Car Jack Streets is a good game. Itâ€™s a very good game. Hampered only by the fact that it is in attitude, look and gameplay between ninety to ninety-five percent identical to Grand Theft Auto. Or, at least, to the first couple of Grand Theft Auto games. Itâ€™s a top-down view on car jacking and police avoidance, complete with taxi missions, hidden packages, and rampages. For those who have had any interest in video games in the last ten years, there is very little left to say. For those who have just been rescued from a deserted island, or have recently woken up from a coma, Iâ€™ll continue.
You take the part of Randal Myers and you owe the mob a cool million dollars. To pay back the debt, at a rate of fifty thousand a week, you have to do anything and everything. Robbing banks, assassinating mob bosses and delivering pizzas - Randal canâ€™t afford to turn down any opportunity to earn some cash.
You begin the game with a meeting with Uncle Murphy. Murphy gives you a quick lesson in Car Jack Streetâ€™s game world. When youâ€™re walking the streets you attack or shoot with the circle button. You cycle through your weapons with the square and jack cars with the triangle. Once in a car you accelerate and break with the face buttons and steer with either the sticks of D-pad. As the engine revs and the carâ€™s stereo starts playing, the real trouble starts. If it was just mob trouble or police trouble that would be good, but no, the worst trouble is getting the knack of those driving controls all over again.
In this millennium weâ€™ve evolved away from the whole top-down view thing. Thereâ€™s something in our advanced, post Y2K brains that means we arenâ€™t wired for it any more. Those who downloaded the original GTA games and tried to play them on PC will understand this very well. When youâ€™re driving, say youâ€™re going east (or left to right) then down means turn right - right? But what if youâ€™re driving up or down, in terms of screen orientation, is right right, or not? And if youâ€™re reversing, how do you turn right then? Iâ€™m embarrassed to admit the number of times I set fire to my car with a flamethrower, and walked instead.
But however you get around, the deal is to earn cash by doing missions. You access your map with the start button. Here you also get a list of locations. Highlight a location and your GPS marks it on your map. Back in the game screen a little red arrow will point you in the right direction.
So if youâ€™ re expected to meet someone, or kill someone, of if you have to deliver something then its all just a matter of getting there. That is often where it gets tough. The traffic is horrendous. On the streets of Car Jack Streets, just by getting caught on the wrong side of the road, itâ€™s easy to cause an impenetrable traffic jam. And the cops are everywhere, just waiting to bust you or shoot you, even if you quite innocently run one of them down by accident. For a Grand Theft Auto clone, its funny that getting into Uncle Murphyâ€™s big slow SUV and then driving carefully, not barrelling around flat-out, is often the best way to go.
Once you have the knack of getting around, the rest of the game falls nicely into place. Finding weapons and using them is very easy. There are heaps of weapons and if you press fire you pretty much kill everything standing in your way. As well as all the weapons there are a liberal amount of health icons and gang icons that give you a couple of little helpers. Saving your progress and weapons is a matter of driving to the safe house. Here you are asked if you want to save your progress and quit the game.
As I said in the beginning, the game is a lot like Grand Theft Auto. What is different is that you play in real time. At the start you are given a week to pay back the first fifty grand of your debt. This is a real week. If you started the game on Monday, you get till next Monday to make your payment. The game will remind you of the date, and how much more you owe. So when you play it encourages you to play often, or a least often enough to make you payments and keep the mob off your back. Itâ€™s a strange and effective little blurring of gaming and reality that works very well.
Overall, everything in Car Jack Streets works very well. But then the blueprint that developer Tag Games has used is, let us say, fairly tried and true. But, if copying Grand Theft Auto were a capital offence then most game developers would be bunking with guys called Bubba and sharpening shivs in their spare time.
As part of the PSN mini series of games, and for just $8.45, Car Jack Streets is good value for those looking for a console copy of the original GTA game, packed with plenty of urban mayhem and with a real time twist.