Unplayable?: Grand Theft Auto 2

Some games stand the test of time and some don’t. However, some games aren’t that simple. Some games clearly led to something great, even if they themselves are not fun. However, should that benefit the game on its own? Even if said game has good ideas, should that improve your experience with the game proper? I did a post on the first Grand Theft Auto and deemed it unplayable. Perhaps not broken (as a mentioned in that post’s rebuttal) but unplayable. As a fan of GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas, I was surprised that the series was allowed to continue after making such a disappointing game. Maybe it was due to all of the Lemmings money. Anyways, I also played its sequel and while it didn’t give a great first impression and I can’t say I had fun with it at all, giving it another shot yielded a more positive experience. Yet I still didn’t have fun. So is or isn’t Grand Theft Auto 2 unplayable?

Let’s begin with my first impression. I had never played GTA2 before yet I had the game on Steam, acquired from a sale of the entire franchise. I load up GTA2, configured the controls for the gamepad (a lesson learned from the first title) and I’m presented with a live action cut scene that actually took me by surprise. It’s of decent quality and downright impressive for the late 90s. Immediately I can tell that much more thought and care was put into this title than in the first. The main menu actually reminds me of the first Mafia game that would be released a few years after this game. GTA 1 let you pick a character model and rename it but this title only lets you rename your save slot. Oh well, both features were taken out of subsequent titles so who cares.

I’m dropped into the game and immediately put into a tutorial, explaining the different factions in the game and basic instructions. The game looks similar to the first although it’s graphically much better. The controls on the gamepad are better than the first but still not good. Whenever I try to turn, my character stops, turns and then moves forward so I start using the keyboard again, configuring it to be the same as I had it in the first game. I get into a car and again, like the first game, I’m driving like a mad man. I try to follow the objective arrow but this time I can’t find it. I run into a kill frenzy token or whatever it’s called. So I start gunning down anyone I run into with a machine gun I’m given until this policeman literally comes out of my ass and busts me by merely touching me. After that’s over, I find a car and drive around looking for my objective again for another 10 minutes until I finally give up.

It’s at this point that I started doing my post on both games. Originally, I planned to do both games in one post but I had much more to say about the first game. Also, I felt like I hadn’t given the second game as much time as the first. So I load up the game again, and I follow the tutorial precisely. I gather I should get some respect by killing an opposing gang so I drive around until I find some guys all in green aka the Loonies. I kill a bunch of them, then drive over to the Zaibatsu side of town and do several missions for them. I play the game for almost two hours, bringing the total to a little over that.

So first and foremost, this game is much more mechanically sound than Grand Theft Auto 1. Where driving in GTA1 was incoherent, it’s quite functional in GTA2. The camera zooming in and out is not as disorienting and the sense of speed is toned down which gives the player a better sense of control. No longer am I constantly swerving and hitting cars and pedestrians unintentionally. I can actually drive down the street casually without much trouble. Missions are also more clear. Just giving them factions helps give context. I was able to do about seven and I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it each time. The graphics are also much improved from the original. Honestly, they aren’t that great, even by late 90s standards but they’re serviceable. No longer do they look like they were drawn on MS Paint. There’s actual lighting effects and detail to the environments.

However, that doesn’t mean that this is a vast improvement. I still don’t have full control of the car and subtle movements are still impossible. I’m still accidentally hitting cars and pedestrians, although not as frequently. Moving on foot, while better, is still unintuitive. Shooting, again while better, still lacks any facet of aiming with improvements in my opinion being directly due to more forgiving trajectory physics. Getting arrested also has little to no consequence other than you’ll fail your mission and lose your weapons, which I could get back quite easily. Your health seems to be quite random too. I was hit by a car once and died instantly while another time, I was hit by a car twice and got up just fine with only a heart and a half taken away. Missions still lack diversity, at least the ones I did, and usually boil down to drive here, now drive there, now drive here. Also, having to find anything without a waypoint pointing you in the right direction is excruciating. I spent 40 minutes alone trying to find a church so I could save and only with the help of GameFAQs and a TV van was I able to find it. FYI, it was right where the game started. RAGE!!!

The worst part however was the cruel fact that while I was doing all these missions and driving around and shooting rival gang members, I wasn’t having fun. Sure on one end, I was happy that the controls actually were functional and improved. However, they never were so improved to the point where they felt good. I keep using the word “functional” and there’s a reason. The controls never reach past being just okay. I was glad I knew what I was doing now in the game but the missions were never interesting. I still had problems with things like knowing which way my character was facing. Yet the idea of what the developers were going for is there and the potential is clearly visible. I can see how they went from this game to GTA III.

