Known as GTA, Grand Theft Auto is a video game series set in fictional cities that often resemble American urban areas.  The overall goal of the game is to complete missions while engaging in driving/stealing/racing cars, murdering your rivals, and having sex with prostitutes.  Another way to put this (in the words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules from Pulp Fiction): “A bunch of gangsters doing gangster shit!”

There are currently ten stand alone games and four “extension packs” available under the Grand Theft Auto umbrella.  Dating back to 1997, the game has sold over 100 million units as well as feature voices from film veterans Michael Madsen, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, James Woods, Jenna Jameson, Phil Collins, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The basic concept is you are a criminal working your way up the ranks of an organized crime syndicate.  You receive various missions from the leaders of the underworld which must be completed in order to advance (to more missions).  The overall story is usually based around avenging a death or other unfortunate event.  Most of the series is set in three cities/areas: Liberty City (based on New York City), Vice City (based on Miami), and San Andreas (based on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas). 

It was 1997 that started off the franchise with the original release of Grand Theft Auto, a second version of the game was released in 1999.  It was the third release of the game in 2001 that really kick started Rockstar and the GTA franchise, appealing to both kids and adults through violence, challenging missions, and punch-your-face comedy.  GTA III was set in Liberty City and featured GPS mapping, 3D images, and much improved voice acting and plot.  In 2002, Vice City continued the success set by III, and continued into the 2004 San Andreas which focused on the West Coast crack cocaine epidemic in the fictional state of San Andreas (based on California and Nevada).  After portable releases and supporting games for Game Boy, the game returned to Playstation in 2007 with Vice City Stories, the last game of the third generation series, the final game in the Grand Theft Auto III canon.  In 2008 Grand Theft Auto IV was released, starting a new chapter in Liberty City, with follow-ups in the series The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony, and Chinatown Wars.

In early 2011, five main gaming websites reported a new title in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, known as Grand Theft Auto V.  Since there have been several leaks and a trailer released in late 2011 from Rockstar Games.  The setting was revealed to be Los Santos, the fictional version of L.A. along with surrounding hills, valleys, and Vinewood (based on Hollywood).  Since, Rockstar Games has announced that Grand Theft Auto V is in full development and promises to be the most ambitious game yet!  The story is said to focus on “the pursuit of the almighty dollar in a re-imagined, present-day Southern California.”  Grand Theft Auto V is expected to be released in 2012.

[youtube id=”QkkoHAzjnUs” width=”560″ height=”315″]

David S. Grant is the author of “Blood: The New Red”, follow David on Twitter @david_s_grant