Why I Love
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil explains the joy of GTA's riot mode cheats.
People can be funny about cheats. Some take a hard line against them. They're only interested in the game as it was meant to be played, and they look down on those who would pervert that original vision. Others figure that, if they've bought a game, they should be able to do what they want with it. I broadly agree, except, for the most part, the thing that I want to do with a game is not cheat at it.
Sure, I've typed "FUND" into SimCity 2000—I'm only human. But the 'cheat' playthrough is always separate from the original playthrough. It's a break; an alternate-reality of unhindered fun between the main business of doing what I'm told.
The GTA series—specifically Grand Theft Autos III through San Andreas—occupies a similar space in my head. There was a main, unsullied playthrough that, at any moment, could be taken off-save with a couple of cheat codes. The difference is that GTA's best cheats have never been utilitarian or aspirational. You can get the best cars and the most money, but to do so is to miss the exceptional sandbox Rockstar has hidden away. GTA's best cheats are all about carnage.
The game's most enjoyable cheat modes are focused around the game's pedestrians, and, more specifically, around making the pedestrians do things they aren't supposed to do. In GTA 3, this means weapons and anger:
- WEAPONSFORALL: gave all pedestrians a random weapon.
- NOBODYLIKESME: made all pedestrians attack you.
- ITSALLGOINGMAAAD: made all pedestrians attack everything.
The brilliant thing is these AI cheats can stack. Enter all three, and GTA stops being a game about random acts of violence and starts being a game about constant acts of violence. Pedestrians stop being brainless victims and form a crazed and unpredictable militia destined to tear itself apart. In a way, it turns GTA into a zombie survival game, but with the key difference that the zombies have guns. And sometimes molotov cocktails or a rocket launcher.
More than that, they attack each other too. Driving through Liberty City in this state is strangely liberating, because everyone is acting like the protagonist of their own version of the game. It makes the game's actual protagonist an anonymous psychopath in a city full of psychopaths—at least for the five minutes before another explosion sent me to hospital. That feeling of blending in is a rare thing for an open-world game to achieve, and that's because our tools are ones that we'd never give to random NPCs in normal, unmodified play.
For Vice City, Rockstar stepped things up a notch with the excellent "MIAMITRAFFIC"—a cheat that made the city's drivers ultra-aggressive. It fits perfectly with the parody. Vice City is a world where everybody is selfish and wealth is disposable. Of course it's a place where people should be violently territorial on the road. And once again, it makes for a fun impromptu survival mode, especially when combined with the returning armed pedestrian cheats.
The size of San Andreas made it perfect for long-range survival sprints. It's probably the most flexible set of cheats every built into a Grand Theft Auto game. There are at least five cheats dedicated just to making civilians angry:
- BAGOWPG: pedestrians attack you.
- FOOOXFT: everyone is armed.
- BGLUAWML: pedestrians attack you and everyone is armed.
- AJLOJYQY: pedestrians attack each other.
- STATEOFEMERGENCY: riot mode.
Again, the cheats stack. You'll also notice that some essentially perform the same function. I could never be bothered to work out the technical differences between each specific cheat. Instead, I'd turn them all on, and attempt to drive to a specific location on the map.
Alternatively: jetpack. That's right, San Andreas had a jetpack. It was a good game.
Such carnage would be wonderful in a modern GTA. Unfortunately, neither GTA 4 nor 5 have the same range of options. GTA4's cheats are basic and utilitarian, which sort of makes sense given the move from cartoon to social parody. Essentially, each GTA's cheats do—to an extent—reflect the type of game it is. But why? Surely it makes more sense for the cheats to reflect the type of game it isn't. For 4, it would have been the perfect place to put a pedestrian riot mode; to turn that new engine into a chaotic battle amid well-realised streets of inescapable violence.
At least we've got mods.