Grand Theft Auto (series)

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Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto logo series.svg
Series logo, used since Grand Theft Auto III.
Genres Action-adventure, crime, role-playing, racing
Developers Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design)
Rockstar Leeds
Rockstar Toronto
Rockstar Lincoln
Publishers Rockstar Games
Capcom (Japan, 2001–2008)
Creators David Jones[1]
Dan Houser[2]
Sam Houser[2]
Mike Dailly[3]
Leslie Benzies
Aaron Garbut
Platforms Android
Dreamcast
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Advance
iOS
Microsoft Windows
MS-DOS
Nintendo DS
OS X
PlayStation
PlayStation 2
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
PlayStation Portable
Xbox
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Platform of origin MS-DOS
PlayStation
First release Grand Theft Auto
October 1997
Latest release Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Mobile
27 January 2014
Official website http://www.rockstargames.com/grandtheftauto/

Grand Theft Auto is an action-adventure video game series created by David Jones and Mike Dailly[3] then later by brothers Dan and Sam Houser, Leslie Benzies and Aaron Garbut. It is primarily developed by Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design), and published by Rockstar Games. The name of the series is derived from a term referring to motor vehicle theft.

Most games in the series are set in fictional locales modelled on American cities, usually either Liberty City, Vice City, or San Andreas, which are stand-ins for New York City, Miami, and Southern California, respectively. The first 2D titles encompassed three fictional cities, while 3D and HD titles tend to emphasise a single city and its outlying areas. Gameplay focuses on an open world where the player can choose missions to progress an overall story, as well as engaging in side activities, all consisting of action-adventure, driving, third-person shooting, occasional role-playing, stealth, and racing elements. The series has gained controversy for its adult nature and violent themes. The series focuses around many different protagonists who attempt to rise through the ranks of the criminal underworld, although their motives for doing so vary in each game. The antagonists are commonly characters who have betrayed the protagonist or his organisation, or characters who have the most impact impeding the protagonist's progress.

Video game developer DMA Design began the series in 1997; as of 2014 it has eleven stand-alone games and four expansion packs. The third chronological title, Grand Theft Auto III, was widely acclaimed, as it brought the series to a 3D setting and more immersive experience, and is considered a landmark title that has subsequently influenced many other open world action games and led to the label "Grand Theft Auto clone" on similar games. Subsequent titles would follow and build upon the concept established in Grand Theft Auto III. Film and music veterans have voiced characters, including Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Harry, Phil Collins, Axl Rose, and Peter Fonda.[4] The series has been critically acclaimed and commercially successful, having sold more than 150 million units, as of September 2013.[5]

Overview[edit]

Each game in this series allows players to take on the role of a criminal or a wannabe in the big city, typically an individual who plans to rise through the ranks of organised crime through the course of the game. The player is given various missions by kingpins and major idols in the city underworld which must be completed to progress through the storyline. Assassinations and other violent crimes are featured regularly. Occasionally taxi driving, firefighting, street racing, bus driving, or learning to fly helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft are also involved.

In later titles, notably those released after Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is given a more developed storyline in which he is forced to overcome an unfortunate event (e.g., being betrayed and left for dead), which serves as motivation for the character to advance up the criminal ladder and ultimately leads to the triumph of the character by the end of the storyline.

The Grand Theft Auto series belongs to a genre of free-roaming role-playing video games called open world games, and grants a large amount of freedom to the player. Traditional action games are structured as a single track series of levels with linear gameplay, but in Grand Theft Auto the player can determine the missions that he wants to undertake, and his relationships with various characters are changed based on these choices. Influenced by the earlier game Turbo Esprit,[6][7] the cities of the games can be roamed freely at any point in the game, and are examples of open world video game environments which offer accessible buildings with minor missions in addition to the main storyline. There are exceptions: missions follow a linear, overarching plot, and some city areas must be unlocked over the course of the game.

Grand Theft Auto III and subsequent games have more voice acting and radio stations, which simulate driving to music with disc jockeys, radio personalities, commercials, talk radio, pop music, and American culture.

The use of vehicles in an explorable urban environment provides a basic simulation of a working city, complete with pedestrians who generally obey traffic signals. Further details are used to flesh out an open-ended atmosphere that has been used in several other games, such as The Simpsons: Hit & Run, which has less emphasis on crime or violence, and Lego City Undercover, which reverses the roles of police officer and criminal, although the player goes undercover in gangs for a portion of the game.

Setting[edit]

The Grand Theft Auto series is set in a fictional version of the world, in a number of different time periods. The original Grand Theft Auto introduced three main cities: Liberty City, based upon New York City, Vice City, based upon Miami, and San Andreas, based upon parts of California. In the first Grand Theft Auto game, San Andreas was based only on San Francisco. Expansion packs later set the game in London.

