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Video Game: Grand Theft Auto Classic
And the Moral Guardians did weep...

Ah yes, the game that began what is now one of the most successful and most critically acclaimed series in all of video game history. In 1997 a studio named DMA Design (now Rockstar North), previously responsible for Lemmings, gave Grand Theft Auto to the world. In an era of violent "controversial" games like Doom and Mortal Kombat, GTA had waltzed in and stole the immoral crown.

The player is a career criminal, steals cars, kills anyone in the way, and, worse still, is free to go about this as he or she pleases. Predictably, the cries of moral outrage drew curious gamers in like moths to a flame and GTA literally sold on its reputation alone. A reputation that DMA had deliberately fuelled — they hired notorious British publicist Max Clifford to drum up controversy for the game.

The game itself is played from an overheard perspective of the city with the objective of earning cash. Earn enough money to progress to the next level, and new cities will be unlocked. How the player goes about this is up to them, since points are earned by stealing cars, murder and general mayhem. The story-based missions aren't required to progress, but they do provide the largest source of income. Basically a watchdogs nightmare.

Despite being praised for its open environments, player freedom and clever sound design, the game was not greeted with critical success. With the combination of hindsight and its legion of nostalgic fans, Grand Theft Auto has eventually come to be regarded as a classic, albeit a flawed one.

In 1999, Rockstar released a "Mission Pack" for the game — basically an Expansion Pack that requires inserting the original GTA disc in order to boot up — dubbed GTA London: 1969. As it turned out, this was Rockstar's last foray into developing expansions for their little PlayStation gem, despite copies of GTA London boldly sporting the Mission Pack #1 subtitle to this day.

A second expansion, dubbed London 1961: Mission Pack #2, was released for the PC, and is notable for requiring the GTA London: 1969 disc to play, making it a rare single-player expansion of an expansion. Short and quite buggy, it is not well-remembered.

