Originally meant to be a top-down take on cops and robbers, DMA Design realized during testing that it was much more fun to be bad than good. Thus, Race and Chase was eventually released as Grand Theft Auto, and the industry was changed forever. The game deliberately courted controversy with its provocative content, and took Caligula-esque delight in its incendiary subject matter.
Unfortunately, the problem with developers actively seeking outrage is that sometimes they get it. While further games have gleefully attempted to push the envelope, there have been some consequences. Whether it’s due to moral outrage, a decrease in quality, or dubious design choices, these are the biggest busts in the Grand Theft Auto series.
This article discusses scenes with sensitive topics, including murder and torture.
10 The Gunplay In Earlier Entries Was Abysmal
As revolutionary as GTA III was, there’s no denying the absolutely atrocious gunplay. Dispatching enemies was a mere game of chance, as the auto-targeting was completely unreliable. It wasn’t uncommon for players to suffer needless deaths because the game accidentally focused its targets on civilians instead of armed hostiles.
Unfortunately, things wouldn’t get much better with subsequent games, as Vice City and San Andreas only made minor adjustments to the gunplay. It wasn’t until GTA IV that combat became serviceable with its basic, but functional pop-and-lock cover system.
9 Missions Were More Frustrating Than They Needed To Be
While many players prefer to avoid the plot altogether and do whatever they want in the large sandbox, progressing through the story is essential to open up the world map and acquire new content to play around with.
Unfortunately, earlier installments took a “quantity over quality” approach to plot-important tasks, leading to several controller-tossing sections. Players who’ve had the misfortune of repeatedly failing the “Wrong Side of the Tracks” mission in San Andreas have amused themselves by quoting Big Smoke’s admonishing line.
8 Mid-mission Checkpoints Weren’t A Thing Until V
It’s one thing to be given a difficult task as a prerequisite for gaining new content, but it’s another to be forced to redo the entire thing from the top just for one little mistake. Failing missions in early GTA games was an absolute nightmare, as players were tasked with driving all the way back to the task giver, sitting through the synopsis again, and starting the segment from the very beginning.
IV made continuing a little less painful with an instant retry feature, but it wouldn’t be until the subsequent numerical installment before players would be finally granted mid-mission checkpoints.
7 The Game Boy GTA Titles
Rockstar Lincoln, formerly known as Tarantula Studios, was known for their plethora of titles for the Game Boy – with a good chunk of them based on pre-existing properties such as The Muppets and Austin Powers. Unfortunately, they were given the unenviable task of bringing the first two Grand Theft Auto titles to Nintendo’s handheld platform.
While they are to be commended for their ambition, the bird’s eye sandbox formula proved too strenuous for the mere Game Boy hardware. They play similarly to their PlayStation and PC counterparts, but players must contend with grating audio, abysmal controls, and some truly unresponsive vehicles.
6 GTA VI Was Leaked
November 2022 saw one of the biggest video game leaks of all time when footage of the upcoming sixth numerical installment found its way online. Fans witnessed incomplete assets, and some early gameplay elements via online forums and social media.
Predictably, it wasn’t very long before Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive requested massive takedowns. Despite speculations, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick claims that the leaks haven’t really hit their bottom line, stating, “as a business matter we’re not affected. But as a personal matter and an emotional matter, our teams are affected.“
5 The Torture Scene In GTA V
The GTA series is known for pushing the envelope, but many critics agree that the torture segment in the fifth game went much too far. While the franchise has demonstrated how cathartic it can be to cut loose with some wanton mayhem and destruction, causing needless pain and suffering to a defenseless human being isn’t really fun.
The game proceeds to make a half-hearted attempt at social commentary where Trevor breaks character and explains to the poor shmuck why torture isn’t a reliable means of gathering information. It’s clumsy, gratuitous, and detracts from the game’s otherwise farcical tone.
4 The Song Purge In GTA IV
As with many other Grand Theft Auto installments, IV boasted an inordinate amount of licensed music from a wide variety of genres. Since a good chunk of these games takes place behind the wheel, the song selection for the radio stations is arguably one of the most important aspects of the series.
IV did not disappoint in this area with tracks from the likes of David Bowie, Fat Joe, and countless other artists. Unfortunately, the licensing agreements for these tracks would eventually expire, leading to the removal of over 50 songs in a 2018 update.
3 The Definitive Edition
It’s always tempting fate whenever a new version of a game is labeled as “The Definitive Edition.” Suffice it to say, this butchered collection of the first 3D GTA entries is far from the ideal way to play these classics – bizarre character models, graphical oddities, hilarious glitches, and more plague each landmark title.
Whether it’s the sight of a car becoming wider and wider, visual gags being ruined by AI upscaling, or NPCs with outrageous body proportions, this compilation is just a complete mess from top to bottom. What’s even worse is that Rockstar de-listed the original titles from digital outlets.
2 Michael Hollick Claims That Rockstar Underpaid Him
Known for his morally ambiguous actions and fierce loyalty to those closest to him, Niko Bellic remains one of Rockstar’s most nuanced and fascinating protagonists. When GTA IV was released in 2008, many critics and fans singled him out for particular praise.
A large part of that is due to the phenomenal vocal performance and motion capture of Michael Hollick. Unfortunately, Hollick claims that he was only paid $100,000 for his work on the $600 million-selling title. While certain characters such as Johnny Klebtitz and Packy McReary have shown up in V, it seems safe to say that Niko will remain MIA.
1 The Hot Coffee Controversy
In a game about hijacking vehicles and engaging in violent gunfights, a mini-game where two adults engaged in passionate intimacy was regarded as a bridge too far. The removed Hot Coffee sections in San Andreas allowed CJ to get busy with many consenting ladies. Eventually, Rockstar released an adults-only patch for the Windows version, which restored it.
The mod quickly caught the attention of moral guardians such as disbarred attorney Jack Thompson. The Hot Coffee debacle will forever go down as one of Rockstar’s most costly disasters, with the resulting lawsuits setting them back $163 million.
NEXT: 10 Games That Spawned Countless Copy Cats
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