Battle of the GTAs


Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
1999 | PC, PSone

The setup: Also known as the Grand Theft Auto nobody played, this expansion for GTA was the first really atmospheric entry in the series. It came in at the height of Austin Powers' popularity, delivering a vision of London that was inspired by movies like the original The Italian Job and Quadrophenia. Sure, it was still top-down and kind of limiting, but it was wicked cool in an aviator-shades-and-Lambretta kind of way. This expansion also spawned an expansion of its own, the ultra-obscure GTA: London, 1961, which added new missions and a multiplayer map based on Manchester. If you've got 1969 for the PC, you can download the 1961 expansion for free here - just look for the flashing "free" button at lower left.

The rides: A nice selection of era-appropriate British automobiles (including a few with Union Jacks plastered onto the roofs), including a few clearly based on Mini Coopers and the ever-trendy Vespa motorscooter.

The criminals: Androgynous Mod Rodney Morash, filthy hippie Charlie Jones, rude boy Winston Henry and five other extremely well-dressed sociopaths. Like the first game, though, the character you pick only really influences your color scheme in the game world.

The town: London more or less as it was in the '60s, jam-packed with hipsters, mods, intimidatingly psychotic gangsters and not-so-veiled references to campy spy spoofs.

The music: An extremely listenable medley of 1960s Britpop, Herb Alpert-inspired horn riffs and bombastic tunes designed to stir patriotism in the English. Again, they're all tied to whatever car you're currently driving.

The violence: Still cartoony, but now extremely British.

Why it's the best: No other game lets you start a gunfight with sharp-dressed, scooter-riding Mods in front of Buckingham Palace while close approximations of 1969's hottest pop ditties scream in your ears.

Why it isn't: It's the original GTA with '60s attitude and Cockney swagger instead of urban blight. Pass.

Does it hold up? As much as we love the Carnaby Street style, this one's better left in the past. We'd love to see a current-gen update, though.

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  • JosefMotley - February 15, 2010 9:26 a.m.

    Personally I think there should have been a "no winners" result. Not because I hate GTA. but because i loved it so much and have been continually disappointed by the series since vice city. obviously GTA3 is pretty much unplayable now and has no in-game map and ridiculous missions. by comparison, when vice city came out it felt like the franchise had been suddenly sold to nintendo - it was actually fair and fun for the first time. sadly they messed vice city up not with the game itself but with its painfully bugged, rushed and ultimately intensely overrated sequel san andreas. though san andreas was by almost all areas the worse game, the fact it finally introduced climbing meant it ruined vice city. san andreas is terrible plotwise in comparison and while it has some good missions, has far too many bad ones i never want to replay again. and now every time i try and play vice city again i'm just frustrated that you can't climb (couldn't care less about swimming, it was actually less annoying just dying in vice city, in san andreas falling in the usually led to deliberately drowning yourself instantly anyway, it was either that or swim round the coastline of somewhere for hours trying to find something you could climb up... AND THEY HAD LADDERS IN THAT GAME THAT WERE JUST FOR SHOW AND YOU COULDN'T CLIMB BUT STUCK OUT OF THE WATER TEMPTINGLY NONETHELESS. HOW DARE THEY) anyway so san andreas by introducing ONE good new feature managed to run the entire back catalogue of the series into the ground for good. question is: can you climb in vice city stories? if so, that's the only decent GTA left. i need to play it again and properly, not drunk in a roomful of people taking it in turns this time....
  • A.J_Smiles - November 9, 2008 9:47 p.m.

    Gang, I was rooting for Vice City. I mean San Andreas is obviously better, but VC was my first GTA game ever and I love it

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