Grand Theft Auto: The Classics Collection

Basic Details
  • Released: 2004
  • Format: Three CD jewel cases in cardboard sleeve, 14.5 ⨉ 12.5 ⨉ 3 cm
  • Where I bought it: eBay
Grand Theft Auto: The Classics
Games and Content Included
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Grand Theft Auto: London 1969
  • Grand Theft Auto 2

Each game comes on its own CD. GTA: London, being an expansion pack, requires GTA to be installed first; GTA2 is independent. According to README files on each disk, these versions have been modified from the originals for improved compatibility with modern versions of Windows (at least what was modern at the time of the release, which is Windows XP); I could confirm that it runs on XP and Vista, even 64-bit, so that’s good. There are, however, several downsides to this release, some immediately obvious, some not:

  • The original DOS versions (8-bit, 24-bit and 3dfx) of GTA and GTA: London have been removed. Very few people would find them useful on a modern Windows system, but fans of retro systems may be disappointed.
  • GTA: London 1961 (the freeware addon to London 1969) is not included; moreover, if you download it from Rockstar’s website (which is still possible), you will have to apply a no-CD patch to make it compatible with this release.
  • All three games are protected by SecuROM (version 5). This may be the biggest annoyance of all, because special techniques are required for making backup CDs/images compatible with SecuROM. Regular BIN/CUE image dumps did not work for me, whereas MDS/MDF images dumped with Alcohol 120% generally worked, but not always (sometimes requiring SecuROM emulation to be activated).

Around the time of the release of this collection, Rockstar Games started offering GTA and GTA2 for free on their website. The history on the Wayback Machine shows that GTA was first offered circa 2003, and GTA2 circa 2005; supposedly one would receive a direct download link after registering their age and email. The same history also shows that the service has been discontinued sometimes in 2013, and is currently unavailable. It is not clear why the access has been removed, but as of 2018 at least one fan site is offering the original downloads unaltered, and so far Rockstar has not requested it be taken down.

A brief inspection showed me that the GTA and GTA2 copies offered in those free downloads are essentially identical to the ones in the Classics Collection, only without SecuROM embedded in the executables. This solves all issues with CD protection without having to hunt for no-CD cracks on shady websites. However, as Rockstar never released a free version of GTA: London 1969, running that game on a modern system may continue to be challenging.

What else do I get?

The extra material in this collection is very modest (since there is nothing besides the 3 jewel cases), but packs a lot of useful content: for each game, you get the original manual CD booklet and a small poster (folded inside the jewel case) with maps of all cities/districts, complete with area names and locations of important places (police stations, spray shops etc.). These are not the full-size maps you would get with the original “big box” releases, but as good as you can expect in such a small package. To me, this the biggest redeeming feature of this bundle in light of the above deficiencies.

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Summary

At first glance, this collection looks like the perfect package to cover the classic GTA games, but it loses quite a few points in my eyes due to dropping the DOS versions, the absence of GTA: London 1961 (seriously, how hard would it be to add a 7MB installer to the London 1969 disk?) and the tricky SecuROM DRM. Fans not obsessed with physical copies would, in most cases, be better served with the free editions of GTA and GTA2, and obtaining London 1969 separately somewhere else; those who want the original DOS versions of GTA and GTA: London would have to hunt for a different package.

Games: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)
Extras: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
Total: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

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