Grand Theft Aspirations

Is imitation the sincerest form of flattery or the lowest form of light-fingered skulduggery? Well, we're not entirely sure but, after Konami's announcement, last week, of , which reeks of a GTA rip-off, and today's release of Activision's GTA-in-a-war-zone, , we thought it was a particularly relevant point to ponder.

Of course, publishers can hardly be blamed for wanting to muscle in on Rockstar's highly lucrative turf. But, in the long run, is tailgating the GTA juggernaut ultimately a thankless pursuit, given the overwhelming masses of gaming zealots that worship in the Church of GTA?

To find out, we've corralled some of the games that have adopted various core components from Rockstar North's seminal masterpieces, and we examine their varying fortunes, having been accused of grand theft aspirations...

Driver 3 (PS2, Xbox)
While the excellent auto-centric, high-speed cop-evading antics of the original Driver were certainly a stepping-stone towards the GTA we know and love today, the series' flaccid next-gen effort is, without doubt, the most notorious loser of all that have squared-up to the GTA behemoth.

Contrary to the bold statements of the managing and creative director of Driver's development team, Reflections, who optimistically promised a game that would "redefine the genre that the Driver series created," Driver 3 was eventually released harbouring more bugs than a week-old dog log, and was dangerously undernourished in terms of playability.

By creating the antithesis of everything good about GTA, the Driver series was killed dead in quite a spectacular fashion and, despite topping the charts in several countries, the game was a real car crash for both Atari and Reflections - with Martin Edmondson ultimately staggering away from the wreckage by quitting Reflections in the wake of the debacle.

The Getaway (PS2)
While Team Soho were wasting time meticulously recreating 40 square kilometres of every smog-stained crevice and cranny of Blighty's capital city, Rockstar North were beavering away on a game that would become the new benchmark for all those trailing in its slipstream.

And this is exactly where The Getaway found itself.

Released amidst Vice City fever, and following a relentless torrent of PR and media spew, The Getaway was, for most gamers, a big disappointment. The ultra-violent knees-up was incredibly rigid in its structure, and the addition of a free-ride mode only served to highlight just how empty and starved of possibility Team Soho's 'real, living city' actually was.

Despite this, it did still manage to carve itself a considerable fan-base amongst players that weren't bothered by it not being the GTA London many gamers were hoping for. It replaced Vice City at the top of the chart for a week and continued to shift enough units to warrant a reasonably well-received sequel.

True Crime Streets of LA (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC)
Not only did True Crime developers Luxoflux create a far more interactive and engaging metropolis than Team Soho had done, they also peppered the game with some inventive ideas of their own, firmly establishing it as more than just a lazy 'GTA does LA'.

While collecting hidden Dogg Bones wasn't a particularly original concept, upgrading key skills by visiting driving courses, dojos and firing ranges was a far more refreshing approach to the genre. Indeed, these were elements that Rockstar North would subsequently introduce players to in San Andreas.

Despite losing the plot during the finale, which wandered into the dragon and zombie-killing realm of the ridiculous, True Crime was a decent enough diversion for players that were looking to kill some time while waiting for 'dreas to appear.

Rumours of a sequel circulated shortly after the release but, to date, nothing has been officially announced. However, if we were to speculate we'd think it highly probable that Activision may return to the series at some point.