The second entry in the franchise, Grand Theft Auto 2, set the game in the future in a locale named "Anywhere City"

Subsequent games in the series have re-imagined and expanded upon the original locales. Grand Theft Auto III is set in a different rendition of Liberty City only loosely based on New York City.[8] A revised Vice City and San Andreas are depicted in Vice City and San Andreas, respectively, the latter of which takes the form of an entire state, instead of a single city. The state of San Andreas is based on the states of California and Nevada, and consists of three major cities: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). Surrounding towns and areas of desert, water, woodland and countryside lie between the three cities.

Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories, originally released on the PlayStation Portable handheld console, are set in the previous depictions of their respective eponymous cities.

Grand Theft Auto IV and its subsequent expansion packs The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are set in a third revision of Liberty City, set in 2008. A version of New Jersey, known as Alderney, is depicted adjacent to the city. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is also set in this version of Liberty City, although the Alderney portion of the map is not present.[citation needed]

Other places in the same fictional universe as the Grand Theft Auto series also exist; Carcer City and Cottonmouth are two different cities featured in the Manhunt series. There is also the town of Bullworth from another Rockstar Games release, Bully,[citation needed] though it is uncertain if the world from 2010's Red Dead Redemption shares the same universe as Grand Theft Auto.

Only the expansion packs for the original Grand Theft Auto, London, 1969 and London, 1961, set in London, have featured a location outside of the United States and used a real-life location.

The latest instalment, Grand Theft Auto V, is set in a revision of San Andreas that features Los Santos (Los Angeles) to the south and the rural Blaine County to the north.[9] It includes revised landmarks such as the "Vinewood" sign (instead of Hollywood), Rockford Hills (instead of Beverly Hills), Del Perro Pier (instead of Santa Monica Pier), Los Santos International Airport (LSIA) (instead of LAX), and Galileo Observatory (instead of Griffith Observatory).

Games[edit]

Year Title Developer Platform(s) Universe[10]
Console Computer Handheld Mobile
1997 Grand Theft Auto DMA Design PS1 Game Boy Color 2D
1999 Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 PS1
  • Windows
  • MS-DOS
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961 Windows
Grand Theft Auto 2
Windows Game Boy Color
2001 Grand Theft Auto III
3D
2002 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Rockstar North
  • PS21
  • Xbox
  • Windows
  • OS X
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Kindle
2004 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • PS21
  • Xbox2
  • Windows
  • OS X
  • iOS
  • Android
  • WP
  • Kindle
Grand Theft Auto Advance Digital Eclipse Game Boy Advance
2005 Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Rockstar Leeds PS21 PSP
2006 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories PS21 PSP
2008 Grand Theft Auto IV Rockstar North Windows HD
2009 Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned
  • PS3
  • Xbox 360
Windows
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Rockstar Leeds
iOS
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony Rockstar North
  • PS3
  • Xbox 360
Windows
2013 Grand Theft Auto V
Windows
Notes:
1. Re-released on the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network as part of the PlayStation 2 Classics line.
2. Re-released on the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Marketplace as part of the Xbox Originals line.

History[edit]

The Grand Theft Auto series is considered by Rockstar Games to be split into separate fictional universes, named after the primary level of graphics capability used in each era.[10] The original Grand Theft Auto, its expansions and its sequel are considered the "2D universe". Grand Theft Auto III and its prequels are considered the "3D universe". Grand Theft Auto IV, its expansions and Grand Theft Auto V are considered the "High-definition universe". Each universe is considered separate with only brands, place names and background characters shared between them.[10]

2D universe[edit]

In chronological order, the Grand Theft Auto games in the 2D universe are:

Grand Theft Auto (1997)[edit]

The original Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto, the first game in the Grand Theft Auto series, was created by the British video game developer DMA Design, and was released for Microsoft DOS/Windows in 1997/1998 and also for the PlayStation.[11] The game is set in three different fictional cities, Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City. A reduced Game Boy Color port was later released. Subsequently, two expansion packs, Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969 and Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961, were released on 31 March and 1 June 1999, respectively.

Grand Theft Auto 2 (1999)[edit]

Main article: Grand Theft Auto 2

The second game in the series, Grand Theft Auto 2, was developed for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, and Dreamcast and released in the year 1999. Set in the indeterminable future,[12] it featured updated graphics and somewhat different gameplay based upon the player's appeal to various criminal organisations. Grand Theft Auto 2 takes place in a retro-futuristic setting, in an unnamed city. It is the only Grand Theft Auto game to have a "T" rating for a PlayStation console, it is also the only numbered sequel to have a digit in the title instead of a Roman numeral.

