#402 Grand Theft Auto 2

Posted: 15th April 2012 by Jeroen in Games
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138th played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: PC/PS1
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Rockstar Games

Let’s be honest first. We’ve played Grand Theft Auto 38 games ago, which (in our perception by now) is fairly recent. Fair enough – we need to play one every 100 games if we want to spread them out as evenly as possible (which is not likely to happen, but it’s a guide). But we didn’t play it for that, or just that – no, it’s because it’s the one final game we need to play before we feel we can play GTA3, which is where Peter’s love for the franchise starts.

From the look of things, it just doesn’t woo from the start. It’s got the original game’s topdown perspective and playing style, which, while it works, isn’t brilliant. It just doesn’t seem to be the thing that would woo you enough to be on the game – unless you consider the franchise big enough that all games should be on there.

Our Thoughts

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. If you haven’t yet, read our review of Grand Theft Auto. Most of the game still plays the same – the controls feel a bit more responsive and the story-related changes that we’ll go into later change the feel of the game, but for most of the game, it’s the same – running, driving, having to earn money to move on. So we can get this out of the way early on it is this top-down gameplay that is this games biggest weakness. Missions are made that much harder for no good reason beecause unless you know the city by the back of your hand (and you won’t on your first playthrough) you will find yourself crashing into off-screen walls at every available opportunity because there is no real warning in terms of the game screen and there is a distinct lack of a map whose addition in later GTA games is a god send.

Another issue that can be found in this game is the amount of ammo you can hold. To be fair you are guarenteed a gun whenever you kill a gang member but it mostly maxes out at 99 bullets… and since we are still in the realms of top-down gameplay it is obscenely difficult to aim the bloody gun without firing 4-5 rogue bullets at the passing Hare Krisna group. In retrospect all these problems really are niggly ones which nip at your wrists whilst you are playing a game which, when you consider the age and view point, has still aged fairly well.

Now based on that, and our reluctance to play, you might expect to see our fears met and having us feel this game wasn’t worth it as much. Luckily, it wasn’t so just yet. Let’s start with the story. Advancing no longer just relies on money – you have to finish 22 jobs to go on. The way this goes on brings in a tad more story and setting, making the jobs a bit more interesting to follow.

With that said, that basic story is possibly the most interesting change. You see, as also seen in Saints Row 2, here, too, there’s a gang war going on. Rather than leading your own gang, you instead work for all three, doing their jobs and advancing their goals. You need to have enough respect with a gang to be allowed to do their missions, too – mainly gained by killing other gang members. Thus the best thing to do is to just focus on one gang at a time, complete all their missions within the level (that’s right we’re still on levels here) and then move to another gang.

The other big change is one that makes gameplay a lot more enjoyable. Rather than having a limited amount of lives and being restricted by this, you now have infinite lives. Dying or being caught ends your mission and means you lose your weapons and such, but you can keep playing – you can even restart the job if you want to try again. Not as sophisticated as later games, but it means that frequent deaths don’t get too annoying – you adjust and go on.

All in all, there’s no big leap in gameplay, everything just gets a bit better and more playable. But to be fair – it seems like at this point, that’s the step the series needed to get to where it is now.

Final Thoughts

As said, the reason that I lobbied for this game to be played as soon as possible is because I desperately want to replay Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and all the games that came after it. With Grand Theft Auto 2 we are now looking at the period during which DMA released Body Harvest and pretty much changed the face of gaming forever. As studios go they and Rockstar really have altered gaming and it’s when you look at their earlier work (and see hints of what is to come) that you get to appreciate the journey they have taken.