Top-Down Perspective

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Top-down perspective was a prominent camera view used in the Grand Theft Auto series, where the player and their surrounding is view overhead. Adopted in both GTA1 and GTA2, its use in the series is short-lived, having been the defacto camera view in GTA1 and GTA2, only decline in importance as one of several alternate camera views in GTA III and removed entirely in GTA: Vice City. The view has only been used twice thereafter.


Adopted in both GTA1 and GTA2 as the only camera angle in game, the view simply depicts the player and their surrounding from a bird's eye view, directly over the player at a considerable height. The camera system adjusts its height from the player according to the movement and position of the player, relative to the speed in which the player travels. When on foot, the camera draws closer to the player, reducing the player's line of sight as the player moves slower. When inside a vehicle, however, the camera moves further up, and some more when the vehicle's speed increases.

GTA's use of top-down perspective is complemented by the use of a 3D engine that permits the ability to render a portion of large city, albeit with limited flexibility on city design. The height of buildings and structures are restricted to a certain height, while long underground roadways could not be effectively included unless being used by trains or partially exposed. Gradients, however, are effectively used, allowing player to perform jumps off high areas or ramps. Height in a top-down perspective was also used in GTA2 with comical results to exaggerate the effects of explosions on people; certain individuals would be flung high enough that they pass the camera, before falling to their deaths.


Top-down perspective was evidently used in GTA1 and GTA2, but fell out of use when GTA III introduced an improved graphics engine and freeform camera view that enabled players to better move around and explore the environment. GTA III retained top-down perspective as a camera option, but as an alternate view. A year later, the view was dropped in GTA: Vice City.

Only two prominent titles in the series has featured top-down perspective as a camera option since GTA III. GTA Advance, developed by another game developer, opted for a top-down perspective as its camera view due to hardware limitations. The Video Editor, featured in the PC version of GTA IV, also features top-down perspective ala-"classic GTA" as one of its camera views, but does not adopt it in the game itself.