Basically, GTA 2 is what GTA 1 should’ve been. It is almost quite literally the same game except fixed and GTA 1 is little more than an Alpha version of GTA 2. Having said that, I still didn’t enjoy playing it. In fact, I think that GTA 2 is a bad game. However, I can say, despite the title of this piece, that GTA 2 is NOT unplayable. If you played this back in the day, I can see you enjoying yourself. I’m not sure if you could now though. This could be attributed to the passage of time. Once again, this is not a review nor is it my initial impressions. These are my first and last impressions as I have no plans to continue playing this game. My opinion is just that, an opinion, and is not definite in any way and should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, don’t let me tell you how you like it though! Give me your thoughts on GTA 2. Has it aged well or badly to your mind? Do you agree with my assessment or am I full of crap? Comment below and let me know.

Oh and seriously, cop just appeared out of my ass. No idea where he was this whole time. I’m just gunning down pedestrians and boom. Right out of my ass. Guess he was just waiting for his moment.

3 Comments
3 Comments
Posted by Colorwind

Some games stand the test of time and some don’t. However, some games aren’t that simple. Some games clearly led to something great, even if they themselves are not fun. However, should that benefit the game on its own? Even if said game has good ideas, should that improve your experience with the game proper? I did a post on the first Grand Theft Auto and deemed it unplayable. Perhaps not broken (as a mentioned in that post’s rebuttal) but unplayable. As a fan of GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas, I was surprised that the series was allowed to continue after making such a disappointing game. Maybe it was due to all of the Lemmings money. Anyways, I also played its sequel and while it didn’t give a great first impression and I can’t say I had fun with it at all, giving it another shot yielded a more positive experience. Yet I still didn’t have fun. So is or isn’t Grand Theft Auto 2 unplayable?

Let’s begin with my first impression. I had never played GTA2 before yet I had the game on Steam, acquired from a sale of the entire franchise. I load up GTA2, configured the controls for the gamepad (a lesson learned from the first title) and I’m presented with a live action cut scene that actually took me by surprise. It’s of decent quality and downright impressive for the late 90s. Immediately I can tell that much more thought and care was put into this title than in the first. The main menu actually reminds me of the first Mafia game that would be released a few years after this game. GTA 1 let you pick a character model and rename it but this title only lets you rename your save slot. Oh well, both features were taken out of subsequent titles so who cares.

I’m dropped into the game and immediately put into a tutorial, explaining the different factions in the game and basic instructions. The game looks similar to the first although it’s graphically much better. The controls on the gamepad are better than the first but still not good. Whenever I try to turn, my character stops, turns and then moves forward so I start using the keyboard again, configuring it to be the same as I had it in the first game. I get into a car and again, like the first game, I’m driving like a mad man. I try to follow the objective arrow but this time I can’t find it. I run into a kill frenzy token or whatever it’s called. So I start gunning down anyone I run into with a machine gun I’m given until this policeman literally comes out of my ass and busts me by merely touching me. After that’s over, I find a car and drive around looking for my objective again for another 10 minutes until I finally give up.

It’s at this point that I started doing my post on both games. Originally, I planned to do both games in one post but I had much more to say about the first game. Also, I felt like I hadn’t given the second game as much time as the first. So I load up the game again, and I follow the tutorial precisely. I gather I should get some respect by killing an opposing gang so I drive around until I find some guys all in green aka the Loonies. I kill a bunch of them, then drive over to the Zaibatsu side of town and do several missions for them. I play the game for almost two hours, bringing the total to a little over that.

So first and foremost, this game is much more mechanically sound than Grand Theft Auto 1. Where driving in GTA1 was incoherent, it’s quite functional in GTA2. The camera zooming in and out is not as disorienting and the sense of speed is toned down which gives the player a better sense of control. No longer am I constantly swerving and hitting cars and pedestrians unintentionally. I can actually drive down the street casually without much trouble. Missions are also more clear. Just giving them factions helps give context. I was able to do about seven and I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it each time. The graphics are also much improved from the original. Honestly, they aren’t that great, even by late 90s standards but they’re serviceable. No longer do they look like they were drawn on MS Paint. There’s actual lighting effects and detail to the environments.

