Games you should still be playing: GTA2 edition

With all the fuss surrounding Rockstar’s latest Grand Theft Auto title it’s easy to ignore basically every other game that has been released in the last year, much less a game that landed in gamers hands way back in 1999. Well strap on your nostalgia helmets because we’re going for a test drive with the game that brought auto theft into the forefront of mass-market gamers radars and cemented the brand that is so well received today. I’m talking of course about Grand Theft Auto 2.

Grand Theft Auto IV showcases the power of the current-gen systems with a huge world populated by believable characters and events that unfold dynamically. Despite this, GTA2 is in many ways even more of an open ended experience than its hi-def grandson could even hope to be. In GTA3, Vice City, San Andreas and GTA4, you are given a character that must climb the status ladder in the underground world of drugs, theft, and murder. The path which you take to get from the beginning to the end can vary based on how you play the game, but the basic line will always remain. This is where GTA2 really sets itself apart in the series. The game presents you with the same single-character storyline, and yet you have many more choices in terms of deciding where your alliances lie. The world of GTA2 (known only as Anywhere City) is ruled by seven separate gangs who are all vying for control of the city. As the player, you have the choice of which gang you most identify with and who you’d like to work for.

The story consists of three “levels” which are parts of the story that fit together like episodes. In each of the game’s levels there are three of the gangs to choose from, with the Zaibatsu Corporation being the only group to appear in all the portions. The other factions in Anywhere City include; the Rednecks, Loonies, Russian Mafia, Scientists, Yakuza, and a radical hippie group known as Hare Krishna. Each of the gangs has various objectives as well as specific vehicles and parts of the city in which they dwell. Each of the episodes is presented in a completely open format and the player is given the opportunity to work for or against any gang they please.

The best part about this gang-heavy atmosphere is that you will gradually earn the respect of the gangs that you work for and in doing so, you’ll steadily lose the respect of that gang’s rivals. This aspect of the experience is tracked by a Respect Meter that is always present in the upper left hand corner of the screen. This adds a whole new layer to the experience because if you’re on the hit list a rival gang, you’ll be attacked anytime you’re in their neck of the woods, regardless of whether or not you prompted the confrontation.

As you can probably tell already, the game is a far cry from the more realistic attempts of the newer GTA titles. GTA2 was definitely not as concerned with realism as its recent counterparts. For example, you could steal a car, drive it up a set of stair to the top of a 5-story building and then floor your stolen ride right off the edge and onto the poor citizens below with only the most minor of damages occurring to your vehicle. Also, there’s always a group of monks that need to be run down if you ever feel the urge.

For all these reasons, and more, GTA2 still stands as a shining achievement of what happens with you push a game to the brink of both innovation and social acceptance. Show some love for this game, because without the adventures of Anywhere City you might never have heard the name Niko Bellic.

  • The Game: Grand Theft Auto 2
  • System: PC, Playstation, Dreamcast
  • Release Date: 1999
  • Rarity: PC: Common, Playsation: Semi-common, Dreamcast: Rare
  • Average Price: PC: FREE!, Playstation: $5, Dreamcast: $30+