Grand Theft Auto 1

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Grand Theft Auto
GTA1 Cover
DeveloperRockstar North
Tarantula Studios
PublisherASC Games
Release dates

PlayStation
October 1997
PC
October 1997
Game Boy Color
1999

PlatformPC
PlayStation
Game Boy Color
Ratings

BBFC: 18
ESRB: M (Game Boy Color: T)
USK: 16+
OFLC: MA 15+ (Game Boy Color: M15+)
OFLC (NZ): R18
SELL: 16
ELSPA: 15+ (Game Boy Color only)

ProtagonistUnknown
LocationLiberty City
San Andreas
Vice City
Year1997
This article is about the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series. Visit that link for all the others.

Grand Theft Auto, now known primarily as GTA1, was the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series. Many GTA games have been made since, such as GTA Vice City and GTA San Andreas.

Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 was made as an expansion pack for GTA1, and Grand Theft Auto: London 1961 was in turn an expansion pack for London 1969. Both of these games require the original GTA1.

Grand Theft Auto 1 is set in Liberty City, Vice City and San Andreas in 1997. These renditions of the cities are vastly different from their more well-known counterparts in the GTA III era. In the game, you can choose 1 of about 6 protagonists, and even change their names. It begins with only one mission to choose from.

Plot

Liberty City

  • Gangsta Bang

You work for Bubby, and also for Don "Bald Man" Sonetti. They have you do several jobs, ranging from stealing two taxis to killing the police chief. One mission also involves a trap set by Sonetti, in the form of a bomb on a bus that will blow up if it gets below 50 mph (this was probably inspired by the movie Speed). Once you have enough points, Don Sonetti will want to speak to you. Apparently you double-crossed him, and you're a dead man if you do it again. Ironically, Sonetti is the one who double-crossed YOU.

Now you can replay that mission or move on.

  • Heist Almighty

Once again, you must do several jobs to beat the level. Right away, someone calls you saying "Sasha" has been kidnapped (failing the mission will reveal that Sasha is actually your boss' puppy). You can rescue her, or you can ignore the mission or fail it and the cops will bring her in. Someone heard her scream in a trunk. Once you do a bunch of jobs and have enough points again, Bubby will ask you to come see him. Bubby will say you did a good job, but the cops are close enough to looking up his ass with flashlights looking for you. Bubby, however, booked you a flight to San Andreas.

Replay those two as much as you want, or move on.

San Andreas

  • Mandarin Mayhem

Now you've arrived in San Andreas. You work for Uncle Fu. Once you do enough work and get enough points, you can see the old man. He is building a crime cyndicate of extraordinary magnitude, and you honor his family.

Once again, replay or continue. Your choice.

  • Tequila Slammer

Now, you work for El Burro. Once you do enough jobs, please him, and get enough points, he'll ask you to come over to his place. You did good work for him, and he is grateful. Now he's going to return the favor. He's going to reward you personally this time.

Replay, continue, it doesn't matter.

Vice City

  • Bent Cop Blues

A cop named Deever calls you, and you screwed up somewhere. You work for him now. Following the same routine, once you get enough points, go see Deever. Deever is PISSED. If you cross him again, you're screwed for life... if you even have a life after.

Replay or continue.

  • Rasta Blasta

Now you work for Brother Marcus. Most jobs involve killing. Get enough points and see him. Brother Marcus is proud, and apparently you got the job done. He thinks you did a good job on that. Now he doesn't think he'll be seeing you for a long time.

Weapons

  • Fist - You cannot kill people with this weapon; it can immobilize enemies for a few seconds.
  • Pistol - Slow firing rate. But one shot - one death. Much ammo around the city. It is always near hospitals and police stations. Standard weapon of cops and criminals.
  • Machine Gun - Shoots very fast. Great weapon. It is only in specified places and it hasn't got much ammo. Used by police when player has fourth wanted level.
  • Rocket Launcher - Blast weapon, explodes on anything, can fire up buildings. You better not stay close to your target. It is found only in rare places.
  • Flamethrower - A lot of flames, can easily blow up a car or put people on fire. Good for enemy groups. Really hard to find.

Game play

The original Grand Theft Auto is made up of a series of levels each set in one of the three cities in the game. In each level, the player has a target number of points to achieve, and five lives to attain the score.

The score counter doubles as a money meter; the player can spend this money on paint jobs and various other things. However, any money spent is of course taken away from the score, making the goal that little bit further away.

On obtaining the target number of points, the player must then drive to a certain location to complete the level, which allows progress to the next one.

Apart from that, the player is free to do whatever he wants. The player can just explore the city, cause death and destruction amid the traffic in the city, or steal and sell cars for profit, although completing a level will almost certainly require the completion of missions. Even in missions there is still some freedom, as usually the player is free to choose the route to take, although the destination is usually fixed. This level of freedom is not found in most action-based computer games. However, the player is given limited lives so free roaming is somewhat limited, which gets annoying.

Earning points

There are various ways in which to earn the points needed to complete each level.

Some points can be earned by committing various crimes, such as ramming cars (10 points each), and killing policemen (1000 each). The more serious the crime, the more points, but also the more the police will pay attention to the player. Another way to make money is to steal cars, and sell them at the many docks around each city, usually earning several thousand points.

These activities can give the player quite a number of points but they are not sufficient to earn the millions of points needed to complete each level (unless the player has a lot of patience), so it is necessary to take on missions to complete a level. On successful completion of a mission, the player gets 'paid', a large amount of points. A typical payment is in the region of 50,000 points.

Also after completing a mission, the score multiplier is increased by 1. The score multiplier is multiplied by the normal score for something, to get the points actually awarded. For example a multiplier of 3 will mean that the player gets 3 × 10 = 30 points for ramming a car, rather than the normal 10 points. This applies for anything points are awarded for, including the payment for completing a mission.

