Ever since the advent of Grand Theft Auto III, the GTA series has practically been defined by the iconic art that's accompanied every release. It's adorned every cover and loading screen in the series so far, and when it changes - as it did to reflect the more realistic tone of Grand Theft Auto IV - people take notice. Distinct and memorable, it's added to the series' hip edge and made its characters into fearsome symbols of fearsome badassery, giving them a larger-than-life quality that jumbles of in-game polygons just can't pull off.
But really, how closely can those polygons resemble their illustrated counterparts? There've been a few notable deviations over the years, but in general, we've been too busy running over pedestrians to notice if they looked anything like the art. To answer this suddenly-burning question, we've pulled out a dozen key illustrations from the series' past and present, hunted down the in-game characters they're supposed to represent and slapped them down, side by side, to see how well they match up.
Niko's character art is a pretty dead-on representation of his in-game self; the features are a little sharper and the hair's a little neater, but he's instantly recognizable as our favorite haunted Eastern European sociopath. We just have one question: how in the hell do we make him actually wear those badass gloves?
There's a clear resemblance between Grand Theft Auto III's illustrated Joey and his in-game counterpart, but where art-Joey looks shifty-eyed and a little edgy, game-Joey just looks sleepy and dimwitted. Honestly, we're kind of glad we didn't have to spend much time with him.
This is a weird one. While the image at left is clearly supposed to be Vlad, GTA IV's inept Russian loan shark, it doesn't really resemble the asshole-granddad Vlad we know. The Vlad at left is younger, meaner and a whole hell of a lot tougher; just looking at him, our first impulse is to wonder how it's going to feel when he punches us in the teeth, and whether we can afford the expensive dental work to follow.
In-game Vlad, meanwhile, is an amiable cokeheaded douchebag who inspires more contempt than fear. He's got an edge, sure, but he doesn't look prone to violence. And really, how tough can he be if he's hiring goons to do his dirty work all the time? Happily, there's another piece of official art that more closely resembles Vlad as we've come to recognize him:
Above: Yeah, you drink that vodka, you fat Russian stereotype, you. Drink it into an early grave
Yeah, no. Somehow we're just not seeing it.