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Grand Theft Radar: Is GTA as clever as it thinks it is?

Consider the following: Vice City? The whole thing owes its existence to Scarface. Tommy Vercetti and Lance Vance? That partnership borrowed so heavily from Miami Vice's Crockett and Tubbs, Lance was actually voiced by Philip Michael Thomas. Officer Tenpenny? Yeah, we liked him better in Training Day, when his name was Alonzo and he was played by Denzel Washington. Meanwhile, Toni Cipriani's weird relationship with his mother (in GTA III and Liberty City Stories) is an obvious parody of Tony and Livia Soprano. And that's just a few standout examples.

Above: A car that will explode if it drops below a certain speed? Huh. Wonder where they gotthat idea from?


Granted, GTA has always been about social satire, so it's not really surprising that it's rife with references to popular culture. But the series does it so frequently, and integrates these bits so deeply into its storylines, that the line between subtle homage and blatant rip-off gets a little fuzzy.

Of course, even if they were completely, blatantly and unrepentantly stolen, GTA's storylines would still be entertaining as all hell. But unique? Meh - show us a heist or a chase scene that plays out unlike anything we've seen before, and then we'll talk.

Remember gunning down dudes from a helicopter in Vice City, or stealing the jetpack in San Andreas, or capping Salvatore in GTA III? Yeah, that was awesome. You know what wasn't awesome, though? The escort missions, follow-without-being-seen missions and grueling drive-around-in-an-explosive-filled-car-but-don't-bang-into-anything missions that you had to drag yourself through in order to get there.

Above: Oh look, a mission where you have to follow someone at a distance and can't get too close!

It's hard to believe that anyone actually enjoys having to trail behind cars at a distance or protect boneheaded AI sidekicks from perforation. But somehow, every GTA forces its players to revisit these hell-slogs at some point, and they're always exactly as unpleasant as they were the last time we played them. Worse still, every time a new GTA rolls around, we forget they ever existed in the first place and happily plunge in, only to find ourselves grimacing at the TV five hours later as we replay the same long mission for the 15th time.

Above: Hey, there's, uh... another one?

But do we stop playing, or complain about how much the game sucks? No, we talk about how brilliantly it was designed, because the occasional crappy, pad-out-the-runtime mission is so completely overshadowed by everything else. But if it were really such a smart piece of work, why would it need to fall back on bullshit mission formulas at all?

Above: And another one! This is getting old!

Yeah. Think about it.