Grand Theft Auto
The day Police Camera Action finally gets yanked off-air, mealy-mouthed Alasdair could probably earn a living commentating live during games of Grand Theft Auto instead. Because it's actually very similar to the TV show in many ways, except for one very important one: it's great.
Fun Lovin' Criminals
So what's it like? Strikingly similar to the aforementioned helicopter-joyrider footage actually, although if you're after a games-related frame of reference; imagine Micro Machines transplanted to a busy, sprawling US city. It's all viewed from overhead, and the controls are pie-simple. There aren't any racetracks, only highly congested urban avenues. The road system works just as it does in real life, with traffic lights, junctions, one-way streets and dual carriageways. You can, if you like, spend hours driving round town at a leisurely pace, obeying the highway code and showing the utmost consideration to your fellow road users. And if that's all you want to do, do not buy this game. It will lead you astray. If you're normal however, you're going to love it.
You start out on foot, on the pavement, unarmed and inoffensive. This state of affairs will not last long. Pick a car, any car. Doesn't matter if it's still moving; simply walk into its path and the driver will come to a halt. Now yank open the door and wrench him out of his seat. Clamber in and drive away. Congratulations - your first carjacking. A serious offence in any country, yet in the world of GTA it's small beer. You'll be nicking cars left right and centre. Not to mention buses, oil tankers, ambulances, squad cars, fire trucks - and at one point even tanks.
Fun though it is, stealing vehicles isn't the sole object of the game. That would be wussy. No, the underlying aim is to impress the local toughs by committing a series of increasingly serious crimes, across three different cities, ideally evading arrest as you do so. There are two ways of going about this; you can either accept one of the given 'missions', which might consist of anything from driving a getaway car to wiping out a gang of Hell's Angels with a machine gun, or you can go 'freelance' and set out to create as much havoc as you can on your own. Whichever you choose, the chances are that before long the police will be on your tail - which is when the fun really starts. Ever watched the aforementioned Police Camera Action and wondered why the teenage joyriders never give up, even though 1) the odds are stacked against them and 2) they're getting into deeper trouble with each passing second? You won't when you've played GTA. The moment a squad car starts following you, some kind of weird criminal psychosis takes hold and you find you'll do anything - anything - to escape. Cue an insane cross-town car chase, with plenty of pile-ups and pedestrian casualties en-route. Naturally, the longer you avoid their clutches, the more desperate the police become. Before long they're ramming your car from behind, firing at your tyres a la Mel Gibson and setting up roadblocks. If, somehow, you manage to make it to a mob-owned garage (several of which are scattered throughout each city), you can have your numberplates changed and your criminal record wiped. That's the carrot. That's what keeps you on the run - and keeps you playing. The niggling thought that you might just Get Away With It.
You'll Never Take Me Alive
GTA works so well because the environment it creates is both believable and versatile. Run someone over, for instance, and an ambulance will arrive on the scene to ferry the victim to hospital. Naturally, you can pinch the ambulance. The fire trucks which appear to douse flaming car wrecks can also be swiped. The truly audacious will concentrate their efforts on stealing as many police cars as possible. The weird thing is it really does feel like you're breaking the law in some way: an undeniable buzz. It's original, yet curiously old-skool in flavour. The gameplay may be simple, the car handling hardly realistic, and the graphics more functional than spectacular (yes, it does look a bit like an Amiga game), yet it's one of my favourite games of the year. It's Starsky ft Hutch meets Reservoir Dogs, directed by Ice-T. Persevere, because it takes a while to get into, but once you do, you're hooked. I have but one request for the talented team at DMA Design: give us a sequel with polygons and cars that flip over. And give us it now.
Yes, there's a mission where you have to drive a bus packed with explosives through the streets, without dropping below SOmph. Now there's a challenge for the next series of You Bet.
Remember how Clint had to run around town answering payphones before they stopped ringing? Yup, that happens as well. Speaking of which, there was a similar bit of payphone-answering schtick in...
Die Hard 3
... which also included a sequence where Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson ploughed through Central Park in a yellow taxi. Spookily, this also happens in GTA.
Download Grand Theft Auto
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode