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Grand Theft Also

GTA 2 steps outside of the universe that has occupied the series otherwise. It’s set in a place rather ambiguously called Anywhere City - a strange place that seems like it might be from the near future. By splitting it into three sections (The Downtown area, The Residential District and The Industrial District), DMA was clearly feeling a bit meta about the whole thing. This time around they emphasised the freedom further, not only letting you proceed as you see fit, but allowing you to align yourself with (or indeed piss off to the point of being chased down the streets by dozens of enraged thugs) various gangs. Playing as Claude Speed, you’re a recently awakened cryo-prisoner (yes, really) seeking to become the, er, King of the Kennel. Once more you’re score-collecting to let you move on to the next city section, but this time while trying to balance the three gangs against one another.

Fact is, the top-down perspective is still completely engrossing. Weirdly so. It makes the games much more about the cars than the on-foot sections (although you can dash about on your tootsies should you wish). The games are deliberately generous in their controls, applying the brakes for you as you turn at high speed, letting you feel all kinds of awesome. It’s also, perhaps surprisingly, still pretty brutal. Although pedestrians are just wee sprites, running them over is met with a gruesome splatting noise, leaving their corpses splayed in a puddle of their own tummy juices. And it’s harder to avoid doing it, thanks to the somewhat unfortunate obscuring of the car by bridges and whatnot - you can dish out quite a serving of vehicular manslaughter without a moment’s intention.

So, should you? Absolutely yes. Despite their ten years, and so long as you can get them working on your PC (or find a copy for your PlayStation, or find a PlayStation), these are still remarkably fun. If they’d cost a chunk of cash we’d be a bit more hesitant to recommend, since clearly a budget copy of GTA III or Vice City offers a far more elaborate, intricate and visceral experience. But when they’re free, come on! They’re of historical interest, certainly, but they’re also fine ways to while away afternoons. Best of all, they’ll run on your crappy old laptop on the train, letting you offend old ladies and passing vicars while on the move.

Which, let’s face it, is all any of us can really ask for in life.

May 8, 2008

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