3D universe[edit]

The 3D universe is considered the breakthrough of the Grand Theft Auto series, with sales and reviews rising greatly.[13] This began with Grand Theft Auto III in 2001, set in fictional Liberty City. GTA III and its two follow-ups were "killer apps" for the PlayStation 2, as Sony signed a deal with Take-Two to make them exclusive for the PS2 for a time before they were released for Windows and Xbox.

After the success of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released in 2002. This game was set in 1986 in Vice City, largely based on Miami, Florida and featuring influences from 1980s pop culture such as Miami Vice and Scarface. The hype for Vice City was thanks to high-profile celebrities as voice actors such as Ray Liotta and Philip Michael Thomas and the release of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Official Soundtrack Box Set. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released in 2004, based on the 1990s 1992 Los Angeles riots and Rampart scandal. San Andreas had numerous gameplay enhancements including role-playing game character customization, and a massive area encompassing three cities (Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas, equivalent to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas) and the surrounding rural area.

Grand Theft Auto Advance (simply called Grand Theft Auto in the cover), for the Game Boy Advance, was released in 2004. Originally developed as a top-down conversion of Grand Theft Auto III, it eventually became an original game. Unlike the Game Boy Color ports of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, Advance did not tone down the violence and profanity common to the Grand Theft Auto series. The game received an "M" rating from the ESRB. It was developed by an external developer, Digital Eclipse.

Two games for the PlayStation Portable, both developed by Rockstar Leeds, were also released: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. Liberty City Stories is a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III and set in Liberty City in 1998. A PlayStation 2 port was released by Rockstar on 6 June 2006. Vice City Stories was released for the PlayStation Portable on 31 October 2006 and set in Vice City in 1984, two years before the events of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. A PlayStation 2 port of the game was released on 6 March 2007. It is the last game of the third generation series, and the final game in the Grand Theft Auto III canon.

In chronological order, the Grand Theft Auto games in the 3D universe are:

Grand Theft Auto III (2001)[edit]

Main article: Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III was released in October 2001, and served as the breakthrough for the franchise.[13] The game's setting takes place around that time,[14] in fictional Liberty City, which is loosely based on New York City, but also incorporates elements of other American cities.[15] Grand Theft Auto III brought a third-person view to the series, rather than the traditional top-down view of earlier titles (although the view is still made available as an optional camera angle). For the first time, the problem of navigating in the huge open world game was solved by implementing a constant GPS triggered mini-map that highlights the player's position as well as those of current targets. Graphics were also updated with a new 3D game engine. The gameplay engine expanded the explorable world of Grand Theft Auto III, using a mission-based approach. Multiplayer was discarded (third party mods were later released, allowing for multiplayer gameplay), but Grand Theft Auto III improved in many other areas such as voice-acting and plot (in previous games, there was speech only in short animated cutscenes between levels, while other communication was simply subtitles running on the bottom of the screen). Grand Theft Auto III was the first to introduce a flying vehicle, albeit a single fixed-wing aircraft named the Dodo, which is incredibly difficult to control.

On 13 October 2011, Rockstar announced the release of Grand Theft Auto III on iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, along with various other handheld consoles, celebrating the 10th year of the game's release.[16]

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)[edit]

Screenshot of the player flying a seaplane in Vice City

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a 2002 open world action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design) and published by Rockstar Games. It is the second 3D game in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise and sixth original title overall. It debuted in North America on 29 October 2002 for the PlayStation 2 and was later ported to the Xbox, and Microsoft Windows in 2003. It was made available on Steam on 4 January 2008, and on the Mac App Store on 25 August 2011.[17] A Nintendo GameCube version was planned, but was never released. Vice City was preceded by Grand Theft Auto III and followed by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

On 21 November 2012, Rockstar announced the release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, along with various other handheld consoles, celebrating the 10th year of the game's release.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)[edit]

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a 2004 open world action-adventure video game developed by games developer Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It is the third 3D game in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, the fifth original console release and eighth game overall. Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in October 2004,[18] the game has since been released for the Xbox and Microsoft Windows in June 2005, then released on Xbox Originals for the Xbox 360 in December 2008, then released to the PlayStation Store on PSN for the PS3 in December 2012 and has received wide acclaim and high sales figures on all platforms. It is the best-selling game of all time on PlayStation 2. It was made available on Steam on 4 January 2008,[19] and on Intel-based Macs running a minimum of Mac OS X 10.6.6 in September 2011. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was succeeded by Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and was preceded by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.

HD universe[edit]

The high-definition (HD) universe was a major shift for the GTA series. The celebrity voice acting that had been so promient in the "3D Universe", especially in Vice City and San Andreas, was scaled back in the "HD Universe".

