Grand Theft Auto 2

Grand Theft Auto 2
Grand Theft Auto 2 Cover
Platforms Windows, Dreamcast, PlayStation, Game Boy Color
Genre Before-they-were-famous Top-down Action
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Score 6  Clock score of 6Gameplay: 6
Fun Factor: 5
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 2
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Grand Theft Auto 2 is of course the game that came before Grand Theft Auto III, one of the most important games of the last decade. I always wondered what kind of games GTA1 and 2 were, and after playing them, it's obvious the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. GTA2 is essentially a top-down look at the Grand Theft Auto universe. Much of the core gameplay we know and love today is in GTA2, just from a totally different perspective. It's a great representative of the change from 2D to 3D as somehow it feels I could be playing the exact same game if it weren't for the view.

GTA2 was released in 1999 on a peculiar variety of systems: the Playstation, PC, the Dreamcast, and Game Boy Color. Every major gaming company got a version of this game, but I will personally be playing the PC version. Mostly because this game is absolutely free from Rockstar Games themselves. Yep, you can go to their site and download both GTA1 and 2 for free, not bad if you ask me. If you're one of those poor souls (like me) who doesn't own Grand Theft Auto IV, well, this may serve as a temporary replacement in your heart. Let's get to the first hour review of Grand Theft Auto 2.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select Play and the first hour of GTA2 begins. Some voice announces, "Remember, respect is everything!" some announcer yells. A nearby pay phone is ringing. I attempt to run up to it. I'm in the downtown district.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Pay Phone Respect Is Everything

01 - There are three fueding gangs here, the Zaibatsu, Loonies, and Yakuza, and I can help them out if I have enough respect from them. The cops will bust my balls for killing innocents though. I can save at a Church, but only if I have $50,000! Now that's a tithe!

02 - I'm told that in a nearby car is a pistol, a pink arrow points me to it. My character is the center of the screen and I'm looking at him from almost directly above.

03 - The controls are Resident Evil style controls, so you press forward to move forward and have to rotate yourself with the left and right buttons. Pretty awkward from this above ground point of view if you ask me. There's a few arrows around my car pointing me where to go, think I'll head to the gray one.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Figure Eight Tire Marks

04 - Geez, when you run over people you get points? Is that right...?

05 - Oh oh, I got the cops on my trail from running over too many peds!

07 - I have entered the Zaibatsu warehouse, and I have to climb some catwalks to reach the ringing pay phone. This is really weird. Running up ramps from this perspective just feels out of place.

08 - I have received my first mission, have to intercept some cheap Yakuza crap. The purple arrow shows me the way.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Zaibatsu Headquarters

09 - I jack a Truck Cab and I'm on my way. This vehicle is a beast! The purple arrow is telling me to go inside a building... have to find the entrance.

12 - Well, this is a basic delivery mission. Take the junk across town to three or more drop-off gang members. I say three or more because I accidentally ran over the third one. Whoops. Bloody mistake.

14 - I'm going towards the blue arrow this time. Oh man, this mission is a bank robbery! I pick up a screaming green Yakuza car.

17 - That did not go smooth. I accidentally side-swiped a police car so I spent the next few minutes running and driving from them. Eventually, my car started on fire, and well, you know what happens then (explodes). But I was busted before I blew up and the cops drop me off in front of the station.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Car On Fire

19 - I'm going to try the other Yakuza mission, I just have to pick someone up.

21 - This time I hop in the Yakuza's own purple Yen car. Cool.

22 - Oh, I beat it. Just had to drive two guys to the J-Lab. Haha, some guy tried to rob me but then a policeman started shooting at him. Thanks! I got $20,000 for that mission. Not bad. Maybe I'll try the bank heist again.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Yakuza Job Complete

24 - I end up at a different pay phone but still owned by the Yakuza. Someone tells me that I have to kill Zaibatsu to earn Yakuza respect. Makes sense, now I just have to find those guys.

25 - Not really sure where to consistently find Zaibatsu, so I head back to the gray arrow.

27 - It's hard to tell from this perspective who is who, but some guy started shooting at me so I shot back at him. Bullets appear as red balls, pretty hilarious.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Paramedics Revive Zaibatsu

28 - Just mowed down three Zaibatsu in a row. But the paramedics came and revived them!

29 - I wasn't really watching my health and was Wasted. I lost my guns but kept my Yakuza respect, which is going up, and my Zaibatsu respect is still way down!

30 - Oh sweet, picked up a Kill Frenzy token which gave me a flamethrower and the challenge to kill 60 people in two minutes! That was really hard though as the cops decided that wasn't a very nice thing to do and captured me.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Kill Frenzy Flamethrower

32 - Haha, I just punched as guy into the street and he got ran over by a speeding car.

33 - I think I might have enough respect with the Yakuza now, so I head back to their headquarters. Along the way I jack a car that has a Christian radio station playing, don't hear that in many games.

34 - Ah, the bank robbery mission again. Here we go.

37 - Someone tipped off the cops! I'm on the run to the car paint place to sneakily change the color of my car. The coppers will never know.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Bank Robbery Car Cop Chase

38 - I drop off the car, robber, and cash, and finish the job. Another $20,000 for me. I actually have over $50,000 now. I am now allowed to save my game, haha. Time to head to another blue arrow.

