SCEA | PS2
The setup: When an old enemy kills his wife and kidnaps his son, former London gangster Mark Hammond is blackmailed into pulling violent jobs that are carefully designed to put him at the top of every gang's hit list. Meanwhile, hard-boiled police detective Frank Carter is on the tail of both Hammond and his enemy, and will stop at nothing to shut them down. You'll play as both over the course of the adventure, which has you gunning your way through an underworld filled with Yardies, Triads and Cockney toughs.
The rides: A bunch of almost painfully realistic, sleek-looking cars that, when damaged, will slow down, start smoking and maybe catch fire a little, which is far removed from the spectacular explosions that gamers expect in their daily lives.
The violence: Your arsenal is limited to a small handful of weaponry, but the actual gunfights - which enable you to take cover behind walls and grab enemies for use as human shields - is a lot more bloody and intense than what GTA usually offers. This might also be the only game where you can heal yourself completely (and get the nasty bloodstains out of your clothes) by just leaning against a wall for a little while.
Why it beats GTA: Beautiful graphics, Cockney slang and a gripping, multi-viewpoint story make the presentation more ambitious than anything GTA had attempted at the time. Also, having two playable characters - each with a different set of scruples when it came to with hostages - makes for a nice change of pace. Plus, the city is a block-for-block recreation of London - no similarly-named close approximations here.
Why it'll never beat GTA: Players looking for a free-roaming crimefest are guaranteed to chafe at the tightly linear plotline, which keeps them zipping from one objective to the next with no time to sight-see in between. Also, the lack of a HUD, while more cinematic, makes navigating London confusing for non-natives.
Can it survive? It holds up better than its crappy sequel, but it wouldn't stand a chance in a fistfight with San Andreas. We're sorry, Getaway; we love you, but no.