From the very beginning of the series, the Grand Theft Auto games biggest hook has been their realistic setting with which anyone who has driven a car in a city can immediately connect. Even with the particularly cartoonish graphics and top-down view of the first Grand Theft Auto , the idea of driving around a city, hurtling like a madman over sidewalks or down alleyways, potentially running over pedestrians that get in your way, smashing your car up in the process, and then stealing any car you might find, proved uniquely compelling. Anyone who has ever been irritated waiting for slow pedestrians to get across a crosswalk has probably wondered What if I just ran them over?
Everyone has fantasized about avoiding a traffic jam by popping the car up on to the sidewalk like in an action movie. Anyone who has seen a fancy vehicle pull up next to them at a stoplight understands the desire to just ditch your own car and take this better one. These are all taboo activities that many people fantasize about on a daily basis. Surely, they would never do them in real life, but in the safe context of a game-world where the worst consequence is having to start your game over, who wouldn t want to try it out? And since the first two Grand Theft Auto games were hits in their own right, we can conclude that many players were willing to overlook the clunky driving mechanics so that they could engage in these taboo activities.
Grand Theft Auto III is a model of how to truly evolve your game with a sequel. It retains the exciting city-driving hook of the first games while fixing its viewpoint and control issues, thereby making the game a lot more compelling to a lot more people. Indeed, many of the design concepts found in the third game are also present in the first, whether it s the ringing telephones giving players their missions, the feel of a living city with other cars and pedestrians all going about their lives in a believable way, the rampage mini-games, or the satirical nature of the game- fiction including the highly amusing car radio.
Though in the film and literary world sequels are often looked down upon as a crass way to cash in on a previous success, in gaming one needs to consider sequels a bit differently. Games in general keep being played much longer than their linear media counterparts; think about how many people still consider chess, Monopoly , or Scrabble to be their favorite board games and continue to play them year after year. With a single-player story-based game, the game may be primarily fun because of its mechanics, yet those mechanics are made meaningful and interesting because of the specific content of the game (whether the location, the selection of usable objects, or the missions and storyline). Players may still enjoy the mechanics once they have worn out all the content. Much as the tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons spawned endless scenario packs one could play while using the same core rules, when players really love a computer game they want to keep exploring its mechanics but with new and interesting content. On the PC side this can often be accomplished with a mission pack. However, due to the technical limitations of consoles, developers are often required to release an entire new game just to provide more content for players to experience (such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City , which kept basically the same mechanics as its predecessor). At the same time, a sequel gives designers the opportunity to polish and refine their game mechanics, fixing what was glaringly broken and adding the features they regretted cutting due to time constraints the first time around.
Finally, with gaming technology advancing as quickly as it does, games are able to look radically better within the space of only a few years . In particular, with each generation of console hardware, players want to have new versions of their favorite games that fully exploit the new technological capabilities of their new systems. Sometimes the advance in technology is so significant that developers are able to rethink their game and take it to a new level, as was the case with Grand Theft Auto III. When a game s fundamental experience can be improved as much as it was in that game, one can hardly say that game sequels are purely exploitation.