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Ah yes, the game that began what is now one of the most successful and most critically acclaimed series in all of videogame history. In 1997 a studio named DMA Design (now Rockstar North), previously responsible for Lemmings, gave Grand Theft Auto to the world. In an era of violent "controversial" games like Doom and Mortal Kombat, GTA had waltzed in and stole the immoral crown.
The player was a career criminal, stole cars, killed anyone in the way, and worse still was free to go about this as he or she pleased. Predictably, the cries of moral outrage drew curious gamers in like moths to a flame and GTA literally sold on its reputation alone. A reputation that DMA had deliberately fueled -- they hired notorious British publicist Max Clifford to drum up controversy for the game.
The game itself is played from an overheard perspective of the city with the objective of earning cash. Earn enough money to progress to the next level, and new cities will be unlocked. How the player goes about this is up to them, since points were earned by stealing cars, murder and general mayhem. The story-based missions aren't required to progress, but they do provide the largest source of income. Basically a watchdogs nightmare.
Despite being praised for its open environments, player freedom and clever sound design the game was not greeted with critical success. But of course with the combination of hindsight and its legion of nostalgic fans, Grand Theft Auto eventually became regarded as a classic, albeit a flawed one.
In 1999, Rockstar released their first (and last) "Mission Pack" for the game -- basically an Expansion Pack that requires inserting the original GTA disc in order to boot up -- dubbed GTA London: 1969. As it turned out, this was Rockstar's last foray into developing expansions for their little Playstation gem, despite copies of GTA London boldly sporting the "Mission Pack #1" subtitle to this day. This was probably for the best, as the newer missions are shorter, less challenging, and all take place on the same map.
There does exist a second expansion (London 1961: Mission Pack #2), though it would be more accurate to call it an expansion of an expansion, since it will not work without the London 1969 disc. This version is PC-only, and even shorter than the first one. More disappointingly, it's Obviously Beta.
Grand Theft Auto provides examples of:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: At the end of the game, the cost of repairing/respraying vehicles is ridiculously exorbitant.
- All Gays Are Promiscuous: El Burro.
- Bad Boss / Dirty Cop: Samuel Deever, to the point of being Crazy Awesome.
- Bald of Evil: Your first boss's main rival, Sonetti, is noted for his baldness. He later sends a bald henchmen to threaten you.
- Bi the Way: Bubby's wife, Skye, flirts with the player regardless if you choose a male or female character.
- Bizarrchitecture: Vice City's street network is an exhibit of this, and as a result the city is notoriously difficult to navigate.
- But Thou Must!: In Vice City's second chapter, "Rasta Blasta", the Rastas give the player a choice to work either for the authorities or for them. If you choose to work for "Babylon", attempting the next mission will make you blow up one of their limos, and you'll have to work for the Rastas.
- The Chew Toy: You, arguably. No matter how well you perform for your current boss, you'll always get run out of town for some reason or another.
- Disproportionate Retribution: The citizens of Vice City won't settle for any ordinary car alarm, no no...
- Expository Theme Tune: "Gangster Friday" (more commonly known as "Joyride", as named in GTA III), a pastiche of gangsta rap composed by DMA Design's in-house Craig Conner does a good job explaining the game's premise.
- Foreshadowing: The final level's first mission has a time limit, albeit a very manageable one. The following missions in this level have time limits that challenge even experienced players.
- Game Breaking Bug: Police cruisers sometimes become stuck to the player's car during a pursuit, racking up a high collision count and exploding, killing you and them instantly.
- Gayngster / Meaningful Name: El Burro.
- Hand Wave: According to the manual, the player's actions are being filmed live from a helicopter, thus the top-down perspective.
- I Have Your Dog: The extortionist who kidnaps Bubby's beloved pooch.
- Invisible Block: Leading to a tank in San Andreas.
- The Man: The Rastafari gang refers to all authority figures as "Babylon".