Rockstar also took a new direction in the series, focusing on realism and details instead of greater area and added content. Consequently, there was a regression of the series from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, with fewer vehicles, weapons, story missions, and less character customisation. However, the HD universe games did away with dead spots and irrelevant spaces (i.e. wide-open deserts) in favour of increasing the verticality of the city, including more buildings with greater interior detail and improved traffic/pedestrian behaviour, in order to make the cities immersive urban experiences as opposed to simple game backdrop. These included the completely redesigned version of Liberty City (in Grand Theft Auto IV, The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony and Chinatown Wars) and Los Santos (in Grand Theft Auto V).

The HD universe does not include any characters from the previous universes (excluding radio hosts), and is also not considered to be set in the same universe or the same canon as its predecessors.

In chronological order, the Grand Theft Auto games in the HD universe are:[20]

Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)[edit]

Grand Theft Auto IV was released on 29 April 2008, after a six-month delay.[21] It was the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released simultaneously for both Sony and Microsoft's video game consoles. In August 2008, Rockstar announced that it was going to publish Grand Theft Auto IV for PC. Grand Theft Auto IV's game engine is the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) used in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis and the Euphoria physics engine.

Grand Theft Auto IV has much more realistic gameplay than its predecessors, no characters from previous games appear in Grand Theft Auto IV; according to Dan Houser "virtually none of the characters from the previous games returned, as a lot of them are dead anyway."[22] The game once again takes place in a redesigned Liberty City that very closely resembles New York City, much more than previous renditions.[23]

Microsoft officially announced a "strategic alliance" with Rockstar Games over the rights to episodic content through their Xbox Live service at their X06 event. This content was released as Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned on 17 February 2009, and it was available for download, exclusively for the Xbox 360. This was because of the substantial $50 million that Microsoft paid Rockstar to keep it exclusive. The strategic alliance was however timed and both DLC episodes and the compilation pack were released on 13 April 2010 on PS3 and PC. The expansion adds some new elements to the existing game and focuses on Johnny Klebitz, the vice president of "The Lost" motorcycle club.

The second and last Grand Theft Auto IV downloadable content episode was called Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony[24] and was released on 29 October 2009. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City is a compilation pack released for the Xbox 360, later also released on the PS3 at the same time as The Ballad of Gay Tony. It contains The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony on one disk and does not require an original copy of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Grand Theft Auto IV officially introduced online multiplayer to the series. In most games, a customisable character is used to play, and money earned in game is translated to levels, with more customisation available at higher levels. The game does not offer split screen or local area network (LAN) multiplayer modes on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, but there is LAN on the PC mode. Up to 16 (32 on PC) players can play together, doing a variety of games including Death Match, Cops 'n' Crooks, races, Deal Breaker, and Mafiya Work as well as team varieties of Death Match, and Mafiya Work to name just a few.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the first Grand Theft Auto game to be released on the Nintendo DS, and was announced at the E3 Nintendo Press Conference on 15 July 2008. This game has several new features, such as touch screen mini-games. The game was released on 17 March 2009 in North America and 20 March 2009 to Australia and Europe. The game is rated 18+ by PEGI and the BBFC (Europe, UK) and M by the ESRB (North America). A PSP version was later announced on 22 June 2009[25] and was released in North America on 20 October 2009. It was also released on the Apple iOS platform 18 January 2010.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)[edit]

Main article: Grand Theft Auto V

On 25 October 2011, Rockstar Games announced Grand Theft Auto V via their Twitter account, which included the #GrandTheftAutoV hashtag and a link to their homepage, which displayed the game's logo.[26] The 'V' in the logo is styled like a bank note.[27] A message was printed below the logo stating that a trailer would be released on 2 November 2011. The following day, Rockstar put a Grand Theft Auto V trailer countdown on their homepage.[28] Shares of Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Rockstar Games, jumped seven percent following the revelation that Grand Theft Auto V was in development.[29] Around the same time, video game website Kotaku claimed that it had been told that rumours about Rockstar being set to make a switch to reality by recreating real-world Los Angeles for Grand Theft Auto V "are true" by "a source familiar with the game". Kotaku said that Grand Theft Auto V will be set in "some version of L.A." and also claimed that multiple sources are saying that the game will feature more than just one playable character.[30][31][32]

On 3 November 2011, Rockstar Games announced that Grand Theft Auto V was in full development and that it would take place within Los Santos and its "surrounding hills, countryside and beaches", and that it would be "the largest and the most ambitious game Rockstar has yet created", with Sam Houser describing it as a "radical reinvention of the Grand Theft Auto universe".[33] A version of Los Santos was previously featured in 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, along with two other cities that were part of that rendition of the state of San Andreas (Las Venturas and San Fierro, based on Las Vegas and San Francisco, respectively). Rockstar parent Take-Two called Grand Theft Auto V "a bold new direction in open-world freedom, storytelling, mission-based gameplay and online multiplayer", while confirming that its story will focus on "the pursuit of the almighty dollar in a re-imagined, present-day Southern California". No release date or platforms were provided in the announcement.[34]

