Review by antseezee

"Violence gets shifted into second gear."

Were you ever tempted by the thought of stealing a car in broad daylight? Or perhaps sprinting in the middle of a street screaming obscenities? Both of these situations were made possible thanks to a gaming series that was erected a few years ago. Grand Theft Auto was the beginning of enhanced violence and mature themes in video games. After a few years, Rockstar released the sequel Grand Theft Auto 2 for thousands of fans. While it offered nothing exceptionally new, the game brought back the ideals of the evil sides of society. GTA 2 puts you in the role of a low-life criminal who is trying to make a name for himself. By wreaking havoc, performing destruction, doing mindless acts, and completing jobs for rival gangs, you earn money as a way of life. However, Grand Theft Auto 2 is more than a simple linear based game where you run throughout levels, and follow exact directions. Instead, GTA 2 allows the player to explore and do whatever he/she wants. You can easily steal a car, run down 50 pedestrians, and get shot by law enforcement officers. As you commit more heinous crimes, your wanted level increases, causing more risk in the long run. If you've wanted to execute the dangerous side of your personality, Grand Theft Auto 2 does just that.

Graphics [6/10]
In case you never played the original GTAs, then you're in for one wild ride. Unlike the world-wide famous sequel (GTA 3 & Vice City), Grand Theft Auto 2 is played primarily from a top-down view. Basically, your character is seen from above, similar to a helicopter peering down on spectators. Cars, trucks, vans, people, and buildings are all seen from an overview perspective, allowing the gamer to get a solid basis of the environment. Before you can understand how the graphics look, you must first understand the environment. GTA 2 takes place in several urban city-like scenarios. Everything ranging from office buildings, sidewalks, streets, major avenues, people, and cars constantly flow through the game. Rather than a simple side scrolling game, or 3D shooter, the game is tossed in the middle of a lively environment. Combine those factors with the pseudo 3D top-down view, and you get Grand Theft Auto 2. Moving onward, one of the most impressive visual features is the amount of detail. While city buildings and streets are hard to make a distinction between, there are several different cars throughout the game. Many vehicles resemble real-life cars, such as Chevys, Fords, Toyotas, and BMWs. Sports cars show off elegant features, such as spoilers and sun roofs. Electrifying colors are exhibited in different paint shades, and eloquent designs. Even your pedestrians and gangsters wear different clothes, colored themes, and overall looks.

Despite the overall variation of features, GTA 2 tends to suffer from more elementary problems. Since the game takes place in a wide open location, every element is scaled to small sizes. People look like marbles (from high above), with your cars and trucks resembling rectangle erasers. This becomes a problem later in the game since your field of vision is cut off at the end of screens. If you're speeding, you have no idea if there's a car in front of you, or a roadblock ahead. Frankly enough, the camera view doesn't pan ahead far enough, or keep up at the same pace to give the player a decent perspective. This can turn out to be a huge flaw since you'll unknowingly crash into oncoming traffic, and it can completely ruin your rampage streak. Besides that, the Playstation version tends to suffer from hardware problems. Special effects are not pleasing to the eyes. Explosions are simple frame-by-frame yellow/red blotches, which tend to get larger and show contusion marks. The PS version doesn't have options for night-time/sunset driving. Guns display simple dots or specks flying across the screen. Even your blood spatches only show off minimal red dots at most. There's really nothing overwhelmingly pleasing, such as eye candy or detailing for the most part. The most unbearable disadvantage by far is the framerate slowdown. The PS version simply suffers from sluggish graphics, especially when numerous cars, effects, and people get on screen. The in-game action is literally cut in half as you feel like you hit a rock-solid warped dimension.

Sound/Music [8/10]
While the visuals of GTA 2 don't go ''beyond the call of duty'', the audio department certainly makes up for it. Thanks to the CD format, Grand Theft Auto 2 contains plenty of voice clips, background music, sound effects, and just plain out humorous segments. The second you jump into a car, you're presented with radio music. Contrary to the boring music you hear on generic FM stations, GTA 2 contains combinations of background music and voice clips. There are literally around 20 different background songs, ranging from hip hop, rap, rock n' roll, country, and even techno. Each radio station in the game provides a different general theme, and you even have the control to switch between stations. Besides that, announcers will butt in every so often with some funny commentary. Voice acting displays wondrous amounts of change, such as a crazy Japanese girl screaming, a radio announcer aiming his hatred towards car thieves, and even sex/mature commercial ads. You begin to wonder if some of the advertised products contain sections of subliminal advertising. Even the sound effects are distinct and contain high quality. Cutting off another driver will force him/her to call you a ''bad name.'' Different weapons portray different pitched effects. The whole feeling of the urban city environment is captured thanks to a constant combination of sound effects, radio stations, and listening appeal.

