Battle of the GTAs

We've rated the clones - now let's see how the originals stack up against each other

The town: The sprawling near-future metropolis of Anywhere City, which was carved up into downtown, industrial and residential districts.

The music: Still tied to the cars you drive, although the PC version enables players to switch between the game's 11 stations. The stations themselves feature an eclectic mix of pop, rock, hip-hop and electronica. This was also the beginning of a tradition: weirdo DJs for each station, who chat with listeners and generally make asses of themselves.

The violence: The guns, explosions and blood are all noticeably cooler and more realistic than in the first game, but still pretty cartoony. Also, it's not just the cops who'll chase you when you do bad things this time around - depending on how long and bloody your spree gets, you'll face gradually tougher levels of law enforcement going all the way up to the army.

Why it's the best: It's a big improvement over the first GTA, and takes itself even less seriously. It's faster, too, and slamming through crowds of pedestrians and watching the reward points explode all over your screen is still an undeniable thrill. The whole gang-rivalry dynamic adds some depth to the anarchic structure, and gives players a choice in whom they want to work for and betray - which later games in the series don't.

Why it isn't: It's still hard as hell to control cars on a 2D plane, even if the visuals are considerably better. There's still not much of a story, either, no matter what the opening movie implies. Also, you can't even save your game until you have $50,000 to your name, which is weak.

Does it hold up? It's better than the original, but let's be realistic - it's not going to hold its own against anything in the following pages. Try it out for yourself and see.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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