On 8 November 2011, Take-Two's second quarter financial earnings report included an update on future product launch dates, with the newest game to be added to the list was Grand Theft Auto V, which carried a "TBA" release.[35] On 2 February 2012, during Take-Two's third quarter financial report, CEO Strauss Zelnick said developer Rockstar was making "incredible progress".[36] On 13 February 2012, in a Question and Answer section on their blog, a nameless Rockstar representative said that the developer is toiling away diligently and hopes to reveal more in a few months time.[37][38]

On 29 October 2012, it was reported that a Polish fan site had published an image of some pre-order posters, which suggested that Grand Theft Auto V would arrive in "Spring 2013". The image contains the previous "Pest Control" artwork, as well as a previously-unseen illustration of a thug with a baseball bat (later revealed to be Franklin) and an angry-looking dog on a chain (later revealed to be Chop).[39] A day later, it was reported that a branch of the British video game retailer Game in Brighton published a similar picture of Grand Theft Auto V artwork on Twitter, again showing a spring 2013 release date. The promotional material shows off a new set of artwork for the game, including a female police officer, arresting a blonde woman, and a gun-toting man (later revealed to be Trevor) on a quad bike.[40] Later that day, Rockstar announced that Grand Theft Auto V will be released sometime during Q2 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and that pre-orders would begin on 5 November 2012.[41] On 1 November 2012, a user on the GTAForums spotted an apparent piece of pre-order artwork for the game in a Walmart store in Toronto. The promotional material shows another version of the blonde woman (without Vasquez).[42] Around the same time, a number of locations from the game was revealed in a set of exclusive screenshots for pre-order customers. The images were housed in miniature picture viewers, a collectible for those who pre-order the game.[43]

On 31 January 2013, Rockstar announced that Grand Theft Auto V would miss its original Q2/Q3 2013 launch window, and would be released on 17 September 2013. Rockstar Games founder Sam Houser owed the delay for "extra development time" on the project.[44] In a later post on the announcement thread on their website, Rockstar slammed what it labels "conspiracy theories" about the delay, attributing the delay to make "the game to be as good as it needs to be."[45] In a later conference call with investors, Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick implied that the chance of a "dual-generation launch" for Grand Theft Auto V is unlikely.[46] On 2 July 2013, in a Q&A section on their blog, Rockstar said it had nothing to share about a PC or next-gen console version of the game, stating that it is "completely focused on current-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto V."[47]

On 23 August 2013, it was reported that some European PlayStation 3 users who had pre-ordered Grand Theft Auto V were able to download certain aspects of the game, including the in-game soundtrack, as well as character dialogue.[48][49][50] Details of the game were leaked later that day, and on following days, before Sony removed the pre-order file from the European PlayStation Network, stating that they "sincerely apologise to Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto fans across the world".[51][52] Rockstar lately said that they're "deeply disappointed by leaks and spoilers being spread in advance of the game's launch".[53]

Grand Theft Auto V was released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 17 September 2013 to universal critical acclaim and massive financial success, beating multiple records.[54][55] An enhanced port is set for release on 18 November 2014 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and on 27 January 2015 for Microsoft Windows.[56]

Controversies[edit]

Former lawyer Jack Thompson has been involved in a number of attempts to get families of murder victims to hold the Grand Theft Auto series accountable for the death of their loved ones. Due to his conduct in this and related cases, Thompson was disbarred in 2008[57] and was fined more than $100,000 by the Florida Bar Association.[58]

On 20 October 2003, the families of Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede, two young people shot by teens William and Josh Buckner (who in statements to investigators claimed their actions were inspired by Grand Theft Auto III) filed a US$246 million lawsuit against publishers Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive Software, retailer Wal-Mart, and PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment America.[59][60] Rockstar and its parent company, Take-Two, filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, stating in U.S. District Court on 29 October 2003 that the "ideas and concepts as well as the 'purported psychological effects' on the Buckners are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause". The lawyer of the victims, Jack Thompson, denied that, but failed in his attempt to move the lawsuit into a state court and under Tennessee's consumer protection act.[61] Two days later, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, and the case was closed.

