Posted by Notalot on Feb. 26, 2015, 4:03 a.m.

I like to sleep. However, before work, I also like to have half an hour where I'm awake but still in bed, just thinking about shit. During today's half-hour thinking period, I came to a realisation - I remember the circumstances of buying every single Grand Theft Auto game, even though I got the first one before I hit 10 years old.

So here's a big old recap of my memories!

== Prologue ==

Before I owned any of the games, I played GTA2 (or GTa2 as I remember it being spelt). My then-friend, Karl, who we'll return to later in this blog, owned it on PS1. Being one of my best friends at the time, he came around to my house with it pretty much every day. It was the first game I ever played where I didn't have to do X, or Y, to progress - I could spend hours just playing around. I could follow that road. I could run over that Elvis impersonator (wait, that might have been GTA1?). I could go around pissing off the gang I think were called Zaibatsu, or that was a brand of car, or both. I could cheat in weapons and use the flamethrower to set people (mostly myself) on fire! My mind was open.

== GTA1 ==

Shortly after the turn of the new millennium, me and my dad were in the car on our way back from an unsuccessful visit to Banham Car Boot Sale when we saw a garage sale. This was situated in a village I can picture perfectly but not name because the only time I've ever been in it was on the way to, or from, Banham. But there, for a few quid, was a copy of GTA1. My dad, not being my mum, didn't give a fuck about buying an 18-certificate game for a 9 year old, so immediately bought me it.

I was inseparable from my PS1 for days. I missed a couple of the things my mate's copy of its sequel had - spontaneous car combustion being the biggest thing but also the wider selection of weaponry - but nonetheless having my own copy of a game in which I could run free was something else.

== GTA2 ==

Maybe a year after GTA1 (it was before GTA3 came out, after the PS2 came out, but also before I owned a PS2), I got GTA2 and Hogs of War for my 10th birthday. I remember this birthday vividly as this was when my childhood girlfriend and me were over - she decided to go to a trampoline thing instead of my 10th birthday party, so she could fuck right off.

I remember having several ACTUAL friends over for this party, and during it, we played multiplayer Hogs of War while I stared at the single player copy of GTA2 longingly. After the party, that game became glued to my PS1 pretty much permanently from that day until I got the PS2, and even with my first PS2 games (Crazy Taxi, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 and the first SSX) and my copy of Ape Escape I got at Banham Car Boot Sale for lack of a copy of GTAIII there, GTA2 was in regular rotation.

== GTAIII ==

Early 2002 (or maybe late 2001), and Karl had moved away. The last time I ever saw him was the one time after moving that he got his parents to bring him over. I remember him being about two hours late, but I remember him leaving his car clutching motherfucking Grand Theft Auto III like it was Jesus Christ. He then revealed that his copy was broken, which he proved by inserting it into my PS2. My first experience of GTAIII was as follows:


I will never forget that first cutscene with 8-ball. I didn't Google any of that, so I might be talking shit and looking like an idiot. But yeah, the shattered dream meant I never missed Karl!

Mid-2002 rolled by and I was with my mum in Bury St Edmunds. She wasn't entirely convinced she wanted to buy me a copy of GTAIII - I was entirely convinced I needed it. We got into an absolutely wonderful little indie game shop called Fanatix, and there it was - a second hand copy of GTAIII for something like £20. It took some persuasion, as well as promises of behaving myself and not "copying the game's actions in reality", but we left with it.

I played the game a hell of a lot throughout 2002, however, maybe not quite as much as the others. Why? Well, for starters, I was stuck in Portland - I could NEVER finish the second-to-last mission before unlocking… Staunton I think the second island was called. It involved raiding a boat and getting past GTAIII's aiming system, which was a feat I deemed impossible after about a hundred failed attempts. I did get past it eventually by using the Flying Cars and Spawn a Tank cheat. If you've never done it, you can use these two cheats, point the tank's turrent backwards, and use it to launch yourself over the broken bridge between Portland and Staunton - you can basically fly with it.

== GTA Vice City ==

By this point I was becoming more savvy as to release dates. I got Vice City for Christmas 2002 (the last "main" GTA I didn't get on launch date), and over the next two years, I played it so much I broke both it and the PS2. The only console failure I've ever experienced! I have so many memories of this one it's untrue:

Missions. Goddamn, some of Vice City's missions. The helicopter shooting mission that unlocks the whole map that refers to Phnom Penh somehow. The mission where you're either drugged or drunk and have to drive to hospital. THAT FUCKING MISSION WHERE YOU SAVE SOMEONE TAKEN HOSTAGE IN A DUMP OKAY NOT ALL MEMORIES ARE SACRED FFFF.

