In less than a week, Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most hotly anticipated titles of this year, will be in our hands. Here at DC, we’ve gotten a little teary-eyed about vehicular manslaughter and mayhem and have decided to share with you some of our favorite moments from the series.
1Javy: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
A man runs down the sidewalk. He’s screaming. People checking into the nearby hotel don’t even bother to give him a second glance—until they see me, Tommy Vercetti, sprinting after him with a chainsaw.
I close in and raise the chainsaw above his head. He screams. Vice City’s citizens scream even louder and disperse. Somewhere close by a car stereo is playing ‘Sister Christian.” Down the poor bastard goes, splashing the sidewalk red. I turn away from the grisly scene of the murder and smile. The night is young, and I’ve still got a hankering for some mayhem.
Vice City wasn’t as much of departure from III as IV was, but it still marked the beginning of the series’ goofy courting of homage. There isn’t really one memorable moment for me of Vice City. I could point out the Scarface-esque mission, where you assault a drug lord’s mansion and take over his empire, or I could talk about chauffeuring glam rock band Lovefist around in their bomb-strapped limo. To me, Vice City comes together as single glorious package. Simply riding down Ocean Drive in a Blista as Mr.Mister played on the radio was a joy in itself. San Andreas arguably improved on Vice City’s formula by diving into 90s pop culture and creating a MASSIVE world for the player to frolic and murder in, but I’ll always hold Vice City dear in my heart of glass.
2Calum: Tenpenny gets his comeuppance
There’s just something so satisfying about revenge, and the GTA games have a way of creating the best scumbag villains who need to be put in your place. The vague formula that many of the games follow, namely building up your empire after a betrayal, is perfectly supported by an asshole antagonist who has been plaguing your family for years. Officer Frank Tenpenny, played to perfection by Samuel L. Jackson, in GTA: San Andreas was one such antagonist. After collaborating with your ex-homies to bring about the end of the Grove Street Families, Tenpenny bungs your brother in jail and strands you in the wilderness. But CJ isn’t a man to let a little thing blackmail from a police officer stand in his way.
The real classic moment here is the final confrontation with Tenpenny. After his mysterious acquittal from a huge list of charges, the city of Los Santos rips itself apart. In a more than slight reference to the 1992 L.A riots (San Andreas is set in ‘92), Tenpenny attempts to kill his collaborators and flee the city with ill-gotten drug money. He doesn’t get far though, and crashes a fire truck right into the Grove Street cul-de-sac, bringing the sordid tale of Big Smoke and Officer Tenpenny to a close. It just goes to show that Rockstar really knows how to make you hate a character (I took the trash out! I did! and I’d do it all again!).
3Brodie: Are You Going to San Fierro?
Long before the days when Jason Brody kicked the hornet’s nest to the dulcet and wubby tones of Skrillex, Carl Johnson set off a blaze that would have brought Cheech and Chong to their knees. Fearful that Tenpenny has caught wind off The Truth’s immaculate dope farm, the tubular, Willie Nelson inspired green thumb sets Carl to work with a flamethrower as the two light the fields up like a Christmas tree, sending plumes of totally bodacious smoke into the skies.
The two then set their sights on San Fierro as they buckle up in The Truth’s adorable hippie van, The Mothership. Impaired by the Mary Jane, Carl’s driving is especially radical, as far out and colourful patterns draw his focus.
While setting blaze to pot crops is a fun day’s work in itself, Carl winding up stoned driving a rainbow clad van took the cake – or the brownie, in this instance. Given the strict classification guidelines when it comes to drug use in this country, it’s sad to think tongue-in-cheek romps like this are, most likely, no more.
Standards today are just too high. Not as high as Willie, but high.
4Phillip: The Ballad of Gay Tony
Grand Theft Auto IV was a step towards a more serious direction. It was less wacky adventures and comedic sociopathy, more pathos filled crime drama. Niko Bellic was a man with bloodstained hands and a sordid past. In search of the American Dream, he’d find only violence and bitter endings. Quite a turn about from raiding secret government bases and torching weed farms. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the new vision that guided Grand Theft Auto, it’s just… well… shenanigans!
Which is exactly why I was so pleased to see The Ballad of Gay Tony. In one of the most memorable missions in any GTA title, your character Luis Lopez proceeds to steal an entire train carriage, as it moves, right off the track, whilst fending off legions of SWAT members and helicopters using an automatic shotgun filled with explosive rounds. And why are you doing this? Because you’re recklessly extravagant billionaire property developer friend wants to build his own underwater Liberty City themed hotel complete with authentic train.
Hah. Just like old times.
5David: Grand Theft Auto III
I’ve played all the major console releases from the PS2 era, and I’m finally getting around to IV, but the game in the series that will stick with me forever is GTA III. Although each sequel progressively became more refined and more expansive in mechanics, maps, and story, GTA III was such a significant leap forward in showing us what interactive media was capable of, that it left an indelible mark on this here nerd.
The game had a scandalous reputation, and that was one of the first things that appealed to me. I could start fights with anyone in the streets. I could get into a car chase with the cops. Liberty City was full of sex, violence, and potential anarchy, and I got to be the (anti) hero. Amorality was king. And although the previous games in the series delivered similar gameplay, 3-d just made it all feel that much more visceral.
None of the violence mattered to me as much as the gameplay. After 100 hours, I’d gained access to two other parts of the city, and memorized different routes and locations for hidden weapons. I stole tanks and armored police vehicles. For cash, I could choose between playing vigilante in a cop car or driving passengers around in a taxi. The design was varied, imaginative, and ambitious; the execution convincing.
While the writing in each sequel would get progressively better, its highly functional nature in III left room for my story, the emergent story, which is what I found most compelling. I can’t recall many details like where to find the sniper rifle or the fastest route to the park, but I remember where the Banshee is parked and what it felt like to careen up that curved road below the fast food restaurant, at top speed and with near perfect control.
It was all a fantasy, but damn was it good.
So what’s your favourite moment from the Grand Theft Auto series? Hanging with the Grove Street boys in San Andreas or blazing down the streets in Vice City with ‘Billy Jean’ pumping out your windows? Drop down in the comments below and let us know!