In February 2005, a lawsuit was brought upon the makers and distributors of the Grand Theft Auto series claiming the games caused a teenager to shoot and kill three members of the Alabama police force. The shooting took place in June 2003 when Devin Moore, 17 years old at the time, was taken in for questioning by police in Fayette, Alabama regarding a stolen vehicle. Moore then grabbed a pistol from one of the police officers and shot and killed him along with another officer and dispatcher before fleeing in a police car.[62][63] One of Moore's attorneys, Jack Thompson, claimed it was Grand Theft Auto's graphic nature—with his constant playing time—that caused Moore to commit the murders, and Moore's family agrees. Damages were being sought from branches of GameStop and Wal-Mart in Jasper, Alabama, the stores from which Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, respectively, were purchased and also from the games' publisher Take-Two Interactive, and the PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment. On 29 March 2006 the case was dismissed and permission to appeal was denied.[64]

In May 2005, Thompson appeared via satellite on the Glenn Beck program on CNN's Headline News. Thompson mentioned Devin Moore and said regarding Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City "There's no doubt in my mind [...] that but for Devin Moore's training on this cop killing simulator, he would not have been able to kill three cops in Fayette, Alabama who are now dead and in the ground. We are suing Take-Two, Sony, Wal-Mart, and GameStop for having trained Devin Moore to kill. He had no history of violence. No criminal record."[65]

In September 2006, Thompson brought another lawsuit, claiming that Cody Posey played the game obsessively before murdering his father Delbert Paul Posey, stepmother Tryone Schmid, and stepsister Marilea Schmid on a ranch in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The suit was filed on behalf of the victims' families.[66] During the criminal trial, Posey's defence team argued he was abused by his father, and tormented by his stepmother.[67] Posey was also taking Zoloft at the time of the killings.[68] The suit alleged that were it not for his obsessive playing of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the murders would not have taken place.[69] Named in the suit were Cody Posey, Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, and Sony. The suit asked for US$600 million in damages.[70]

Several celebrities have sued Rockstar Games and/or Take-Two Interactive for violating their intellectual property or personality rights, including hip-hop artist Daz Dillinger[71] Karen Gravano of Mob Wives,[72] and actress Lindsay Lohan.[73]

According to The Guinness World Records 2008 and 2009 Gamer's Edition, it is the most controversial video game series in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it, which include accusations of glamorising violence, corrupting gamers, and connection to real life crimes.[74]

Grand Theft Auto[edit]

The game was controversial from the very first incarnation of the series.[75] Grand Theft Auto was condemned in Britain, Germany, and France due to its "extreme violence",[76] and Brazil banned it outright.[76] Publicist Max Clifford planted sensational stories in tabloids in order to help sell the first game.[75][77][78]

Grand Theft Auto III: general violence and crime[edit]

The controversies flared up again with Grand Theft Auto III, since the 3D graphics made the violence more realistic, and players could pay the services of prostitutes to recover their health, and if they wished, killing them to get their money back.[78]

There is also criticism from the focus on illegal activities in comparison with traditional "heroic" roles that other games offer. The main character can commit a wide variety of crimes and violent acts while dealing with only temporary consequences, including the killing of policemen and military personnel.

Vice City: ethnic discrimination[edit]

The sixth game in the series, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, also came under criticism. One mission in particular, in which the player must instigate a gang war between Haitian and Cuban gangs, has been controversial. Haitian and Cuban anti-defamation groups criticised the game.

Jean-Robert Lafortune of the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition is quoted as saying that "The game shouldn't be designed to destroy human life, it shouldn't be designed to destroy an ethnic group," for this and similar scenarios, including lines in the game's script such as "kill the Haitian dickheads" said by character "Diaz" during an altercation between the player and a Haitian gang. After the threat of a lawsuit by the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, Rockstar removed the word "Haitians" from this phrase in the game's subtitles.[79]

San Andreas: sex minigame[edit]

Main article: Hot Coffee mod

San Andreas was criticised initially due to its "gangster" elements, which include drugs, prostitution, and murder; but later due to the discovery of disabled interactive sex scenes, nicknamed Hot Coffee, which was a sexual minigame that was cut from the game, but remained in the game code, which was discovered in both the console and Windows versions of the game. Dubbed the "Hot Coffee mod", the minigame allowed players to have sex with their in-game girlfriends and also record sextapes.