I remember running on Boxing Day to my best mate of the time Ben's house, knocking on his door, saying "Vice City" to him and us running back to mine to play the everloving shite out of it. We basically completed the hell out of the game, at a time without guidebooks or internet. Yes, that includes collecting all 100 of those weird green little hidden package bastards.

And the music! Oh god, this game started a massive 80s music kick for me - I started surprising my parents by naming off not only the Starships and the a-has of the 80s, but also weird shit like Wang Chung and Laura Branigan. I got a ton of 80s compilation CDs as a result, too. Perhaps my only sadness here was that it meant they did away with the original music from the first three, music so good that I got infuriated I couldn't find any albums by Sterlin or Frankie Fame ("I… can do… nothing else but see through you!")

== GTA San Andreas ==

I think San Andreas was the longest wait I've ever had to suffer for a game. It was quelled a bit by the release of Tony Hawk's Underground 2 earlier in the month, which kept me busy, but… oh man. I had two successive sleepovers with two different mates for the night San Andreas was released and the night after. It happened - it came out - and holy shit. Up until the day it came out, Vice City felt like it was maxing out the PS2. San Andreas was having none of it.

Los Santos felt as big as Vice City alone, but I remember looking at the map in the box and seeing it being a small portion of the entire area - and only one of the three cities. I couldn't believe it. Then I started playing the story, and more of it started becoming accessible.

And it was all so varied - Los Santos was the quaint Los Angeles city, but then there was San Fierro, the San Francisco-a-like. There was Blaine County, a rural area that goddamn TRACTORS and COMBINE HARVESTERS roamed around - and you could harvest PEOPLE! There was a fucking mountain! There was a fucking desert! And then there was Las Venturas, the Las Vegas-like city where you could go and gamble! You could get into debt and be hunted down!

You could buy houses and places! You could play the game two player by going on dates or just finding key spots! THERE WASN'T ANY MASKED LOAD TIMES ANY MORE! You had character stats - you could get podgy by overeating or fit by visiting a gym! There was a motherfucking jetpack! My head exploded.

And just as I was recovering, I got to the mission where you temporarily returned to Liberty City from GTAIII. I think as a 13 year old kid I was almost in tears this game made me so happy.

== GTAIV ==

It had been four years since San Andreas last gave me a GTA kick. I'd tried the alternatives - True Crime: Streets of LA springs to mind as the biggest disappointment - only Bully had satisfied (Bully is, still to this day, my favourite game of all time by the way), and Bully was Rockstar as well! Trailers had slowly been creeping out for a year and a half. And then it came out.

Am I one of the lovers or one of the haters of IV? It's always a contentious subject - it took a more serious tone compared to the jetpack silliness of San Andreas, it scaled down the city by returning to Liberty City and became totally urban again, and it was a lot less colourful. But I loved it.

Why did I love it? Technical advancements and mission variety. People say GTAIV isn't fun because of how serious it is. To those people, I suggest that you've never played with its physics engine. You've never pushed people down a flight of stairs. You've never shoved them over a kerb and watched them fall over delightfully. It was great. The attention to detail in stuff like this was why I favoured this over Saints Row 2. I still loved SR2, and SR3, they were dumb and great. But they never felt as filled out as GTAIV.

The missions were glorious. Three Leaf Clover is in my top-10 missions of all time of any game. I never, ever felt bored with the game. And to those that don't like Roman continuously calling you - spoiler alert - you can have him die if you choose the right ending. So that stops that!

Perhaps my only problem here, which is 0% GTAIV's fault, was that I was 17 at this point, so my child-level excitement had gone. I fucking miss it!

== GTA Episodes ==

I was gutted the Episodes DLC were locked to Xbox 360, as I didn't own one. That is, until 2010, when I went to Banham Car Boot Sale and found a Generation I Xbox 360 with Gears of War for £60 and a disc copy of Episodes (with both of them) for £20. It was the first time I'd ever owned two different current-generation consoles at once.

Now, I had £100 from my birthday that May, so on the way home I was sort of suffering from buyer's remorse. It wasn't helped by the fact I was staring at this machine fully aware that it was probably a RROD machine that the seller was getting rid of. Plugged it into my TV when I got home, and… fuck me, it was absolutely fine. Perhaps the only issue with it was the dumbass F.E.A.R. 2 faceplate on it!

Anyway, I liked Episodes a lot. The Lost and Damned was alright, The Ballad of Gay Tony was fantastic and I never went back to vanilla GTAIV for sandbox amusement after that.

== GTAV ==

It took them five years to go from IV to V. And my god, does it show. When I got this game on PS3, I didn't finish the story. I didn't finish it, because it was so fun to just play around in it. I put >100 hours into it and never got to the second heist. However, I got it on PS4 a year later, and finished it. This time, I was more engaged in the story. That's rare for me - I NEVER get engaged in game stories! Excellent ending - not a spoiler but anyone that's also finished it will understand, I picked Option C. Good call!