Gameplay [8/10]
The criminal underworld is a dangerous place to be. Illegal actions are constantly being performed, such as robberies, murder, drug rings, and pure mayhem. The Grand Theft Auto series was one of the first games to capture that feeling by trapping the essence. Grand Theft Auto 2 continues the chaotic behavior, despite resembling an expansion pack. First off, GTA 2 is a freeform action game that combines elements of cars, executing crimes, and earning money in the whole process. Since the game puts you in the role of a no-name criminal, you start off as a small person on the screen. Gameplay in GTA 2 is nearly limitless. Unlike other games which send you on enduring quests to get an item, you simply run out on the street, and steal it in Grand Theft Auto 2. Actions are a thoughtless process, as you can shoot any thing, any one, without any regrets. The gameplay system and controls fit the Playstation quite nicely. Your character can carry an assortment of weapons ranging from pistols, machine guns, shotguns, explosives (molotov cocktails, rocket launcher), and even a flame thrower. Cars have extremely sensitive controls, resembling their real-life counterparts. For example, driving a sports car tends to have fast acceleration/top speeds, but suffers from weak armor.

On each map, there's a money objective you have to reach in order to complete the level. In order to accumulate money, you must be able to stay alive, not get arrested, and complete jobs at the same time. Money is earned by performing illegal acts, such as running over pedestrians, blowing up automobiles, shooting police officers, and causing pure havoc. There are gangs located on each map which will offer jobs to your character via pay phones. Compared to the original, GTA 2 does have a few ''new'' features that makes it a big improvement. In order to receive jobs from gangs, you must be rated high on their satisfaction meter. Near the top of the screen is a 3-row meter which represents the approval of three rival gangs in the city. Killing members from a certain gang will cause them to hate you, while helping another will raise your approval rating. In a sense, GTA 2 holds a sense of politics as you try to appease all 3 gangs, while managing a constant cash flow. Often, you'll be forced to trample down 20 gang members just so you can get higher rated jobs from an opposing clan. These jobs are usually odd-bit missions which force you to drive around the city performing tasks. Sometimes you'll be commanded to steal a hot dog truck so you can poison a rival gang, and cause corruption inside their ranks.

Not only do you get to do whatever you want, but it can be completed in style. As always, penalties come with bad things. Whenever an illegal act is performed, your wanted meter will rise. In a sense, the more acts you commit, the higher risk of getting busted by the police. You simply can't go around the city killing everyone in sight because law enforcement officers will also try to hunt you down. Grand Theft Auto 2 turns out to be a hot-headed war as opposing gangs, law enforcement, and the sheer elements of an urban environment all place pressure on you. While it may seem like a truly fun adventure, Grand Theft Auto 2 doesn't feel like a sequel. Most key elements of the original are hardly unchanged (except the Gang meter). The overall appeal is that GTA 2 feels more like a spicy expansion pack, than a true sequel to a renovating game.

Fun [10/10]
When a video game gets labeled as ''Mature - 17+'', you definitely know something isn't right. Grand Theft Auto 2 is quite possibly one of the most entertaining video games available on the Playstation. Why is it so fun? Because of the lack of restraints that the developers put on the gamer. You literally play the role of a lowly thug who performs violent acts in exchange for money. Factors such as the innocent citizens, crime gangs, law enforcement, and constant motion makes the game one thrilling ride. Other developers simply censor out things that are ''unethical'' to society. Rockstar preferred the latter, by allowing the player to express their own ideals. Besides that, GTA 2 manages to combine several humorous elements as well. Your employers will constantly speak with themed dialog, cursing when you mess something up. Missions are usually violent, but extremely entertaining as you get to modify vehicles in numerous ways. Have you ever seen a fire truck with a flame thrower added on? Or how about trailing a snitch so you can dump him off the pier? Ideas that are unimaginable is what makes GTA 2 so unique. Pile all of that on top of the randomness of the city, and you get a perfectly entertaining game.

