Grand Theft Nostalgia

Nostalgia can be a bit of a strange beast, especially when it comes to gamers who seemingly, for whatever reason, are constantly in a partial state of remembrance for games of yesteryear. Everyone is guilty of it at some point, whether it’s talking with friends about the stomping grounds of old, educating youngsters about how good it was back in the day of 16kb memory and 3.5Mhz processors, or just wishful daydreaming about a HD remake of your favourite franchise; we’ve all been there.

At the time of writing this, the latest Grand Theft Auto trailer is due to hit the internet within a mere few hours. It’s mind boggling to think about how much hype and bed-wetting can be produced from a simple holding page with nothing more than a logo and a date, but then this is, after all, a GTA game. Twitter is still awash with eager fans, saliva congealing at the corner of their mouths in anticipation; gaming websites have done nothing but fill their virtual pages with ‘rumours’, ‘what we’d like to see’ and ‘facts from unnamed sources’ – literally entry after entry in an effort to pry those much wanted hits towards their virtual walls. At the same time I’m sat here wondering just what the fuss is about.

Regardless of my current state of apathy I do acknowledge just how big a game changer the series was and, furthermore, just how iconic those three words have become: Grand Theft Auto. This isn’t to say that I’m not a fan of the games, for I loved the first one with unbridled passion. At an age where I should have been nowhere near a GTA title I could be found driving around the city in a bus, jumping over a gap in the road, something made popular amongst my friends thanks to Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in the sadly Oscar deprived film, Speed.

The GTA London expansion packs were released and they instantly became my new favourite game; even until this day they remain one of my favourite sets of titles. It wasn’t until the release of GTA III that I think it triggered just how big a series the games were becoming; the 3D world was something to marvel at and was one which turned Liberty City into my playground. When Vice City was released I fell in love all over again; the setting, the humour, everything about it led to me wanting more and more. The very notion of playing top down graphics again was laughable, the 3D world of Vice City was my home and nothing would ever change that… but it did.

It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly or, for that matter, why, but by the time San Andreas was released something had changed. Walking into my local retailer (an actual shop, can you believe it?) and swapping my hard earned wages for a copy of the game should have been more than enough to keep me happy. The addition of a free GTA themed bandana should have more than sweetened the deal, but it was an empty gesture, the damage had already been done.

San Andreas didn’t do it for me. It was fun and still a good game but, for whatever reason, my love of the series had diminished. Perhaps the most likely explanation was that I had grown bored, the constant American settings were fast becoming tiresome and the longing for somewhere fresh and new went answered. Rumblings of a GTA IV began to be felt, but when it came to the big reveal it once again showed nothing more than a Liberty City. Sure, it was more detailed than previous instalments, looked visually impressive and everything else you came to expect from a GTA game, but it still didn’t have that spark.

Another explanation is that I simply grew up. The appeal of running around with guns, doing what I want, driving cars like a lunatic and just being a bit of a twat has been satisfied for many years now. The whole controversy surrounding the games does nothing to fuel the hype, the prospect of possible boobies on display having been desensitized thanks to a school friend’s obsession with the third page of a popular newspaper that he kept in his bag at all times.

The very thought of having a whole city at your disposal is a rather lip wetting thought, but the game itself has to back it up with gameplay that matches the expectations. Consequently, for all the pieces of the puzzle to slot into place, it has to offer something new, something fresh to accompany the temptation.

So now we stand upon a precipice, a new chapter in the GTA series is about to begin and the cycle, once more, starts all over again. Controversy is something that will no doubt follow the game through development and past launch – you can almost imagine newspaper editors just chomping at the bit for that attention grabbing headline. By the time this article finds its way out into the vastness of the internet we’ll already know what direction GTA V will be taking, so here’s hoping it’s somewhere fresh, somewhere different. It’s due a bit of a change and shake up, so why not now?

Last five articles by Ben



  1. Chris Chris says:

    Bang on it Ben. I enjoyed the GTA titles. I remember the first one, something new, something different.
    Now you look at them and think “So what’s new” and the truth is not much. Sandbox games are a dime a dozen. It’s even lost it’s charm of being bat shit crazy. The title carries more weight then the product gives and we’re betrayed by the idea that this maybe different. I think we’re likely to see something similar to GTA IV in all honesty. I really do.

    That won’t be a bad thing. It will sell in droves. But for the long time fans (much like the COD argument) it’s nothing more then a shadow of what it once was and what it could be. That said I liked GTA IV but not nearly as much as I liked GTA 3.

  2. Stu Stu says:

    I never played GTA London, but I adored the original top down GTA’s. Vice City was the culmination of everything, it was very humourous, everything eeked 80′s parody and above all it was the only game at the time, that I can recall, that really did let you punch old ladies in the face or bazooka a lone copper with a pistol just to nick his wheels.