Grand Theft Auto provides examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: By the time you reach Vice City, the cost of repairing/respraying vehicles is ridiculously exorbitant.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Deever's dossier shows documented instances of cannibalism during a stakeout, urinating on a superior officer's desk, theft of impounded narcotics, malicious wounding of fellow officers on five separate counts, incestuous practices, reporting for duty while drunk, alleged sodomy and enjoying all of the Police Academy movies. Monster!
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: El Burro. Not only does he constantly call you "cutie", but he eventually invites you over to his place to "thank you personally." This evidently forces you to flee to the opposite coast.
  • Bad Boss / Dirty Cop: Samuel Deever, to truly absurd degrees.
  • Bald of Evil: Your first boss's main rival, Sonetti, is noted for his baldness. He later sends a bald henchmen to threaten you.
  • Bi the Way: Bubby's wife, Skye, flirts with the player regardless if you choose a male or female character.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: According to the manual, the player's actions are being filmed live from a news helicopter, thus the top-down perspective.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Vice City's street network is an exhibit of this, and as a result the city is notoriously difficult to navigate.
  • But Thou Must: In Vice City's second chapter, "Rasta Blasta", the Rastas give the player a choice to work either for the authorities or for them. If you choose to work for "Babylon", attempting the next mission will make you blow up a limo containing Deever's mistress (oops), and you'll have to work for the Rastas.
  • The Chew Toy: You, arguably. No matter how well you perform for your current boss, you'll always get run out of town for some reason or another.
  • Cluster Bleep Bomb: When you finally meet Deever face-to-face, it's ostensibly for some well-earned praise. Instead, he launches into another round of vulgarities as cars honk in the background.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The citizens of Vice City won't settle for any ordinary car alarm, no no...
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game, and its London expansion packs are noticably wackier and "video game"-esque than the more realistic 3D games that would follow.
  • Evil Old Folks: Chinatown's crime boss, Uncle Fu.
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Gangster Friday" (more commonly known as "Joyride", as named in GTA III), a pastiche of gangsta rap composed by DMA Design's in-house Craig Conner does a good job explaining the game's premise.
  • Dreadlock Rasta: Brother Marcus.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Police cruisers sometimes become stuck to the player's car during a pursuit, racking up a high collision count and exploding, killing you and them instantly.
  • Gayngster / Meaningful Name: El Burro.
  • Golden Snitch: Mowing down a conga line of tambourine-playing Hare Krishnas. This is surprisingly hard to do, but you'll net a giant bonus. They were replaced by hippies and Elvis impersonators in GTA London and GTA2.
  • I Have Your Mutt: The extortionist who kidnaps Bubby's beloved pooch.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Crates containing PowerUps.
  • Invisible Block: Leading to a tank in San Andreas.
  • The Man: The Rastafari gang refers to all authority figures as "Babylon".
  • Mob War: Bubby vs. Sonetti.
    • In San Andreas, a war erupts when No Chin (yes that's his name) tries to usurp Uncle Fu, leading to a split within the Triad families. No Chin goes on the run, and you'll have to fight through all of his loyalists to unearth him.
  • Moral Guardians: DMA basically sat down and decided to make a game that would infuriate Media Watchdogs and parent groups alike. And make a fortune off it.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Deever's answer to everything. A memorable mission involves driving one of his cadavers to an empty lot; he keeps murdering people offscreen as you drive along, requiring you to go fetch more bodies and add them to the growing pile of cars.
  • Never Bring Bruce Lee to a Gun Fight: There is a sequence in San Andreas where you have to "interrogate" No Chin's associates to make them spill his location. They mockingly shrug off your punches ("Round-Eye is trying to tickle my face!"), but run off like babies if you fire an uzi round.
  • Nintendo Hard: The final level opens with a timed mission, albeit a very manageable one. The following missions have time limits and Bullet Hells that challenge even experienced players.
    • The entire game is quite a lot harder than its sequels - the character is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, the powerful weapons are rare and can be lost easily, and of course, no saving during levels.
    • Also, even a one-star wanted level doesn't dissipate on its own, and the cars explode immediately after receiving enough damage, without the catching-on-flames-first cue present in later games. Although, they get really slow and emit a weird sound when they're about to explode.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City stand in for New York, San Francisco and Miami.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Everyone in Liberty City knows him as Bubby. However, Rockstar gives his full name as Robert Michael Peter Luke Frances Darth Bruno Seragliano.
  • Player Nudge: Especially in the first level where newcomers might wander around for a long time without jobs.
  • Punny Name: Too many to list. Most are fake Asian surnames (Hung Well, No Chin, Hang Yu).
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Head Radio's countdown theme is recycled from, of all things, the music for the Tyne Tees Station Ident at the time.
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Rewarding Vandalism: And every other crime for that matter...
  • The Unintelligible: The meeting with your final boss, Brother Marcus, is a bewildering slew of Jamaican jive. The long and short of it is: You Have Completed A Great Game.
  • Unwitting Pawn: DMA Studios hired publicist Max Clifford to stir up controversy in the media. The moral elite responded as they desired, giving the game all the publicity it could ever need. Many people bought the game solely because of the media outcry surrounding it. The Moral Guardians were simply pawns.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Averted in the first GTA title. Explosions of any kind are a death sentence; your character flails about for a few seconds, then collapses into a pile of ash. In fact, the flamethrower is so potent, you're as likely to set yourself on fire while wielding it.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: The Rasta leader, Brother Marcus. (Otherwise known as Sister Elijah on Saturday nights.)

Grand Theft Auto: London 1969/1961 provides examples of:

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown WarsMature RatingGrand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Grand Theft AutoVideo Games of the 1990sGrand Theft Auto II
True RemembranceFreeware GamesGrand Theft Auto II
Gran TurismoPlay StationGrand Theft Auto II
Grand Theft Auto IITeen RatingGrim Fandango
    VideoGame/Grand Theft AutoGrand Theft Auto II

alternative title(s): Grand Theft Auto Classic
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