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.

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:

  • Action Girl: Divine, Katie, Mikki and Ulrika. They're not available in PS version.
  • 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: The dossier on Bizarro World Columbo, otherwise known as Deever, 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: 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. Sonetti himself does not appear; however, the FMV intro to Grand Theft Auto II showcased a bald mafia don, perhaps a callback to the original.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Cop: It's a little oblique, but Vice City's kingpin, Samuel Deever, is not affiliated with the Vice City Police Department. According to his online bio, he was sacked for committing a laundry list of criminal acts — however, he avoided serving any jail time because the V.C.P.D. was reluctant to sentence one of their own, and he maintains close ties with the department. His one appearance occurs directly underneath the Police headquarters. He could give a rat's ass.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The citizens of Vice City won't settle for any ordinary car alarm, no no...
  • Dreadlock Rasta: Brother Marcus, the mellowest of gangsters you come across.
  • 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.
  • 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. This is somewhat mitigated by sticking to the side roads and avoiding 8-lane highways when your wanted level is high.
  • 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.
  • President Evil: The Babylon gang is really the US Government, and is led by the president.
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • Rewarding Vandalism: And every other crime for that matter...
  • Shout-Out: All on this page.
  • 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:

  • Afro Asskicker: One of the player avatars, who is coincidentally the same guy featured on the loading screen and game manual.
  • Armed Blag
  • British Coppers
  • The Caper: Stealing the Crown Jewels from Buckingham Palace.
  • Clock Tower: None other than Big Ben. A heist mission involves changing the time on the clock's face.
  • Creepy Twins: The Crisp Twins, a parody of the real-life Kray twins. Albert does all the talking, whilst Archie never speaks.
  • Empty Quiver: A stolen (and drive-able) ICBM carrier.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Your first mission is to steal a scooter as a present for the Crisps' mum.
  • Fame Gate: Which the missions are available to you depend on how much respect you have from each gang. There are three gangs in each level, and killing members of one gang decreases respect with that gang, and increases respect with another gang. Once your respect becomes negative with a gang, the gang stops giving you missions, and might even start shooting at you.
  • Fission Mailed: Collecting a van filled with explosive sex dolls results in this. Evidently, you play the role of a Lovable Sex Maniac; Albert Crisp lampshades it when you get out of the hospital, warning you not to repeat the same offense with a second van ("I know what you're like.")
  • Forehead of Doom: Harold Cartwright. He's reavealed to have once had a Beatles moptop in London 1961.
  • Gayngster: Albert Crisp.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: GTA '61 has you doing this to a rival gang boss, Chalkie.
  • Guide Dang It: The final mission. Your instructions are to blow up a car, but the directional arrow only points you to where the car was previously parked. You're given no description of what the car looks like, either. (It's a green Crapi, the most commonplace heap of junk in the game.)
  • Last Chance to Quit: Lenny Smith, a rival ganglord, attempts this after you pursue him up a fire escape. Before you kill him, Smith warns that the Crisps are growing distrustful of you. As it turns out, Smith turns out to have been Properly Paranoid.
  • London Gangster
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: The enigmatic Lord Lucan requires you to drive him to one of these doctors.
  • Meaningful Name: "Midnight", the guy hired to help you cause a citywide blackout.
  • Normally, I Would Be Dead Now: The Crisp twins survive a rocket-propelled grenade to their car, before issuing a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Obvious Beta / Schizophrenic Difficulty: The London 1961 expansion pack is heinously difficult, due to its unrealistic timed missions.
  • Serious Business: Albert is betting on a football match, but the goalie is rubbish. Solution? Drive a car inside the stadium during practice and run him over.
    • Driving van all over town to collect ingredients for Sid's picnic. And then you're expected to pick up the leftovers.
  • Stock British Phrases
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Jug Swinger (better known as "Shaguar" in Austin Powers parlance), a Jaguar-type roadster with the Union Jack emblazoned on it.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Your first boss, Harold Cartwright, is ordered to be killed in the final level.