Grand Theft Auto Advance is a handheld console game developed by Digital Eclipse, published by Rockstar Games, and released on October 25, 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. It is the first to not be developed by a Rockstar Games studio. The game is only referred to as "Grand Theft Auto Advance" on its title screen; the game's cover art and all promotional material refer to it as simply Grand Theft Auto.
The game is played from a top-down perspective; this view angle was seen on the first two games in the series, GTA and GTA2, but vehicle-based side-missions (such as "Vigilante" and "Paramedic"), the heads-up display and a large majority of the weapons, first introduced in the three-dimensional counterparts, have also been included. Unlike previous top-down Grand Theft Auto games, vehicles can now flip over..
The game is set in Liberty City, in 2000 the fictional GTA city that appeared most prominently, in Grand Theft Auto III. Indeed the earliest announcement of this game was that it would be a port of GTA III, but at some point in development (it is unclear exactly when this occurred) this idea was rejected, probably due to technical limitations and the time needed to reconstruct the previous game's missions in the new two-dimensional environment.
The game was actually released as a prequel to GTA III, taking place one year prior to the events in GTA III. As it takes place in GTA III's Liberty City, familiar landmarks re-appear and the overall street layout is the same. However the locations of familiar secrets such as Rampages, hidden packages and jump ramps have all been changed, so players familiar with the city's corners and alleyways in GTA III will have to explore them afresh in GTA Advance. The city's three islands have been noticeably changed in its conversion and elements impossible to interpret to a top-view perspective, so there are no longer any sloped surfaces, and the tunnels and train system have been removed.
His revenge leads to his falling out with the Mafia, and he ends up working for various gangs, mostly the Yardies, the Colombians and the Yakuza. Each gang or single employer, such as 8-Ball, a close friend of Vinnie's, persuades Mike to do jobs for them as they help him find out the truth about Vinnie's death.
In the later stages of the game, Mike finds out that Vinnie has actually staged his own death, and Mike sworn revenge on his old partner, eventually killing him. During the next mission 8-Ball is arrested (setting the stage for his escape in GTA III's intro sequence), but Mike manages to escape on the late Cisco's (the Colombian boss') plane, after seeming to kill Vinnie's real boss, King Courtney. There has been a bit of controversy over this, as the player may receive missions from him in the form of phone calls in GTA III. Judging from Courtney's dialogue after the fight, he may have escaped his death.
Some of the characters from GTA III appear in the game, including bomb-shop owner 8-Ball and the Yakuza crime boss Asuka, although none of the Mafia characters from GTA III appear, and entirely new characters such as Vinnie (Mike's friend and first employer), Cisco (the leader of the Colombian Cartel), and Yuka (Asuka's niece) have been added to the mix. Several characters which were only referenced in GTA III are now met face-to-face, such as King Courtney, the Yardie boss.
The game does not feature radio channels. Like the Game Boy Color ports of GTA and GTA2, each car has one fixed tune that is constantly repeated and cannot be changed. These include parts of some familiar GTA, GTA2 and GTA III tunes, in instrumental versions.
IGN gave a score of 8.5 out of 10, calling the game "a great, recommended action title. UGO gave an "A" rating, saying that "if you're a great fan of the series, then Grand Theft Auto Advance is definitely the game for you. Game Chronicles gave a positive review, calling the game "nothing short of amazing. Nintendo Power was also impressed, saying that "the game's scope is massive, and the missions are varied and rewarding.
GameSpot gave a score of 6.5 out of 10, saying that "by and large, [the game] just isn't much fun. Game Informer gave a score of 7.5 out of 10, calling the game "only a bare-bones reminder of a much greater work of art.