Replayability [7/10]
Although GTA 2 may be an overwhelmingly exciting game, it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be your most replayed video game. Most freeform games often contain plenty of acts that the user can discover. Grand Theft Auto 2 contains many side missions that will track the player off into a new dimension. There are usually secrets spread out across the map, such as killing frenzies. Ever wanted to perform a mass killing and not be penalized for it? Killing frenzies are basically timed marathons that force you to complete an objective in a certain amount of time. For example, if you step on a killing frenzy, it may say kill 10 people with a shotgun in 90 seconds. If you complete the goal, your bonus multiplier will increase, the wanted meter will go back to zero, and you'll receive a hefty amount of cash in the long run. If you complete missions and crazy acts in consecutive runs, that cash is multiplied by your bonus meter to give you even more cash. Besides the statistical punch, GTA 2 does keep all stats recorded. It literally counts every pedestrian run over, law enforcement officers killed, and even total car damage recorded.

Unfortunately, there are only three separate maps that the game has to offer. Most of these are changes in atmosphere, such as industrial, downtown, and residential sectors. Gangs show plenty of variety, such as Rednecks, Scientists, Russian Mafia, and the almighty Zaibatsu. There are about ten different weapons, although most just differ between power and range. With plenty of varying cars and vehicles to drive, the player should become familiar with the ''slow'' and ''fast'' cars. Despite all this, GTA 2 does become slightly boring after a while. As you progress in the game, missions become harder and more complex. Usually one mission can take up to 20 minutes to complete just because of the pure hectic navigation. If you don't have the original poster map that came with the CD case, you're practically screwed. Cities are huge, and there's no in-game map to track your location. Regardless, GTA 2 holds enough replay value for the average gamer.

Difficulty [5/10]
Variety can sometimes be a tasteful, or yucky flavor. Thankfully, GTA 2 contains plenty of change, differential, and overall appeal to make it a fairly challenging game. The second you start the game, most of the difficulty comes down to what the player does. If you're constantly running down pedestrians, then you're making the game hard on yourself. Your wanted meter rises, which in effect, calls out for more aggressive computer AI. Once your wanted meter reaches 4 stars, armed SWAT officers will try to take you down. The situation can get so extreme that government agents, and even Army tanks will try to annihilate you. However, most of these conflicts can be easily avoided since the player's style determines the challenge. If you're extremely conservative, and hardly run over anyone, then you shouldn't have to worry about law enforcement. Basically put, most of the challenge in GTA 2 comes from playing style. Besides that, the actual AI isn't too smart. Chases often result into ''let's see if I can outsmart the computer.'' Vehicle AI will sometimes crash into walls, or unknown spectators because of vector tracing (follows a point on your vehicle). Missions are related around following arrows and constantly switching locations. The money goal can easily be satisfied by going on a rampage in a tank, and earning enough money. Simply put, GTA 2 is an average game in which just about every single gamer could beat.

Final Factor [7/10]
In the true end, Grand Theft Auto 2 is the prime example of an overhyped game. Rockstar produced a gem with the original Grand Theft Auto, and made some improvements for GTA 2. However, with practically the same game (except a refreshing new look), you're presented with GTA 2. Combining a few new features, such as the gang meter, better laid-out maps, and overall appeal, GTA 2 still feels like an expansion pack. Mature adult themes are usually unwelcomed to the gaming community, but this is an exception. It manages to combine elements of violence, cars, and still be extremely fun in the end. Compared to the PC version though, the Playstation version of GTA 2 is somewhat of a letdown. With no multiplayer mode (PC has it), and a sluggish effort on visual effects, out comes the PS version. Don't get me wrong, this is a great game, but slightly overrated in a sense. If you're looking for one of the impressive hits on the Playstation, look towards GTA 2. However, if you're looking for the ultimate sequel to the Grand Theft Auto series, look towards the extremely popular GTA 3/Vice City culmination. Just remember, this is a video game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 10/14/03

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