However, that doesn’t mean that this is a vast improvement. I still don’t have full control of the car and subtle movements are still impossible. I’m still accidentally hitting cars and pedestrians, although not as frequently. Moving on foot, while better, is still unintuitive. Shooting, again while better, still lacks any facet of aiming with improvements in my opinion being directly due to more forgiving trajectory physics. Getting arrested also has little to no consequence other than you’ll fail your mission and lose your weapons, which I could get back quite easily. Your health seems to be quite random too. I was hit by a car once and died instantly while another time, I was hit by a car twice and got up just fine with only a heart and a half taken away. Missions still lack diversity, at least the ones I did, and usually boil down to drive here, now drive there, now drive here. Also, having to find anything without a waypoint pointing you in the right direction is excruciating. I spent 40 minutes alone trying to find a church so I could save and only with the help of GameFAQs and a TV van was I able to find it. FYI, it was right where the game started. RAGE!!!

The worst part however was the cruel fact that while I was doing all these missions and driving around and shooting rival gang members, I wasn’t having fun. Sure on one end, I was happy that the controls actually were functional and improved. However, they never were so improved to the point where they felt good. I keep using the word “functional” and there’s a reason. The controls never reach past being just okay. I was glad I knew what I was doing now in the game but the missions were never interesting. I still had problems with things like knowing which way my character was facing. Yet the idea of what the developers were going for is there and the potential is clearly visible. I can see how they went from this game to GTA III.

Basically, GTA 2 is what GTA 1 should’ve been. It is almost quite literally the same game except fixed and GTA 1 is little more than an Alpha version of GTA 2. Having said that, I still didn’t enjoy playing it. In fact, I think that GTA 2 is a bad game. However, I can say, despite the title of this piece, that GTA 2 is NOT unplayable. If you played this back in the day, I can see you enjoying yourself. I’m not sure if you could now though. This could be attributed to the passage of time. Once again, this is not a review nor is it my initial impressions. These are my first and last impressions as I have no plans to continue playing this game. My opinion is just that, an opinion, and is not definite in any way and should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, don’t let me tell you how you like it though! Give me your thoughts on GTA 2. Has it aged well or badly to your mind? Do you agree with my assessment or am I full of crap? Comment below and let me know.

Oh and seriously, cop just appeared out of my ass. No idea where he was this whole time. I’m just gunning down pedestrians and boom. Right out of my ass. Guess he was just waiting for his moment.

Posted by tunaburn

i played the crap out of grand theft auto 2 on playstation 1. i loved it. we would get the tank and go on a rampage all the time. but yea, it doesnt hold up anymore.

Posted by mosespippy

I still play GTA2 every year. It is the game that made me a gamer. I have found the controls on the PS1 to be worse than the PC version. The biggest difference being the ability to do a quick 180 while running away from the cops and run backwards unloading the uzi into the stream of chasing officers. The turn is kind of slow on the PS1. The biggest penalty for getting arrested is that it halves your score multiplier, which you probably didn't notice since you are unfamiliar with the game's scoring mechanics and certainly weren't going for a high score.

Health isn't random and cops arresting you isn't random either. The reason you died when the car ran over you was because the tire ran over your body. The other times you were only knocked down and not ran over. The worst is when you get knocked down and the car behind rear ends the car that hit you which then rolls onto you. Cops touching you reduces your health quickly until it either hits 0 or they aren't touching you any more. Getting pulled from a car will get you arrested since you are on the ground long enough to drain full health.

I doubt you played long enough to get enough money to try any of the fun stuff. If you were to get the oil patch weapon for your car and spam it so traffic in both directions swerves into a corner you'd get a huge pileup then you could use the time bombs to set off a huge chain reaction and explode all the vehicles. Or if you have enough money to finish the first area some pretty fun bonus areas are unlocked like one where you drive around with the vehicle mounted machine guns blowing up as many ice cream trucks as possible.

The main missions are kind of boring. The game is better as a sand box that you just explore and mess around with, hitting ramps at weird angles so that you get onto roofs that you shouldn't be able to reach. That sort of exploration is missing in newer GTA games. There isn't a single building in GTA IV than you can enter that isn't part of a mission. There is one spot in the first level that I remember having a lot of fun with. It was three or four levels high and you would die if you jumped off or fell off but if you fell off and landed on a tall vehicle like a bank van or a fire truck you would live. It guess it was kind of like cliff diving or base jumping. I once died when I hit a cop with a molotov and he flew high into the air and then landed on me.