Grand Theft Auto IV is finally out, and gamers nationwide are shirking their responsibilities With a series this popular imitators are bound to pop up, and although some like The Getaway and Saint's Row have managed to carve their own niche (that still doesn't reach Rockstar level), most have not. To celebrate the landmark release let's take a look back at some games that have tried to co-opt the GTA formula but have come up short.
7- Payback (aka Grand Theft Game Design)
What it stole: Everything. No, really. The creator set out to make a GTA clone and pulled it off, aping almost every aspect of the early GTA games. The criminal missions and free-roaming capability that made GTA a video game juggernaut are preserved to an arguably lawsuit worthy degree.
What it added: A few more weapons and multiplayer deathmatch capabilities. Yep, that's it.
The result: Despite the claim made by the creator that "every effort has been made to ensure that Payback beats GTA in every way," it doesn't stack up. It was too little too late to make much of a splash. And maybe that's a good thing, because otherwise Rockstar may have cared enough to sue. The game is actually impressive for being created on the Gameboy Advance, but it really came out too late (2004) for people to care. Now that there's two near-console versions of GTA on the PSP, the portable sandbox crown belongs to Rockstar, too.
6- Mercenaries (aka GTMPV aka Grand Theft Military Personnel Vehicle)
What it stole: The sandbox style gameplay and all of the car stealing, innocent bystander shooting glee that comes with it.
What it added: By plunking the sandbox down in the middle of the warzone the game has a different feel than GTA. There's more emphasis on missions and more of an ability to work with different factions. The ability to play as one of several different characters is also nice if you really want to experience the action as both a Chinese girl with a British accent and a white guy with a terrible mustache and fauxhawk.
The result: For a game that mixes the style of play of GTA with the atmosphere of a war game this sure does get boring. The gunfights themselves are fine, but the process of getting the missions and getting around the map is the video game equivalent of Advil PM. Plus, the advantages of having allies is grossly outweighed by the disadvantages. They occasionally try to help you, but because of that you can't kill them whenever you want. In a sandbox game with this many weapons that's just cruel.
5- The Simpsons Hit and Run (aka Grand Theft Auto: Springfield)
What it stole:All the basic pieces of GTA are here. A Springfield themed sandbox gives players the opportunity to steal cars and commit random acts of violence. Cartoon violence. You can't leave a geyser of blood in the place of Principal Skinner's head with a sniper rifle unfortunately. There's even a wanted level to gauge your behavior.
What it added: A nice, shiny new cartoony overlay with lots of yellows. Plus a thin after-coat of "past its prime."
The result: The Simpsons crew continue the trend of taking the premise for another video game and just throwing their characters into it, something they started previously by co-opting Crazy Taxi to make The Simpsons: Road Rage. It is fun to run around Springfield raising hell, but after a bit it feels like a neutered GTA. I couldn't find one yellow hooker to beat to death with a baseball bay anywhere. Being a Simpsons game it obviously delivers on the comedy often, but the laughs are never as big as the ones delivered in the GTA games themselves.
4- Gangs of London (aka Grand Theft Auto: London Revisited)
What it stole: Most aspects of GTA, including the use of power tools as a means of killing people in certain missions. Though I don't care what game it's in, using a jackhammer is just plain awesome. You got me there Gangs of London.
What it added: The biggest addition is more of an expansion, just playing up the role of different gangs in the game. Rather than in GTA, where you slowly piss off every gang to the point where you can't drive anywhere without being shot at, they decided to make it more of a functional part of the game, allowing you to play as any of five gangs. The addition of bar games is fun, but really, if you're too lazy to bowl or play billiards in the real world then you don't deserve them.
The result: A Guy Ritchie movie without the funny lines.
3. Total Overdose (aka Robert Rodriguez's Grand Theft Auto)
What it stole: The usual. Pretty much every aspect of GTA besides that secret Rockstar ingredient.
What it added: A Robert Rodriguez filter. Hell, they even have a "loco move" called El Mariachi that gives you two machine gun firing guitar cases.
The result: A slightly racist GTA. One of the only games out there to give us a Mexican hero and he has special moves like an exploding pi¤ata and a helpful sombrero wearing zombie. I'm sure they had good intentions, but come on. An exploding pinata? Other than that Total Overdose is like the kid at school that tries too hard to be cool and everyone laughs at behind his back. Sorry Total Overdose, the seat next to GTA at the lunch table is taken.
2. Driv3r (aka Grand Theft Auto: Emphasis on the Auto)
What it stole: Same old, same old. Driving vehicles around a sandbox environment, shooting whatever you please.
What it added: A lot more missions that revolve around driving. I know, you'd never guess from the name.
The result: The Driver series has a history of knocking off GTA, but this one gets the nod for the title alone. Driv3r? Is this what we can blame for inspiration of 2 Fast 2 Furious? Actually I don't know which came first. I would look it up but the shame of having a search for "2 Fast 2 Furious" in my internet history would be too much.
A Rockstar Response: Ever since GTA III, Rockstar has included jabs at the Driver series, igniting a rivalry between the two. A mission in GTA III featured a character named Tanner (much like the star of Driver) who can easily be killed when he exits his car. Rockstar also worked in ways to mock Tanner's notoriously bad walking animation in several missions.
1. True Crime: Streets of L.A. (aka True Grime Street Cleaners)
What it stole: My money. I want a refund. Also pretty much all of GTA.
What it added: A new take on the sandbox crime genre: that of the opposite side. They cast you as a L.A. police officer that does his best to put criminals behind bars rather than worry about how many weapons he loses if he ends up behind them himself.
The Result: It does not take long to realize that breaking the law is a hell of a lot more fun than enforcing it. Some of the fun of GTA remains, but as a cop a lot of the fun is off limits. Being too much of a bad cop can lead to your probation from the force until you do enough good cop deeds to make up for it. I want to play a crime game, not do community service! Police brutality happens often enough in the real world, why can't we have some fun with it?
A Rockstar Response: A Billboard in GTA: San Andreas features the name "True Grime Street Cleaners" in an awfully similar font, complete with the slogan "Get rid of old rubbish, fast!"