Having finally spent time with Crazy Taxi, I felt like I could finally give the Grand Theft Auto series a fair shake. As you might guess, I started with the very first one on the original PlayStation 1, even though it wasn't until the third one that the series really exploded.
The first two GTA games differ from the majority of the series in that they feature a top-down view. The game has you driving around fictional cities running missions for some unspecified criminal organization, with the goal of reaching a certain number of points in order to progress to the next level. I had a fairly guilty kind of fun creating mayhem by running over pedestrians, stealing any car in sight, and shooting anyone I wanted, but any enjoyment didn't last for long. Evading police was a chore; the lack of a map was annoyhng and meant I was often wandering around in circles; and the time limits on missions were a drag. Even finding missions was a pain, and sometimes executing them correctly was hard to figure out. Apparently many of the missions get walled off if you mess up one, which is also a bummer, but that goes with the arcade-y, high score nature of the game.
The game doesn't have any sort of plot, and I didn't enjoy the gameplay enough to really care about trying to chase high scores, but I can see how this was the beginning of a successful franchise. I can see how the amorality and anarchy of it would be appealing to certain demographics, and the open mission-based structure of its hugely popular follow-up, Grand Theft Auto III, cemented open world games as a key modern-day video game genre, but there wasn't much that I found appealing personally. I did spend some time playing GTA3 recently as well, so more on that next time.