Grand Theft Auto 2 (PS1)

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In Grand Theft Auto 2, the sequel to two earlier GTA titles, your life of crime begins as down-on-his-luck Claude Speed, a recently released prisoner with no memory of how or why he was imprisoned via a cryogenically induced sleep. He does realize, however, that he's at the bottom of the food chain -- no job, no luck, no money and no where to go but up.

In this instance, "up" means the top of the criminal element's food chain -- he has aspirations of being the next crime lord of the city. Through manipulation of rival gangs, infiltration of criminally-based organizations or as a lone gunman with his sights set on the pinnacle of power -- the nefarious and dangerous underworld -- he plots and plans for that happy day.

Although his memory is lacking in some areas, it is perfectly clear when it comes to remembering how to claw, fight, steal and kill in order to achieve his goals. As a start, he falls back on the one skill he's absolutely sure about -- Grand Theft Auto. To begin his comeback in this particular realm of hell, his first act is a car-jacking that paves the way for future activities. To achieve this, he'll have to climb past a half dozen gangs made up of Russian and Japanese immigrants, lunatics, genetically altered zombies, religious freaks, drug dealers, psychotic leaders and more.

Once past those, he'll have to deal with the untouchable Zaibatsu Corporation, controllers of all abusive substances ("play-drugs") that are being used to systematically subjugate the population, especially Zoom Zoom -- in fact, their number one goal is world dominance through directly controlled consumerism.

As the game is being released for both PC and PlayStation at the same time (Oct 22, 1999), viable questions arise as to what is lost, if anything, in the translation. In a concession to the more limited power base of the PlayStation, there will be fewer cars and pedestrians on-screen at any given moment. However, this is offset by the use of more dynamic lighting than on the PC. All in all, not much is different between the versions -- the story remains the same as do the graphically enhanced and maneuverable automobiles.

During gameplay, there are literally hundreds of cars to choose from -- many with overtones reminiscent of cars from the mid- to early-20th century. Over 30 cars are featured, ranging from stylized versions of coupes, roadsters and sedans to modernized electric cars and supercharged cop cars. Gameplay still centers on the dark side of life -- drugs, gangs, thieves, killings, blackmail, corrupt military and government, rampant crime and overall moral decay.

In the spin put on the world in Grand Theft Auto 2, however, the crime lords are feuding and fighting for control because the big-player (Zaibatsu Corporation) in this decadent society is an organization with fingers in everyone's pie. With its aforementioned lofty goal, this company will stop at nothing. Nor is any act that furthers their agenda toward this end too severe -- subjugation of society and the destabilization of the world population is in sight -- and Zaibatsu wants to help it along.

Success in Grand Theft Auto 2 requires you to develop a master plan with the reward being control of this earthbound hell. In your dealings with the gangs, you'd be advised to trust no one and cross and double-cross everyone. Use all means at your disposal to set the gangs against each other by fostering hate, fear and anger. Alternately, you can choose which crime bosses to work for and then strike from within when the timing is right.

The original GTA set the gaming world on its collective ear with its gritty and realistic portrayal of the seedy side of humanity. So much so, in fact, the worldwide public outcry by "morally sensitive" groups and some outraged censorship-minded opponents that was only fueled by the game's incredible embrace by fans of the genre (2.5 million copies sold as of 1999), still s