I can't put into words how good this is. Get it. When the PC version is out I'm going to buy it a third time, because I'm a fucking sucker!

== Epilogue ==

Anyway, this has to be my favourite series of all time. I skipped a few of the "side" games - I didn't get a PSP until 2011 so Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories were very dated by then. Chinatown Wars was pretty good, although the iPad version can go swiftly to hell. I also didn't get GTA London for PS1 until a lot later.

Erm, I think that's it. Yeah!



Mega 6 years, 3 months ago

The only two GTA games I've ever played are the first, and 3. I loved the original game; it was my first experience with an "open world" in gaming, and once I had great fun finding the tanks and blowing stuff up. :P

GTA3 was an awesome experience for me. I couldn't stop playing it when I first got my hands on it. There was just so much to do, or explore. It got old eventually; I think I got to the third island before I started having trouble with the missions.

A few years ago, before I had ready cash, I always used to see GTA Vice City, San Andreas and IV on sale at the local stores; of course, now that I actually have a little cash on hand, I can never find them (Or any other games I want).

Nopykon 6 years, 3 months ago

I played GTA a lot at a friends house and then bought GTa2 for PSX. There weren't any choppers in GTa2, which made me a little jelly of my friend, but it was still fun.

Instead of GTA3, I played a lot of Driver 1 & 2. I had no PS2 nor any friends with it after my family relocated in 2001, so my GTA3-dosage came later in the form of Liberty City Stories for PSP. It remains the only GTA game where I've completed the campaign. I have Liberty City mapped in my brain, the game pretty much swallowed up an entire summer.

I'm always impressed with the scale of a new GTA game, wish I could see how they're making it all work.

Jani_Nykanen 6 years, 3 months ago

About seven or eight years ago all my friends had a GTA game (usually San Andreas). I wanted to have it too, but when I finally got it (Liberty City: Stories for PS2, not the best one, though), the game was too hard for me. I enjoyed driving around shooting innocent people (which I don't enjoy anymore, not even in games), but the missions were too hard even with cheats.

Now those missions aren't very hard anymore, but I'm not interested in the genre anymore, although I might buy the PC version of GTA V when it's released alongside Half-Life 3 in 2092.

RC 6 years, 3 months ago

My first experience with GTA was GTA2. I saw it in a rental store and had my dad rent it for me. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing in the game, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Eventually my brother got GTA3 or Vice City, I can't remember, so I watched him play it a lot. One day I was in Walmart and saw the GTA collection for PS1 sitting there, which had GTA, GTA London, and GTA2 in it. I bought that stuff up and played it, but for some reason it wasn't very satisfying to me after watching my brother play his GTA games.

My cousin had San Andreas which I'd watch him play and sometimes play with him using the multiplayer thing you mentioned. Pretty fun game, but I never really played it on my own. The first actual 3D GTA game I owned and played myself was GTA IV. I never actually did any of the story, I just played around with it. My cousin came over to spend the night one time and progressed far enough in the story to unlock the rest of the city for me, though, so that was nice.

As far as GTA V goes, I've only watched videos on YouTube and my brother play it. The closest I ever got to personally play it was when my brother had to take his dog outside and handed me the controller as he was playing online and didn't want to get killed. No one showed up near him, though, so I didn't really do anything.

Rez 6 years, 3 months ago

I love the phone/internet stuff GTA4 introduced. Getting the random calls from Roman was a bit annoying, but overall it contributed to the world feeling a little more lively. Also, those fake blogs/dating profile pages are brilliantly written. Especially Eddie Low's.

Toast 6 years, 3 months ago

It took them five years to go from IV to V. And my god, does it show.

This is why it's so much easier to respect GTA than all the other big franchises. Any games that take >5 years to make (GTA, Elder Scrolls, Half-Life, Civ) are in a different league to annual releases (Assassin's Creed, COD, other shit), which I mostly dislike

Notalot 6 years, 3 months ago

@Cyrus I'm not sure why, but Redemption never really clicked with me! I gave it hours and hours and just couldn't get into it. I liked Revolver as well, although that was a much differerent game.

@Toast To some extent I agree, although there are some exceptions I don't mind (I really enjoyed Assassin's Creed IV, the only AC game I've ever enjoyed!)

I do have a problem at the moment though - I finished GTAV last week, and since then I've been in limbo on what to play next. I tried Sleeping Dogs' remastered version (I finished that in 2012 on PS3) but it became painfully clear to me that it's worlds behind GTAV. I'm trying Far Cry 4 now, which is showing a lot more promise as a follow-up game.