- Mob War: Bubby vs. Sonetti.
- Moral Guardians: DMA basically sat down and decided to make a game that would infuriate Media Watchdogs and parent groups alike. And make a fortune off it.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Deever's answer to everything.
- Nintendo Hard: The final level, "Rasta Blasta", is notoriously difficult. The entire game is quite a lot harder than its sequels - the character is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, the powerful weapons are rare and can be lost easily, and of course, no saving during levels.
- Punny Name: Too many to list. Most are fake Asian surnames.
- Rated "M" for Money
- Recycled Soundtrack: Head Radio's countdown theme is recycled from, of all things, the music for the Tyne Tees Station Ident at the time.
- Refuge in Audacity
- Rewarding Vandalism: And every other crime for that matter...
- Unwitting Pawn: DMA Studios hired publicist Max Clifford to stir up controversy in the media. The moral elite responded as they desired, giving the game all the publicity it could ever need. Many people bought the game solely because of the media outcry surrounding it. The Moral Guardians were simply pawns.
- What Could Have Been: The game was originally intended to be about dinosaurs rampaging through a city, an idea obviously inspired by The Lost World. Somewhere down the line the devs decided that Hot Wheels were an easier childhood pastime to translate to a video game than dinosaurs, and GTA as we know it was born.
Grand Theft Auto: London 1969/1961 provides examples of:
- Afro Asskicker: One of the player avatars, who is coincidentally the same guy featured on the loading screen and game manual.
- Armed Blag
- British Coppers
- The Caper: Stealing the Crown Jewels from Buckingham Palace.
- Clock Tower: None other than Big Ben. A heist mission involves changing the time on the clock's face.
- Creepy Twins: The Crisp Twins, a parody of the real-life Kray twins. Albert does all the talking, whilst Archie never speaks.
- Empty Quiver: A stolen (and drive-able) ICBM carrier.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Your first mission is to steal a scooter as a present for the Crisps' mum.
- Fission Mailed: Collecting a van filled with explosive sex dolls results in this. Evidently, you play the role of a Lovable Sex Maniac; Albert Crisp lampshades it when you get out of the hospital, warning you not to repeat the same offense with a second van ("I know what you're like.")
- Gayngster: Albert Crisp.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: GTA '61 has you doing this to a rival gang boss, Chalkie.
- Guide Dang It: The final mission. Your instructions are to blow up a car, but the directional arrow only points you to where the car was previously parked. You're given NO description of what the car looks like, either.
- Last Chance to Quit: Lenny Smith, a rival ganglord, attempts this after you pursue him up a fire escape. Before you kill him, Smith warns that the Crisps are growing distrustful of you. As it turns out, Smith turns out to have been Properly Paranoid.
- London Gangster
- Magic Plastic Surgery: The enigmatic Lord Lucan requires you to drive him to one of these doctors.
- Meaningful Name: "Midnight", the guy hired to help you cause a blackout.
- Normally I Would Be Dead Now: The Crisp twins survive a rocket-propelled grenade to their car, before issuing a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
- Obvious Beta / Schizophrenic Difficulty: The London 1961 expansion pack is heinously difficult, due to its unrealistic timed missions.
- Serious Business: Albert is betting on a football match, but the goalie is rubbish. Solution? Drive a car inside the stadium during practice and run him over.
- Driving van all over town to collect ingredients for Sid's picnic. And then you're expected to pick up the leftovers.
- Shout-Out: Endeavor Chambers, a Bond-style secret agent and ladies' man. Upon stealing his car, you're mistaken as the spy by his Super Villain nemesis.
- Stock British Phrases
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Jug Swinger (better known as "Shaguar" in Austin Powers parlance), a Jaguar-type roadster with the Union Jack emblazoned on it.
- Write What You Know: The UK-based developers likely enjoyed British accents in the game, and cars driving on the left side of the road.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Your first boss, Harold Cartwright, is ordered to be killed in the final level.