    I think the setting of San Andreas coupled with the abysmal graphics (it seemed a generation behind the other games released around that time visually) turned me off. I couldn’t give a monkeys about the ghetto and the whole Gangsta thing just didn’t do it for me. When GTAIV came around, I bought it, but sadly again, I didn’t connect on any level with Nico Bellic (and the accents drove me insane) the fun was lost almost completely in the myriad of juggling missions, dates, mini games…having played Saint’s Row 2 no less than 4 months ago for the first time it basically was what GTA should have evolved to, the thing was fun and outlandish, just like Vice City and those before it was.

    As GTAV seems to be returning to San Andreas, at least partly, and the teaser trailer just looked pretty, I think that I’ll be skipping this, especially as Saint’s Row 3 is about to drop…sorry Rockstar but GTA isn’t the king anymore, Volition have taken that crown and if SR3 is anything like SR2 then it’ll likely be out of GTAV’s reach unless some serious rethinking about the core game is done.

  3. Richie rich says:

    GTA1 is so vastly better than GTAIV that it made me weep for gaming when that fucking lemon was getting praised across the boards.

    Good piece, Ben.

  4. Rook says:

    I will get this as I enjoy the GTA games however I have a greater fondness for the Saints Rows games at present. Maybe GTA V can win me back, we’ll jsut ahve to wait and see.

  5. SimonJK says:

    I fondly remember them all, lol. I was a bit lost with GTA1 as them was the days when games were only just begining to get complex (outside the rpg genre), but when GTA2 came along with various improvement I was falling inlove with the game. I must admit it did help also playing Syndicate, Xcom and Choas Engine at the time so I was getting fairly fluent in the top down genre. I must admit not really recalling playing a lot of GTA3 but really launching myself into Vice City on both console platforms. I was very impressed by the vastness of San Andreas and still own 2 platform versions of Vice City and still have San Andreas on my 360′s hard drive not to mention IV and it’s expansion packs which I still have yet to finish. Was I really the only one who found the vanilla GTA 4 rather boring?

    I guess I cannot wait to find out if the genre returns to the exciting past versons or, when the next one comes out, if I can find Carl Johnstons house and if that infamous large purple weapon is still in the showers at the local cop shop, lol.

  6. Edward Edward says:

    I remember being introduced to GTA1 and thinking it nothing special, but having a lot of fun with GTA London, then more or less completely ignoring GTA3 and going straight for Vice City. I lost so many hours to that game I think it may be one of the titles I’ve played more of than anything else. Everything about it was so perfect, even for a kid like me who didn’t get all of the 80s references and whatnot. Then San Andreas came along, and while I enjoyed it and bought into the hype (I remember getting up two hours before I was meant to go to school just so I could start it), about halfway through I kind of felt a bit bored with it all. Yeah, it was a great game, but for once, there was just too much of it. There was so much to do and while it didn’t feel unfocused, it didn’t feel perfectly polished (those frigging airplane training missions for one, were from the depths of hades) and it just didn’t have the sheen or polish of Vice City.

    Saying all that, I absolutely loved GTA4, and all of the expansions. I thought (and still think) the city was beautiful, with plenty to do and a storyline that grew up along with the fans. Yeah, it was less childish and silly, but it worked beautifully, and it battles consistently with Vice City over the position of my favourite GTA game. With Rockstar making more mature games and THQ and Saints Row over the to bring the silly, there’s no reason we can’t have two cakes and enjoy them both. I’m looking forward to GTA5, but not from the trailers or hype, just because I know that it’s going to give me a lot of memories.

  7. Pete Pete says:

    I’m with Stu on this one! Saints Row is everything GTA could have been but wasn’t!

    I loved the original top down GTA games but never really took to the 3D ones until I had liberty city on my PSP :) have since got IV on the 360 but it just became dull after a short while and I’ve not really gotten very far with it!

    Conversely I bought Saints Row 2 a few weeks back and currently after sinking more than 50 hours into it (cheevie popped lol) I’m still going back for more trying to get all the jumps and CDs and tags done! Hoping that 3 will be even better! :)

  8. SimonJK says:

    Hmm, much as I loved Saint’s Row 1 and then was rather keen on Saint’s Row 2, I am concerned that the third may get too ridiculas. Okay covering a crowd with slurry in 2 was fun but possible, the things that seem to be included in 3 look well beyond possible and this will give GTA the excuse of calling StR a fantasy game and not be forced to improve GTA5.

  9. Lorna Lorna says:

    I have never really dabbled that much with the GTA franchise, having only dicked about for a few hours in GTA Vice City and GTA IV. I guess they never appealed all that much – at least enough to stop me passing them up for other games – but they are honestly titles which I have always meant to go back to, as with much of my ‘to play/finish’ pile. I’m also disappointed that, once again, the new game isn’t being set somewhere else. Seems such a wasted opportunity really – a fresh GTA London would be stunning. Tottenham riot expansion pack ftw.

  10. Pete Pete says:

    Lorna that is genius! :D

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