Ironically, Grand Theft Auto 2 is the subject of many fond childhood memories for me. Much murder and mayhem was wrought on the balmy November day when my good friend Jacob showed up on my doorstep with a six-pack and his Sony PlayStation (The six pack was a six pack of cola). The game felt rebellious, hip, and fresh to us at the time. Never before had we played a game with such controversial subject matter!
By today's standards, unfortunately, Grand Theft Auto 2 is but an arcade-styled violence simulator. That is not to say that it is not criminally enjoyable, but if you are seeking a lengthy, deep gameplay experience then you should continue your search. GTA2 is primarily about killing mass amounts of people. That is not to say that there is not a story of some sort, but it will undoubtedly take a backseat to running down civilians and gang members for their cash.
In GTA2 you play the part of "Claude Speed", a freed prison inmate just awakened from a cryonic sleep. He experiences amnesia but nevertheless resoles to become "King of the City" by any means necessary. This is about as far as the story really matters, though, because as soon as you begin playing your backstory is more or less thrown to the wind.
First off, GTA2 has great looking graphics. Everything is quite detailed. Everything begins to look repetitive after a point, however, as textures and buildings are reused repeatedly around the city.
The audio is quite good. While the noises of cars can be annoying at times the environmental ambience makes up for it. The radio is also of Grand Theft Auto quality with several humorous programmes playing from time to time.
The bulk of the gameplay involves stealing cars. Each car handles a bit differently; Some are speedy but are difficult to handle, while some may not brake well. The sheer number of cars in the game is staggering; My personal favorite is the Michelli Roadster (especially when its orange), but some of the cars in later levels handle just as well. After stealing a car its previous owner normally runs off to the sidewalk, out of harms way, but sometimes will attempt to take back the car. Some parked cars have alarms that will be set off by theft.
Another large element of gameplay is avoiding police pursuers as long as possible. Your wanted level ranges between one to six, represented by heads at the top of the screen, with each level bringing more severe pursuit and force. At level three police will put up roadblocks, at four SWAT will get involved, at five the FBI wll get involved (and arrest attempts will no longer be made), and at six the army will basically come to destroy you. Wanted levels below three disappear quickly and easily and are also quite easily accidentally earned. Performing a simple crime near a police officer will earn you one level. You can lose your wanted level by visiting a "respray shop" to have your car repainted.
Cash is both a score and currency; You accrue it by performing actions such as running down civilians and can spend it on things such as repainting your car or saving your game. It is very easily gained; Nearly every action in the game rewards you with some amount of cash. Hitting a car may net you 100 greenbacks while gunning down an innocent pedestrian may net you a cool fifty. The amount of cash seems to depend on the severity of the action in terms of illegality. Cash may also be gained by performing jobs for local gangs.
There are three "districts", or stages, in the game. Each has two local gangs in addition to the Zaibatsu. To reach the next district you must acquire a large amount of cash.
Local gangs offer jobs to the player which the player may carry out for a large amount of cash. To take these jobs the player must have a certain amount of respect from the gang offering the job. These jobs normally involve stealing a car, picking someone up, delivering illicit goods, or good ol' fashioned murder. One such mission I recall quite vividly involved me picking up a snitch and taking him to a car-crusher. I left the car, locking it, and watched in glee as he was flattened into a pulpy square of metal, dropped onto a conveyor belt, and reassembled into a cop-bribe powerup. Killing a mass number of one gang's members will make their gang hate you but cause another to gain respect for you.
Saving the game is a bit annoying; To save you must visit a church (with a Jesus Saves sign above its entrance) with $50,000 dollars on hand. An evangelist voice will proclaim that your soul has been saved. Churches are far and few between, unfortunately, making saving your game a difficult, time consuming ordeal.
I was, unfortunately, unable to test out the game's multiplayer.
Grand Theft Auto 2 is good for a quick murderous romp if you feel the need to perpetrate some violence.