Grand Theft Auto Review

Small details - like the beeping sound a truck makes when it backs up, the various engine sounds, or the way pedestrians scream and run if you drive on the sidewalk - add to GTA's cool factor.

It's hard to say why Grand Theft Auto is so much fun to play, since many people seem to get bored with it quickly. The simplicity of the gameplay might be one factor: You spend most of your time driving a little car through city streets, collecting points for committing crimes. It might sound like a good time initially, but for how long? For many, the answer will be "not very long."

So what type of gamer will enjoy GTA? Let's reflect on your childhood for the answer. First, did you like Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars a lot when you were a kid? Second, did you spend most of your time ramming the aforementioned toy cars into one another and lighting them on fire?If you answered "yes" to these questions, there's a good chance you'll enjoy .

But enough psychoanalysis. Sure, it's fun to cruise around the cities in GTA, running over innocent pedestrians and hijacking cars, then using them to crash into others for points. But your real purpose in the game is trying to get noticed by the local crime syndicate. To do that, you must successfully complete jobs for big points. Get enough points, and you'll advance to the next level and go on to other cities and bigger jobs. The more successful you are, the more difficult the jobs get. Some will be in multiple parts; others will have a time limit. And just because you work for the wrong side of the law doesn't mean you're safe from harm. Blow up a car with a rocket launcher while standing too close, and you'll be a crispy criminal. The life of crime is dangerous and risky. Even if you don't get killed or severely hurt, the cops will be after you all the time.

That's why patience is important. You can drive around recklessly all you want, but you'll constantly have the cops on your tail, interfering with your assigned job and the points you'll need to get to the next level. The easiest way to get the cops after you is by running over people or crashing into a squad car, and, unless you're sadistic, you usually run over people accidentally because of reckless driving.

It can take as long as two hours to achieve one million points and proceed to the second level. Later on, you'll need three million, which can take as long as five to six hours to achieve. This is somewhat frustrating because you can't save your game during levels. Since the game comes with a Windows 95 version you can multitask, so you don't have to tie up your PC playing the game, but if your system crashes, you're out of luck.

GTA is fun, and it has some excellent features. Vehicles all have appropriate physics. They steer, brake, accelerate, and handle like you might expect. Sports cars can stop and turn on a dime, but aren't very durable (if your car takes too much damage, it won't run properly and might even explode), while trucks have a large turning radius and take a long time to get up to speed, but are fairly durable. Small details - like the beeping sound a truck makes when it backs up, the various engine sounds, or the way pedestrians scream and run if you drive on the sidewalk - add to GTA's cool factor.

Once you get good at driving the cars, especially the fast sports cars, you can really zip through traffic. On roadways, if you gently tap the turn buttons, you can change lanes to avoid traffic without compensating for recentering the car, since it does so for you automatically. That makes a big difference when you're speeding down one of the multilane interstates. Another feature that really helps is how the perspective zooms in and out, determined by your rate of speed - it zooms in when you're going slow and out when you're going fast to expand your field of vision. The only flaw with this technique is that it doesn't always zoom in right away, so a tall building can block the view of your car until it does.

GTA is a good game that is highly recommended at a bargain price, but won't win any awards. Wanna-be sociopaths who can deal with the shortcomings will have a lot of fun, and if you could save games within levels, it would come even more highly recommended.

The Good

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The Bad

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