Like Eazy-E said, "It's all about making that GTA." Grand Theft Auto is UK developer DMA Design's latest game, and like a lot of games recently, it's sure to spark a lot of controversy. The main difference is that unlike most other controversial ultraviolent titles (Postal and Carmageddon come to mind), GTA is actually good and has a sense of humor to boot.
The premise of GTA is incredibly simple. You play an up-and-coming criminal with a nose for trouble and a talent for smoking cops in a big city chock full of opportunity. But it's the nature of these opportunities that makes GTA such an outstanding game. You can follow the game's set path of heading to the pay phones to pick up a new mission from the city's crime boss, find one of the city's hidden missions, or simply wreak havoc in the streets, steal some cars, blow up some cop cars, break through a few roadblocks, mow down some more cops with your machine gun, and sell stolen cars for big points. Simply following your own missionless path is probably the most entertaining aspect of the game, even if it doesn't get you very far, pointswise. The thrill of stealing a fast car, dodging heavy traffic, and occasionally running people over just never seems to get tiresome. This is not to say that the missions aren't pretty great too. The first few missions are simple, like driving a truck filled with explosives over to the police station and getting the 5-0 where they live or stealing a motorcycle from a biker gang because it has a shipment of drugs in the gas tank. Later on, the missions get much more difficult, and some are even timed. The end goal for each level is to accrue a certain predetermined number of points. There are three cities in all, with two levels per city. Each city is very different in layout and design. There are even different cars in each city.
There are two multiplayer options in GTA. Deathmatch mode is a simple free-for-all, where you collect weapons, steal cars, and blast the heck out of each other without fear of retribution from "the man." The Cannonball is a race through the city streets, with several checkpoints.
GTA uses an overhead perspective that's reminiscent of that old Atari arcade game, APB. The overhead camera zooms in and out depending on what kind of action is taking place - if you're driving very fast, it zooms back a bit so you can see more of the road ahead of you. Although the graphics aren't groundbreaking, they do have a certain charm in their simplicity. The music and sound effects add a lot to the game. The effects are very realistic, from car horns, to gunfire, to a guy yelling "hey, you asshole!" when you try to run him over. The music is outstanding. Over an hour of music has been put into the game, but it only plays when you are inside a car. So if you steal a sports car, you'll likely hear a little rap or some techno. Jack some fool's pickup truck, and you'll get to hear his favorite country tunes. Radio station IDs and other touches have been placed on the soundtrack as well, delivering a very realistic feel.
All in all, Grand Theft Auto is a superbly violent game, but it also has the gameplay to back it up, as well as a pretty wicked sense of humor. Look for it to hit US shelves in March, with a PlayStation version to follow in April.