The GTA series took some time to find its groove with the older games; naturally, there are several out-of-place moments for newer players.
For a long-running video game series like GTA, it makes sense. Based on player feedback and game design, the development team had to figure out which concepts worked. It was an experimental process at the time. As a result, newer players will find these features rather strange.
Some ideas were reworked later (female protagonists), while others were left behind entirely (limited continues). Rockstar Games always tries something different with each game. Whether it’s the classic 2D titles or the first 3D ones on the PlayStation 2, newer players will notice major differences right away.
Five differences between older and newer GTA games that surprise players
5) The original GTA had game overs
Back in the day, the early GTA titles had limited continues. Once a player ran out of lives, they had to start again. Quitting missions also triggers a game over. Even older generations of post-GTA 3 players will find this system baffling. Normally, death is a mere headache players can recover from.
With GTA 3 onwards, death only results in a hospital respawn. There is no game-over sequence, but players do lose money on health insurance. Given how long the games take, it’s a good thing GTA got rid of limited continues. Nobody should waste hours into a game, only to lose progress by a careless death.
Of course, the early game-overs are leftover design choices from the 90’s. With the turn of a new millennium, players now have unlimited lives. All they have to worry about is losing ammo and restarting the mission.
4) GTA 3 and Vice City do not use the f-word
Starting with GTA San Andreas, characters will drop f-bombs with the frequency of a rapid-fire assault rifle. However, the word is distractingly absent in the older games. Despite constant references to death, sex, and drugs, the f-word was apparently too much in early GTA.
There’s even a Strong Language content warning on the labels. Nonetheless, the f-word is missing. It’s especially jarring when Tommy Vercetti goes on a profanity-laced rant, only to not use the most obvious curse word. At least Claude has a reasonable excuse – he never talks.
3) Cheat activation was once based on names
Once upon a time, cheats were a major aspect of the GTA series. Whether it’s unlimited ammo or turning the entire city into a circus, it was tons of fun. Players would normally input a code to activate a specific cheat. However, the earliest 2D title required the use of a codename.
GTA 1 players were given the option to name their character. As a result, they can only put in a single cheat per run. This forced players to carefully think about which cheats they wanted to implement. Not to mention, they also had to go by respectable names such as SUCKMYROCKET.
Starting with the transition to 3D games, GTA players could enter a specific combination of buttons (or type in a name on PC). It’s a largely preferable method to what the earliest games did.
2) Health is not restored when saving in GTA 3
When saving a game in GTA 3, health will not be automatically restored. This is rather inconvenient for newer players who just escaped a life-threatening situation. Instead, they have to pick up health at a local hospital. As they say, there really is no rest for the weary in early GTA.
Given how difficult the game is, a lack of health replenishment can be frustrating. Players will be hurt during their run. While Claude can kill himself to go back to full health, he will lose money. Thankfully, GTA Vice City introduces the concept of healing safehouses. At least Tommy Vercetti can sleep soundly.
1) Female protagonists were in the original games
GTA notably lacks the presence of playable women. Even today, players demand Rockstar Games add a female protagonist to GTA 6. However, there was a time when the single-player campaign had female player characters. It dates all the way back to the first GTA.
There were four separate female protagonists, each from a different racial background – Divine, Katie, Mikki, and Ulrika. It should be noted that no matter which character is chosen, their personalities and the plot remains the same. These are purely aesthetic differences only.
Dan Houser, a co-founder of Rockstar Games and former vice president, once stated that masculinity plays a major role in the stories. He brought up this design philosophy to the The Guardian in 2013, right as GTA 5 was being released. Nonetheless, as the saying goes – never say never.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s personal views.