40 - Another pickup job, this time from someone who was in plastic surgery. Hey... where's my arrow?

41 - Just saw it for a split second, but it's gone again. I can not play without arrows pointing me exactly where to go!

44 - Awesome! Some fellow Loonies and I just blew up a ton of Zaibatsu cars! They explode with like a sonic boom.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Loonies Cars Exploding Sonic Boom

45 - Okay, for some reason the arrow only appears when I'm under structures. That's odd.

46 - Picked up a GTA2 symbol, no idea what it did though. I'm glad these Loonies are my friends because there are a ton of them around!

47 - Umm... the arrow that appears when I'm underneath is just pointing me in the direction I am facing in. I am thoroughly confused.

49 - I find a Loony phone, not enough respect though yet. They respect those who like killing Yakuzas!

Grand Theft Auto 2 Medicar Dead Loonies

50 - Maybe I'll go on a rampage.

52 - Ugh, killing cops gets you busted quick. And the Yakuza do not like to see me get busted. But hey, at least the arrows are back!

53 - Cool, I'm in a TV van. The satellite dish is rotating above me.

54 - I'm back in the Yakuza headquarters but there are no phones ringing. Man, I haven't had anything to do in like forever!

Grand Theft Auto 2 Vehicle Destruction Sonic Boom

56 - Ugh, it's the same mission again. I need a Medicar it says... maybe that's why there were no arrows before. Is a Medicar an ambulance? I kill a guy in the middle of the road and wait.

59 - Wow, I wish the game had just told me I needed an ambulance. Well, I picked up the guy from the hospital with the Medicar, and then immediately ran into a cop. Having the police and the Loonies on your trail is never an easy thing, especially when driving a boat like the Medicar. But I made it to the safehouse with my vehicle on fire. Phew.

60 - Our little character smokes when he's not moving. Man, he's just a bad role model all around. I decide to end my first hour of GTA2 in a massive car exploding spree. Uzis work really well for that and I was blowing up cars left and right for the next minute. Awesome.

Time for some scores out of 10.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Exploding Ambulance 1000 Points

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 2

Gameplay: 6
Let me get this out there, the controls in Grand Theft Auto 2 are definitely awkward. Even though I played the PC version, I still used a PlayStation controller and I was simply never comfortable with driving or running around on foot. I'm sure the developers spent a lot of time comparing a traditional control scheme and the controls they implemented, and I'm sure they made the right decision, but maybe this is just one of those games where nothing would feel right to someone like me. I always found myself running into traffic or straight into buildings, I was playing against the controls as much as I was dealing with actual gameplay elements. This is not to say everything is bad, because beyond the controls everything is really good. This is a complex game that has a ton of things going on, I was constantly impressed with the number of vehicles and pedestrians running around at a given moment, and especially how they reacted to my insanity.

Fun Factor: 5
The controls really held me back from enjoying Grand Theft Auto 2 as much as I enjoyed its 3D descendants. I really hate to admit this but it's the honest truth. Maybe after a couple hours of playing I would be a seasoned pro, but since this is just the first hour, I can't cut it any slack. However, the game is still fun, there are plenty of explosions and of course, much death and destruction. The most enjoyable parts of the later games are still around though, just from a different point of view.

Graphics and Sound: 8
The top-down view of Grand Theft Auto 2 allows for a surprisingly detailed game in terms of graphics. The vehicles and roads are easy on the eyes but the biggest graphical problem are the people. Because of the view, you can really only see the top of their head and the color of their shirt. Where cars are easily recognizable for their large top, pedestrians are much harder to pick out. Is that a cop? Is that a pedestrian? Is that a member of the Zaibatsu gang? I often had no idea.

There's no traditional voice acting in GTA2, but the awesome radio stations are present and as funny as ever. They don't seem as useful in this game as compared to San Andreas where you had to drive very long distances at points, but I'm sure there are some moments where there's enough downtime to enjoy the embedded humor. Besides the radio, the sound effects are excellent, as they typically are in GTA games. No complaints from me here.

Story: 2
In Grand Theft Auto 2, you play a nameless hero who finds himself in the middle of a nameless city. A nearby pay phone rings and you're informed about the gangs of the area and how you can gang their respect and perform missions for them. That's pretty much the game's backstory in the first hour. Missions are the only other time for moving the plot forward, and unlike Grand Theft Auto III, you just get a mission over the phone, no cutscenes or random banter here. You may like this straight forwardness, but it doesn't do much for a game's plot.

Overall: 6
Grand Theft Auto 2 is an above average game that gives an early peek at what the blockbuster series has since become. There are not a lot of games that I can think of that offer this top-down perspective from such a height but it allows for a lot of stylized action on screen at once. Since the game is free, there's really no reason for fans of the series to check out where its roots lie, so give Grand Theft Auto 2 a look if you're interested, otherwise go back to the undoubtedly glorious Grand Theft Auto IV.

Grand Theft Auto 2 Busted Mayhem Cops