The enormously popular Grand Theft Auto series began in 1997 on the PlayStation and PC with this rather controversial outing. Players take control of a criminal and you rob cars and cause mayhem – let’s see where this 160+ million selling series all started, then! Boom!
Grand Theft Auto
DMA Design created the series, a now Edinburgh-based studio arguably most famous for Lemmings as Acme Software in Dundee.
A name change to DMA took place in 1987, but it wasn’t until 1995 that it began work – specifically on 4th April.
First called Race’n’Chase, its name change was far from the biggest problem – many overseeing the title wanted it all called off. As a result of development issues, various project timelines were missed or abandoned.
But the team stayed true to its vision, which wasn’t any grand high-concept, philosophical statement. GTA exists as a fun and chaotic escapist experience – cops and robbers where the player is the latter, which is a tad more fun than your usually well-behaved life.
With its glorification of crime and extreme violence, Grand Theft Auto propelled the concept of “mature” gaming forward to make the industry more adult-friendly.
And we remember this game well, as we spent our gaming time primarily between the Nintendo 64 and PC. The arrival of GTA was something quite out of the blue, but developers were pushing forward the bounds of gaming violence at the time.
Despite its cartoony style, you can run around fabricated US cities and rob cars, complete illegal missions, or just go on a horrendous killing spree for no reason.
We’ve always found that part of the series vile, as you can just go off on wildly insane murdering fests with the cops hunting you down.
But away from those controversial aspects, there’s a lot to like about the games – even the first outing all these years on.
It’s distinct from most of the series as it’s a top-down view, as opposed to the 3D open-world feel from III onwards. Complementing that is an interesting soundtrack, which only plays when you get in a car – you can even adjust the radio to the station of your choice.
One big issue is the lack of a save option. So you just have to launch into the game and play it arcade style – die and you’ll have to start all over again, meaning a lot of players probably never got past the first sprawling city.
But it still offers an interesting option of taking the linear path through the game’s narrative (and the studio’s sense of humour shines through to this day), or just going off and causing bedlam on a joy riding free-for-all.
Entertaining, then, but primitive compared to recent entries to the seasons. But as mindless juvenile violence goes, Grand Theft Auto always wins out.
After the first game took off, Sheffield’s Gremlin Interactive acquired DMA Design. After that GTA 2 was another big hit, so even bigger studios got involved – Infogrames acquired Gremlin.
Then DMA Design was sold to New York-based Take-Two Interactive, which owns publisher Rockstar Games. The latter had always published the series, but it placed the American company in more control of its most valuable asset.
As such, DMA Design is now called Rockstar North.
The GTA series has gone from strength to strength – at least in terms of sales – with 2013’s GTA V being a massive record breaker.
There will be more, of course, but we generally find the 3D versions have aged badly. GTA III (2001), although groundbreaking at the time, just doesn’t play very well now.
Anyway, we await the next instalment to see what Rockstar North can do on a creative level next. One things for sure, it’ll be grand! Yeah?