In the Game Boy port, score multipliers are handled differently. The player can collect floating "X"es hidden in each city, that automatically add a multiplier to his score counter. The first time one is picked up it says "×2", the second time it says "×3", and so on. This only affects points gained after acquiring the multiplier. The points the player already has are unaffected, so it is in the player's best interests to seek the "X"es as soon as possible.

Locations

File:GTA1 PC in-game screenshot.png
Screenshot of Grand Theft Auto showing the top down view in Liberty City

The three cities in which the game is set are modelled after real cities, in terms of landscape and style. They are Liberty City ( New York City), San Andreas (San Francisco), and Vice City (Miami).

Those three cities later became the settings for the games Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand theft auto 4 and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, although in the second-to-last, San Andreas is expanded from a city to an American state, which contains three cities of its own: Los Santos (based on Los Angeles), San Fierro (based on San Francisco), and Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas).

The missions

In most cases, missions are started by answering telephones, although some missions are allocated on the spot, or are triggered by entering certain vehicles. Once a phone is touched, the player is stuck doing that mission until he passes or fails it, but with the cars it is different. The player is told "I've got a new job for you, if you want it. Otherwise get the hell out of my car." He then has a few seconds to jump out before that mission begins.

The payphones all stop ringing while a player is on a phone mission, but the mission cars are still available. By accepting a mission car mission the player can override a phone mission (failing it but without a failure notice) and do that mission instead, but a phone mission cannot override a car mission as the phones stop ringing.

At the start of each mission, the player will be given a series of instructions he must follow. The instructions are given in stages, so the objectives can change in a given situation.

Many of the missions involve tasks that can be completed at the player's own pace, so the player can take a leisurely pace, and observe the traffic laws, although there is always a temptation to cut corners. However, sometimes the game imposes time limits on mission completion, or there may be people giving chase, such as enemy gangsters, or the police, forcing the player to cut corners, to get to the destination on time and/or evade the pursuers. This means running red lights, driving on the sidewalk (risking running over pedestrians), and finding shortcuts.

The police

File:Grand Theft Auto 1.JPG
GTA 1 poster near the subway stairway, Chinatown

Whilst the cities have other emergency services, as a criminal you are more likely to notice the local cops.

The police are constantly on the lookout for criminals. The player has a 'wanted' level, which reflects how much attention the police give him. At the start of the game this is at zero and the player is ignored, but when the player commits a serious crime, the police give the player more attention, and the wanted level increases, up to a maximum of four.

At wanted level one, the police tend only to give chase if they are in the area anyway (but even a single wanted level will freeze and not dissapear, unless players can find a Pay 'n' Spray), whereas at four, the police set up roadblocks on major roads, shoot on sight, and send everyone available to the player's location. The more crimes the player commits, the higher the rating goes. Also, sometimes the player automatically gets noticed, if a mission leads to someone calling the police, or in the case of bank robberies that not surprisingly put the police on full alert.

The police's aim is in general to arrest the player, although they will not hesitate in shooting at him or trying to ram him off the road in the desperate attempt to stop the player, and they get more trigger happy the higher the wanted level. On arrest, the player is dropped off at the nearest police station, losing all his weapons and armour and half of his score multiplier, but the wanted level is reset back to zero.

The police are very determined to catch the player, but they can be evaded. Dotted around each city are a number of respray shops (if one of the cities are large for inexperienced players, then finding it will be difficult to find), where your vehicle can be resprayed, or have the license plates changed, to disguise it. This makes the police think you are someone else, even if they see you enter the shop, although this does cost money (i.e. points). The higher a player's wanted level, the more points it costs him to to have his car re-sprayed or plates changed.

Multiplayer

Despite it's age, GTA 1 even included a multiplayer function, which allowed you to battle with human opponents. This was possible over either a LAN connection or using a null modem cable.

Ports

The original Grand Theft Auto was first available for DOS, and then later ported to Microsoft Windows, Sony PlayStation, and Game Boy Color. Surprisingly, the Game Boy Color version was unabridged, which was quite a technical achievement due to the sheer size of the cities, converted tile-for-tile from the PC original, making them many times larger than most Game Boy Color game worlds were because of the handheld's limited hardware. To cater for the target younger generation, however, the game was heavily censored, with gore and swearing removed.

Controversy

The game, with its violent subject matter, generated a great deal of controversy. However, this was deemed to be intentional, and was the first game known to have been publicised in such a way. Take 2 Games, the publishers of Grand Theft Auto, hired publicist Max Clifford to generate an aura of controversy about the game in the local media. As a result, politicians stepped into the foray. Whatever the impact on game censorship and the perception of video gaming, the publicity worked - the title was hugely successful simply because those attempting to ban the game were inadvertently generating publicity for it. This has been a known and recognised phenomenon of violent video games ever since.

Trivia

  • One of the hidden Easter eggs in the game is the now famous "Gouranga" bonus, given for swiftly killing an entire group of Hare Krishna monks.
  • The parts of the cities are based on their real-life counterparts, such as Liberty City's neighborhoods. There are neighborhoods like the Brix, which is based on The Bronx, Brocklyn (obviously based on Brooklyn). Vice City has the same thing, featuring districts such as Vice Beach and Banana Grove, which are based on Miami Beach and Coconut Grove.
  • El Burro, the man players would take missions from in the second part of the San Andreas missions, also appears in Grand Theft Auto III, he is the man that provide jobs in Portland, Liberty City, and is the leader of the Puerto Rican Diablos gang.
  • Head Radio is one (if not the only) original station left. It was in this game, and it was also a station in Grand Theft Auto III as well as in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.
  • There are no talk radio stations in the first game, until GTA III. There are no commercials to the radios as well, with only fewer musics.

See also