Rockstar has never been one to shy away from criticism and competition. The GTA series has plenty of instances where they take shots at both.
Given the immense popularity of the GTA series, it's only natural it attracts a lot of attention. Shortly after the success of GTA 3, several open-world games tried to copy their formula. Meanwhile, critics were horrified at the graphic displays of violence and sexuality. Many sought to outright ban the game from purchase.
Rockstar would have none of it. Whether they were critics or competitors, the GTA would deliver take-that after take-that in their gameplay. Sometimes it's a fun little Easter egg that's easy to miss. Other times it involves missions with obvious references to their rivals, usually making them look as bad as possible.
5 instances where Rockstar made bold jabs at critics of GTA
5) Hillary Clinton is the Statue of Happiness
One of the most controversial incidents in video game history is the Hot Coffee modification. When it was discovered, there was widespread condemnation from United States lawmakers. One of Rockstar's fiercest critics was former senator Hillary Clinton, who suggested harsher regulations for the gaming industry.
Rockstar poked fun at the situation in GTA 4. Niko Bellic can visit Happiness Island, where it houses a giant statue similar to Lady Liberty. The faces bears a striking resemblance to Hillary Clinton, complete with a wide-grinned smile. She also holds a cup of coffee, an obvious reference to San Andreas years prior.
4) Opposition Memorial in San Andreas
By the 2004 release of San Andreas, Rockstar was the undisputed king of sandbox games. Games like Gangstar, Driver, and True Crime failed to replicate the massive success of the GTA series. Naturally, Rockstar would make reference to this through an Easter egg in San Andreas.
Players can visit a graveyard in Hasbury, San Fierro. Among the 72 graves, there are three plaques dedicated to the fallen. However, upon closer inspection, players can read the following: "RIP Opposition (1997-2004)." Rockstar made it clear they took care of their competitors, since none matched the success of GTA.
3) True Grime Street Cleaners
True Crime was another open-world game that drew comparisons to GTA. They fired their first shot through insulting advertisements. Some of them featured a jock strap with a logo that looks suspiciously like the Rockstar one.
Rockstar fired right back and made references to True Crime through billboards across San Andreas. These billboards read True Grime Street Cleaners, a sanitation business that promised to "get rid of rubbish fast!"
2) Rockstar versus Driver
Driver 2 was released a year before GTA 3, where the game introduced the open-world concept of characters stepping out of the vehicle to explore. However, it was done rather poorly, given the awkward walking animations of main character Tanner. The more successful Rockstar did not let their competitor go unnoticed.
In GTA 3, Asuka Kasen instructs Claude to kill an undercover police informant in Two-Faced Tanner. Given the name, he's an obvious reference to Tanner from the Driver series. Asuka describes him as useless outside his vehicle, which is proven true when he runs away. Rockstar also gave him a female running animation.
To add insult to injury, once Tanner's vehicle is damaged, he requests a back up and new clean underwear. Rockstar did not hold back with their savagery. Years later in San Andreas, one of Mad Dogg's bodyguards plays a Driver-inspired game and makes fun of it. In his own words: "Tanner, you suck ass!"
1) Niko Bellic performs a final interview for Tom Goldberg
Notorious video game critic Jack Thompson is one of the biggest critics of the GTA series. The former attorney suggested Rockstar was promoting violence toward the younger generation. He sought millions in damages in various murder cases, claiming Rockstar was at fault. However, all the lawsuits fell through.
Thompson was referenced during the GTA 4 mission "Final Interview," where Niko Bellic kills a lawyer in his office. Before he gets shot, Tom Goldberg claims guns don't kill people, video games do. Thompson caught wind of this and threatened legal action. It was never taken and the mission remains in the game.
Eventually, Thompson was permanently disbarred from practicing law due to professional misconduct and witness intimidation. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling and declined any requests for an appeal. Ironically, he was disbarred in 2008, the same year GTA 4 came out. It certainly is a fitting end to his career.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.
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