47 for this purpose .


As Grand Theft Auto IV was developed, drive-by shooting mechanics were retooled to allow for more flexible aiming and improved accuracy. The player may aim their weapon freely while driving; the "look left" and "look right" commands were removed in favor of an analog stick-based/mouse-based camera. Also, drive-bys were extended to being possible out of helicopters and on boats with assault rifles, and out of any other vehicle.

While the choices of weapons for use in drive-by shooting is still limited, the player can now either use a sub-machine gun or pistol, and grenades or Molotov Cocktail can actually be dropped from vehicles, useful for blowing up pursuers. The Lost and Damned also introduced the ability to fire a sawn-off shotgun while riding motorcycles. However, even with the ability to use a sawed-off shotgun, drive-bys on motorcycles is highly discouraged, as the player is fully exposed and vulnerable to gunfire.

Overall, the Micro Uzi in GTA IV and TLAD is the best weapon for drive-bys in cars with its incredible rate of fire, while the the Gold SMG in The Ballad of Gay Tony is the best weapon available. The M4 carbine is most suited for passengers on aircraft and boats, but the accuracy of gunfire from a helicopter or on a boat is often abysmal due to difficulty in aiming (due to rapid movement of the vehicle) and a limited field of view.