After the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, modders managed to find the unused code in the game and released unofficial patches for the Windows and Xbox (with a modchip) versions as well as a PlayStation 2 version through the use of an Action Replay code enabling the player to engage in these sexual mini-games (dubbed "Hot Coffee" in reference to a euphemism for sex used in the game). These mini-games were left partially intact in the game's code. This prompted application of an AO (Adults Only) ESRB rating to the version of the game containing the leftover code. Take-Two Interactive was forced to re-release the game in order to restore the M (Mature) rating. A class action lawsuit against Take-Two was also filed as a result of the "Hot Coffee" code.[80][81]

Grand Theft Auto IV: drunk driving[edit]

One of the controversies involved with this game was Mothers Against Drunk Driving's (MADD) criticism of the ability to drink and drive as a new feature. MADD had even requested ESRB to change the rating of the game from "M" for ages seventeen and up to "AO", for adults only, because they felt it was inappropriate for children, even at the age of seventeen, to experience drunk driving in such a manner.[82] In the final game, drunk driving is a playable event, but it is a crime that automatically generates a wanted rating and main playable character Niko Bellic loudly (and drunkenly) proclaims that it is a "bad idea" and that he "should know better".[83]

Notably, it is impossible to drive while drunk in the GTA IV DLCs, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. These were released after the criticism.

The Lost and Damned: full-frontal nudity[edit]

The Lost and Damned expansion pack was condemned by U.S. parents group Common Sense Media who issued a public warning against the pack's content due to a full-frontal nudity scene during one of the cutscenes. They claimed the game was "more controversial than its predecessors" because it featured "full frontal male nudity".[84]

Chinatown Wars: drug dealing minigame[edit]

There has been some controversy over a drug dealing minigame[85] along with comments that some Nintendo games are being aimed at children (despite the fact that the game was rated Mature). The drug dealing mini-game allows players to peddle six types of drugs around the city, but the profit the player makes depends on market conditions, which will be based on the area in which they deal, and the level of regular service this area receives from them.[86][87]

Grand Theft Auto V: witness torture and sexism[edit]

A man is strapped to an overturned chair with a cloth concealing his face. Player character Trevor stands over him with a canister, about to pour water on his face. A text prompt in the upper left-hand corner reads "Hold [left stick] to pour water."
The mission "By the Book" involves a sequence wherein players use torture techniques including waterboarding to interrogate a man.

A segment in the latest instalment caused controversy for containing scenes of player initiated torture. The mission "By The Book" features graphic depictions of kneecapping, electrocution, dental extraction and waterboarding, and the player is required to perform the acts in order to progress in the game.[89][90][91]

UK-based charity Freedom from Torture publicly condemned the use of torture scenes in Grand Theft Auto V. The organization who work to rehabilitate survivors of torture, joined other human rights charity's who were outraged at a torture scene in the game in which the players have to pull teeth and electrocute an unarmed man in order to extract information. The charity's CEO Keith Best stated: “Rockstar North has crossed a line by effectively forcing people to take on the role of a torturer and perform a series of unspeakable acts if they want to achieve success in the game."[89]

The game has been accused of sexism. The Los Angeles Times considered the game's satirical portrayals of women uncreative, and added that violent and sexist themes hurt the game experience.[92] Edge noted that while "every female in the game exists solely to be sneered, leered or laughed at", it treated its all-male lead characters in a similar vein through their stereotyped tendencies towards violence.[93] Sam Houser, Rockstar Games co-founder, felt that the development team sometimes overlooked their portrayal of women in Grand Theft Auto games, but that the weight towards male characters "fit with the story we wanted to tell".[94]

Reception[edit]

Aggregate review scores
As of 25 September 2013.
Game GameRankings Metacritic
Grand Theft Auto (PC) 78.50%[95]
(PS1) 68.33%[96]
(GBC) 57.33%[97]
London, 1969 (PC) 75.44%[98]
(PS1) 69.00%[99]
Grand Theft Auto 2 (PC) 71.50%[100]
(DC) 70.80%[101]
(PS1) 69.92%[102]
(GBC) 35.00%[103]
(PS1) 70[104]
Grand Theft Auto III (PS2) 95.19%[105]
(PC) 93.54%[106]
(PS2) 97[107]
(PC) 93[108]
Vice City (PS2) 94.43%[109]
(PC) 94.39%[110]
(PS2) 95[111]
(PC) 94[112]
San Andreas (PS2) 95.08%[113]
(Xbox) 92.29%[114]
(PC) 91.94%[115]
(PS2) 95[116]
(Xbox) 93[117]
(PC) 93[118]
Advance (GBA) 70.35%[119] (GBA) 68[120]
Liberty City Stories (PSP) 87.45%[121]
(PS2) 77.38%[122]
(PSP) 88[123]
(PS2) 78[124]
Vice City Stories (PSP) 85.01%[125]
(PS2) 75.96%[126]
(PSP) 86[127]
(PS2) 75[128]
Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3) 97.04%[129]
(X360) 96.67%[130]
(PC) 88.48%[131]
(PS3) 98[132]
(X360) 98[133]
(PC) 90[134]
The Lost and Damned (PC) 94.00%[135]
(PS3) 94.00%[136]
(X360) 89.73%[137]
(X360) 90[138]
(PS3) 88[139]
Chinatown Wars (NDS) 92.71%[140]
(PSP) 90.39%[141]
(NDS) 93[142]
(PSP) 90[143]
The Ballad of Gay Tony (PC) 90.00%[144]
(PS3) 90.00%[145]
(X360) 89.43%[146]
(X360) 89[147]
(PS3) 87[148]
Grand Theft Auto V (PS3) 97.01%[149]
(X360) 96.24%[150]
(PS3) 97[151]
(X360) 97[152]

