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Monday, December 19, 2011

Grand Theft Auto 2 Review

Original release:
North America: April 30th, 2000
Europe: July 28th, 2000
Japan: Unreleased

Game details:
1 player
Standard controller
VMU compatible (HEADS UP! This game takes 94 blocks. More than Shenmue.)
VGA compatible

Grand Theft Auto is a series that has become an institution of video games. I think that most people think the series chronology is much like a porn movie; they start at a number other than one. This is wrong though, and there were two games before three and they are surprisingly competent games. The Dreamcast got one of those games, the better of the two, and it's the best console version of the game. The PlayStation version was toned down for violence and stuck in a daytime mode due to the lower graphics capability. The exact opposite happened for the Dreamcast.

Grand Theft Auto 2 is vastly different from the succeeding games in the series, so you may want to restrain yourself and take a few deep breaths if you only now learned of this game's existence on Dreamcast. GTA 2 is played from a top down perspective, but has essentially the same gameplay elements as the third. I say essentially because you can still kill pedestrians, steal cars and complete a slew of missions that are basically the same thing repeated over and over… it's just done in a much simpler way. Think of Asteroids; that's what it's sort of like here. You shoot out little bullets in the same way and that's how GTA 2 works. Everyone who has played a GTA game has gone on a rampage and just tried to kill as many people as they could and I tend to think that it's more fun in GTA 2. You don't have to deal with aiming as much, so you're free to just mow down as many civilians as you can. It's also easier to start again when you die since it's easy to move quickly across the city and get to hidden weapons.

This is definitely Grand Theft Auto style gameplay, just from a different perspective. I was actually playing GTA 3 on my iOS device today and was screwing with the perspectives and remembered that GTA 3 had an overhead view similar to GTA 2. This is a good example of how interchangeable the gameplay style is between 2D and 3D. GTA 2 also has the series trademark sense of humor intact. It's lacking the larger-than-life characters and plot of the 3D series, but it's certainly no less of a game. I also wanted to note again that saving takes 94 blocks of your memory card and give a less in how to save; you need to get at least $50,000 and find the nearest church to you and enter it to save. Herein lies a problem; how the hell do I find the church? For the first option, you can wander around until you find one. That's the one I use. For the second option, you can find a TV van and its antenna will point to the church.

GTA 2 has some pretty nice lighting effects for a Dreamcast game, and that's really the biggest graphical flourish here. Everything is detailed enough for you to identify things quickly and easily, but nothing truly stands out as looking excellent. Sadly, the corny intro movie was encoded at a pretty low quality even though the disc had several hundred megabytes left to fill.

This game has a sound glitch that occurs after you pause the game. The ambient noise will become very loud, but this can be fixed by entering a car. Everyone is probably wondering how the radio is and, again comparing to the 3D games, it's sadly disappointing. There don't seem to be any licensed songs (maybe one or two by some unknown artists) and the commercials aren't quite the level of writing on the in-game stations for later titles.

GTA 2 is certainly a Grand Theft Auto game, just on a smaller scale than future titles. If you're an open-minded gamer who won't recoil in disgust at an early title in a franchise they came late to the party with, I 100% recommend this. If you have hangups about graphical quality or can't understand why any game would be 2D, then you should probably stick to picking up hookers and giggling in later GTA titles.


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