Video game developers represent the foundation of the gaming industry. Without skilled artists, writers, and production teams, gaming as we know it would not exist. Luckily for us, a multitude of talented studios from across the world reinvent the possibilities of gaming on a daily basis. These groups produce the titles that we patiently wait months for, the games that we preorder, and those that become household names. While many game developers have left their mark on the video game community, few have done so with the same diligence, humor, and creativity as Rockstar Games.
Rockstar Games is a well known video game developer and publisher based in New York City. Owned by Take –Two Interactive, Rockstar has remained a top gaming company for over 10 years since it’s foundation in 1998. Typically known for its use of crude humor and violence, Rockstar has since diversified its style to encompass a wide variety of genres and mechanics.
Beyond the stylistic aspects of Rockstar’s repertoire, the corporation is notorious for its use of open world, free roaming environments in their games; providing players with an immense amount of freedom that is often restricted in gaming. Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club, Max Payne, Manhunt, and the Red Dead series are some of the most popular franchises in to Rockstar’s collection. As a whole they’ve crafted dozens of titles, many in which have been critically acclaimed and award winning games. Let’s take a look at some of Rockstar’s greatest achievements starting with the most controversial of them all, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Rockstar presents: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Released in 2004, San Andreas marks the 8th addition into the GTA family. Set in 1992, San Andreas epitomizes the California gang life and drug epidemic of the 1990’s. Showcasing a huge map which is riddled with things to explore (and shoot), San Andreas boasts a world almost four times as large as Vice City, and five times as large as the GTA III rendition of Liberty City. Like other games in the series, San Andreas features driving elements paired with third-person shooter mechanics while maintaining open-world gameplay. The game adds a number of new facets to the franchise as well such as car customization, a whole slew of new vehicles (including a jetpack), character personalization, the ability to swim, and interactive sexual relationships.
According to Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer’s Edition, “GTA: San Andreas is the best-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time, with a massive 17.33 million copies sold.” If this doesn’t convince you of the game’s merits than you’re a lost cause.
There are a plethora of reasons as to why every gamer should have San Andreas as an addition to their collection. Seeing Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas reinterpreted into the GTA universe is a sight to be seen. While Liberty City was an amazing location in previous titles, the fictional cities of Los Santos, San Fierro, and Las Venturas take the cake for sure.
Rich with the gritty ambiance of the inner city, San Andreas successfully balances its urban localities with a contrast of rural topography, memorable characters, and mind-boggling events. Break into Area 51? Done it. Drive a hippie van through burning marijuana fields? All in a day’s work. An appreciated detail embraced in San Andreas is the use of real life landmarks within the game. The Hoover Dam, Area 51, Mount Diablo, and numerous other famous markers are all present in San Andreas, but with different names of course. The blend of realism and fiction works well within the game’s setting as well as in the development of the 90’s atmosphere.
During the 1990’s, gangster rap flourished as a major component of pop culture. Heavy hitters such as Ice cube, Public Enemey, and Snoop Dogg dominated the art form, elevating rap and hip hop to an iconic status. San Andreas boasts an amazing soundtrack of hits born out of this era and it remains one of the best compilations of in-game songs to this day. Running over innocent bystanders while weaving in and out of cruising cars is fun enough; add some awesome tunes to that and you have a recipe for a very enjoyable evening.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is by far one of the best games of the GTA series. The inclusion of action, memorable characters, an unnecessary amount of violence, the thrill of criminality, and humor is enough to please just about every gamer out there. Fans of mature gaming cannot miss this addendum to the Rockstar name.
Rockstar presents: Bully
Rockstar’s 2006 sleeper hit is major departure from the developer’s insistence upon crime, bullets, and utter vulgarity. The Bully, though still welcoming of offensive situations, is extremely different from its Grand Theft Auto predecessors. Following the story of delinquent named Jimmy Hopkins, players are immersed into a world unlike any city of the GTA universe, Bullworth Academy.
In a boarding school 9mm and M4s are hard to come by. The Bully showcases a more creative set of weapons, perfect for the school locale and impressive even with the lack of lethality. Sling shot, eggs, itching powder, potato gun, marbles, and bottle rockets are some of the household items turned into weapons featured in the Bully. While they may sound harmless, launching a fist sized potato at 30mph will knock down any bad guy, gun-toting or not.
The enemies in the Bully are not your typical mafia bosses or gang members. The students at Bullworth Academy are children and teenagers, not divided by criminal affiliation but separated by the cliques that they represent. Bullworth houses the factions you’d expect from any teen drama: the nerds, jocks, and the preppy kids. Even though this description sounds much more like an episode of Degrassi than a Rockstar game I can assure you there is no sappy production here. Hopkins enters the school as an outcast with the desire to become the king of the school. By helping out the local students and aiding troubled groups he wins favor with the cliques and with it, their support.
The world is much larger than one would expect. The campus houses numerous buildings from the dormitory to the gym, all filled with humorous characters and missions to attempt. The map reaches far beyond the boundaries of just a school. In typical Rockstar fashion the map is divided into sections and unlocked gradually. The town is large and accommodates tons of shops, places to explore, hideouts to find, and assorted seasonal activities. Optional quests and collectable items are a nice part of the Bully experience as well.
Besides the many missions available, Jimmy Hopkins has classes he must attend (or ditch) as a part of enrollment. The academics range from writing to arithmetic, all playable via minigames. Time passes in the Bully and weather changes with the season. It’s a nice touch seeing the season’s change, an appreciated inclusion that improves the aesthetic.
The Bully was an unexpected title from Rockstar. Its rich story, witty encounters, endearing characters, and unique setting are the aspects that make it stand out among Rockstar’s other hits. Who would have thought someone could turn a boarding school scenario into a video game that is actually fun? I commend them for this feat and truly enjoyed playing the Bully from beginning to end. Hopkins is too young to cause true GTA caliber havoc but he certainly makes due with a bicycle and skateboard.