Review by Lechat

"Great fun, but not for the weak at heart"

Before I start this review properly, I would just like to point out that I did own the first GTA for a while, until it ended up getting traded in for something more exciting. Because, unfortunately, the first GTA lacked that certain... something, that little bit of sparkle that truely makes a good game great. Maybe it was the shoddy graphics, or the non-linear gameplay that was just a little too non-linear for my liking. I don't know - it never really struck me as being particularly wonderful.

With this in mind, I approached GTA's sequel with some trepidation, only to find that, contrary to popular belief, the game has been vastly overhauled.

The idea in the new game is essentially the same as in the original: steal a car, do a job, get chased by the police, get points, steal another car, and so on. The game (in Britain, at least) has earned itself an '18' rating, because of the violent ideas behind the game; it is possible (no - it is desirable) to run over enemies and innocents alike, while the jobs themselves involve property destruction, more theft, murder, and so on.

Driving cars is not the only option - the player is able to hop out and wander round the streets on foot, occasionally pausing to gun down some smart-alec pickpocket or pedestrian with weapons ranging from the readily available pistol to the rare-but-fun rocket launcher.

So why is this such an improvement over the first GTA? Let's look at the game's individual attributes:

GRAPHICS: As with the first game, the action is directed from above, with the city shown in a top-down perspective. While the pedestrians in the first game suffered from looking blocky and identical to each other, the sequel has improved the look of them, without losing the simple nature of the game. However, this simplicity is somewhat double-edged - it can still be difficult to work out which way your character is facing without actually moving.

The cars now look wonderful, and the cities themselves are realistically portrayed in 3D, although the camera angle cannot actually be changed. The game has also been given an intro, which looks glorious and adds an immense amount to the game's atmosphere.

SOUND: The was undoubtedly the first game's strong point, and it is good to hear that the sequel has retained the high standards of the original. Pedetrians shout at you when you barge past them, and it is sickenly satisfying to hear the screams of terror when you whip out an uzi and commence firing. However, it is when you actually get in a car that the real aural pleasure begins.

I don't know how many different radio sequences there are, but they are generally assigned to specific cars - when you get into a pickup truck, you will drive to the wailing strains of country music, while a sports car will have you moving to a far more upbeat groove. And, of course, stealing cars from the local constabulary will let you listen to the police radio - this does wonders for the general feeling of the game.

PLAYABILITY: This game truely deserves its '18' rating because, even if the graphics are not actually good enough to be truely gory, the implications are all there. When you run over someone, hit another car, or are screeching along with the police in hot pursuit, you actually care what is happening. The player is forced to become intensely involved with the game, mostly due to the incredible sound effects, but even the not-so-good graphics are good enough to let you see the tire-burns on the road and the dents in the side of your car.

The game's plot is, as I said above, largely the same as in the original, but there are subtle differences. The the major difference is that now each part of the city contains three different gangs, each specialising in different kinds of work and each baring grudges against the others. Want to get in with the Rednecks? Run over some of the Scientists. These things make a vast difference. The higher your rating with a gang is, the better the jobs they'll offer you are. And, of course, once your rating with one gang raises, the other gangs will start to disrespect you - which means inevitable gunfire in your direction should you invade their turfs.

This creates a more strategic element than in the first game, because you are continually forced to reassess your loyalties. Many of the jobs involve killing members of the other gangs, which is bound to lower your popularity, as well as attracting police attention.

Of course, this isn't to say that the game requires too much thought. At heart, GTA 2 is still the action game that its predecessor was, with its Kill Frenzy pickups and the multitude of ways of making cars explode and people fall over. If you are fairly well-rounded, and are able to take this simply as a game, then the chances are that you will see the funny side, and enjoy the chance to skid over the man throwing molotov cocktails at you. However, those people who can't stand violence, be it real or cartoon, will undoubtedly hate this game.

Look at it this way: don't buy it for the kids, but don't assume that it'll make you want to pick up a shotgun and steal the neighbour's 4x4. There are hours of fun to be had here, for the open-minded.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/23/00, Updated 06/23/00

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