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Swimming is, as implied, an ability in the Grand Theft Auto series that allows the player to swim on or under deep bodies of water. The feature was introduced in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and has been in use for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars since.

Player interaction with water prior to GTA San Andreas

Until GTA San Andreas, water is largely seen as a dangerous element that may result in death, and is effectively used as an obstacle in an in-game location to prevent players from reaching areas that have yet to be unlocked.

For Grand Theft Auto 1 and Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is instantaneously wasted should they fall into water, regardless of whether or not they are in a vehicle. By Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the effects of water on the player is less dangerous but still potentially lethal as the player's health is rapidly deducted while positioned in a certain depth of water (chest deep or deeper) until the player runs out of health and drowns. These shortcomings were poke fun of in Driv3r, which features a spoof of GTA Vice City's player character, Tommy Vercetti, as a number of "Timmy Vermicelli's" who wear floaties on their arms, clearly implying the inability of GTA Vice City's player character to swim when Driv3r's could.

Whilst GTA San Andreas debuted swimming as an ability, two more GTA games released at the time and after still do not allow the player to swim. These include Grand Theft Auto Advance and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, with the latter being the last game in the series to do without the ability.


GTA San Andreas

With swimming first possible in GTA San Andreas, the player can float (in a water treading position), and swim in any deep body of water using directional controls. In its slowest form, the player performs a breaststroke. Holding the key or button intended for sprinting on land allows the player to perform a front crawl and swim faster; tapping the same control adds slightly more speed.

Underwater diving is made possible by using the "fire" key or button while on water. Once activated, the player character immediately submerges himself underwater, allowing the player to dive deep using directional controls, all while using the sprint command to trust the player character to a pointed direction.

Whenever the player enters water, a third white bar denoting the player's oxygen appears on the game's HUD. When underwater or in a sinking vehicle, the bar will gradually empty until the game is forced to deduct the player's health, leading to eventual drowning and death; the bar is replenished by remaining on the surface of the water. The player's lung capacity determines how long the player can stay underwater, and is improved by continuously diving. Diving in GTA San Andreas is necessary in allowing the player to collect oysters, which are commonly placed underwater, and sneaking past guards undetected. Diving may also be used to explore the waters of San Andreas, revealing other secrets.

As of 2009, GTA San Andreas still possesses the most sophisticated swimming system in the series.

GTA Vice City Stories — GTA Chinatown Wars

Following GTA San Andreas, three games have brought over the ability to swim, but all three employ simplified versions of GTA San Andreas' game mechanics, with diving absent but otherwise similar in controls.

While GTA Vice City Stories allows the player to swim, it only permits swimming for a limited amount of time, determined by a "stamina" bar that decreases as the player remains in the water. When the bar runs out, the player's health decreases, followed by drowning. For GTA IV and GTA Chinatown Wars, however, the player may stay in the water for as long as they please, though during multiplayer sessions in GTA IV, the player will begin losing health after a certain amount of time in the water.

Missions involving swimming

GTA San Andreas

GTA Vice City Stories


GTA Chintown Wars