Ever since 2001, the Grand Theft Auto series has been a major success, both critically and financially. It has generated perfect or near perfect reviews and scores on almost all of the games, and has sold over 150 million copies worldwide, as of September 2013.[5] The Times Online reported that Grand Theft Auto IV recorded 609,000 copies in the UK on its first day of release.[153] In its first week, Grand Theft Auto IV sold approximately 6 million copies worldwide and grossed over $500 million.[154]

In 2006, Grand Theft Auto was voted one of Britain's top 10 designs among Concorde, Red Telephone Boxes, Catseyes, The Underground, Mini, Tomb Raider and the World Wide Web.[155]

The series has broken several records, resulting in Guinness World Records awarding the series 10 world records in the Gamer's Edition 2008. These records include Most Guest Stars in a Video Game Series, Largest Voice Cast in a Video Game (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), Largest In-Game Soundtrack (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) as well as Most Successful Entertainment Launch of All Time (Grand Theft Auto V). Guinness World Records also ranked Grand Theft Auto in third place on their list of top 50 console games of all time based on initial impact and lasting legacy.[156] Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is listed as the most successful game in the PlayStation 2 according to The Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer's Edition.

Grand Theft Auto III, San Andreas and Vice City currently lie at the 2nd, 5th and 6th highest rated PlayStation 2 games on Metacritic, respectively,[157] while Chinatown Wars is rated the best game on the Nintendo DS[158] and the second best on the PlayStation Portable,[159] and Grand Theft Auto IV is currently rated the second best game ever, with a score of 98, only trailing behind The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Also, Vice City, Grand Theft Auto III, San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV lie at 11th, 24th, 27th and 93rd best PC games of all time, on Metacritic.[160] Along with this, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony are currently placed 35th and 59th in the top Xbox 360 games.[161]

Most recently, Grand Theft Auto V became the fastest selling entertainment product of all time.

Sales[edit]

Year Game Sales Acquired label(s)
1997 Grand Theft Auto PS1 Greatest Hits, Platinum
1999 Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1961
Grand Theft Auto 2 PS1 Greatest Hits
2001 Grand Theft Auto III 17.5 million?[162] PS2 Greatest Hits, Platinum
2002 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 20 million?[162] PS2 Greatest Hits, Platinum
2004 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 27.5 million[163][164]
Grand Theft Auto Advance 100,000
2005 Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories 8 million[162]
  • PSP Greatest Hits, Platinum
  • PS2 Platinum
2006 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories 4.5 million[162]
  • PSP Greatest Hits, Platinum
  • PS2 Platinum
2008 Grand Theft Auto IV 25 million+[165]
  • PS3 Greatest Hits, Platinum
  • Xbox 360 Platinum Hits
2009 Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned 1 million+[166][167]
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars 200,000[168] PSP Greatest Hits
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City 160,000+[169]
  • PS3 Greatest Hits
  • Xbox 360 Platinum Hits
2013 Grand Theft Auto V
Total series sales: 150 million+[5]

Similar games[edit]

The release of Grand Theft Auto III is treated as a revolutionary event in the history of video games, much like the release of Doom nearly a decade earlier.[170]

During interviews to mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Grand Theft Auto III, producer of the Street Fighter series, Yoshinori Ono, said "It would be no exaggeration to say that Grand Theft Auto III changed the industry, and we can basically separate the time before and after its emergence as distinct eras." In the same article Bethesda studios director, Todd Howard, said "The mark of a truly great game is how many people try to recapture or emulate it and fail. There's a long line behind this one."[171]

Subsequent games that follow this formula of driving and shooting have been called "Grand Theft Auto clones". Some reviewers even extended this label to the Driver series, even though this series began years before the release of Grand Theft Auto III.[172] Grand Theft Auto clones are a type of 3D action-adventure game,[173][174][175][176][177] where players are given the ability to drive any vehicle or fire any weapon as they explore an open world.[178] These games often incorporate violent and criminal themes. Notable games that are comparable to Grand Theft Auto are Saints Row,[179] Scarface: The World Is Yours, True Crime: Streets of LA,[180][181] Watch Dogs,[182] and Sleeping Dogs.[183]

See also[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

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External links[edit]