It's a little over two weeks now until the highly anticipated release of
Grand Theft Auto V, at which point we finally get to take control of Michael, Trevor and Franklin and see what the latest incarnations of San Andreas and Los Santos have to offer.
This new world
promises to be huge, taking in an area bigger than the entirety of Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA IV combined, and you can be sure that Rockstar will be packing it with all sorts of Easter eggs, secrets and other humorous items to discover.
We can't wait to get exploring and start tracking them down, but in the meantime we've compiled a list of the 15 biggest secrets from the Grand Theft Auto series so far. Did you find them all, and were there any others that have stood out for you over the years? Let us know in the comments below.
FLYING THE DODO GTA players no longer think twice about hopping into a plane or helicopter and going for a flight, but back in GTA III it seemed that taking to the skies was impossible. The only aircraft available was the Dodo, and its diminutive wingspan meant it was as well-suited to flying as its extinct avian namesake. However, by taking a long enough run up while pushing the front of the plane down you could then release and use the suspension to launch yourself into the air, allowing you to carefully cruise over Liberty City and reach inaccessible areas such as the 'Ghost Town' - the setting for the opening cutscene featuring the Liberty City Bank that was usually hidden behind the upstate hills of Shoreside Vale. Contrary to popular rumours, the Dodo wasn't grounded in response to the 9/11 attacks, but rather to focus on the driving and shooting elements of the game.
SEE THE SIGNS When creating the large open world settings of the GTA games, the developers knew that players would try to explore every last inch of the maps, and this was embraced with the various incarnations of 'hidden package' collection throughout the series. They also realised that people would find ways of reaching supposedly inaccessible areas, so added hidden signs in these locations to acknowledge their efforts. The best known example is found in GTA III, where you could climb on top of a large vehicle in the car park near Bedford Point then leap over a wall into an otherwise enclosed alleyway to see the sign pictured here. If you returned to the same location in Liberty City Stories the sign had been updated, to say either "You just can't get enough of this alley, can you?" in the PS2 version or "Hello again!" accompanied by a smiley face on the PSP.
APARTMENT 3C The 1980s setting of Vice City was influenced by several films and TV shows of the era, with one of the main reference points being Brian DePalma's Scarface. The overall storyline of the game shares many similarities with the film, following the main character's rise through the drug trafficking business, and the concluding shootout in Ricardo Diaz's mansion was a clear nod to Tony Montana's cocaine fuelled final showdown. In addition to this, there was another homage hidden away in Apartment 3c, accessed through an unmarked door on the first floor of a pink roofed building in Ocean Beach. Inside there was a blood-soaked bathroom and a chainsaw weapon, representing the drug deal torture scene that features early in the film.
EASTER EGG Rockstar has inserted many references, in-jokes and novelty items into the GTA series over the years, and hidden gags such as these are collectively referred to as Easter eggs. In Vice City they took the concept one step further, by including an actual Easter egg in a secret room. To find it, you needed to reach the helipad on the roof of the VCN Vice City News station, then head to the far corner of the pad and leap towards the opposite building. This would send you through the wall and into the secret room, where a large chocolate egg with "Happy Easter" written across it sat on a pedestal. The joke was continued in the PS2 version of Vice City Stories (set two years prior to the original Vice City), where the same room featured the frame of the egg under construction, complete with a crane lifting the next chunk of chocolate into position.
VICE CITY BODYGUARDS Ever since GTA III the games have featured a completion percentage, with activities such as side missions, challenges, finding hidden packages and purchasing assets all helping to push this figure to the elusive 100% mark. The reward for reaching this target was usually unlimited ammo for your weapons and some new vehicle spawns, but in Vice City there were some additional benefits to finishing everything. First, you received the infamous Frankie outfit, based on the "Frankie Say..." T-shirts of the '80s, which had "I completed Vice City and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" printed on the front. This slogan wasn't strictly true though, as you could also head into the lounge area of your Vercetti Estate and recruit up to three bodyguards, who would follow you around and defend you if anyone attacked. This feature was not available elsewhere in the game, and was a precursor to the gang recruitment seen later in San Andreas.
RIBBING THE RIVALS The success of Grand Theft Auto's open world setting, along with the well received 3D driving and shooting mechanics first introduced in GTA III, meant that a number of other games began using a similar format. Rockstar recognised the influence their games had on other studios, and have never been afraid to poke fun at the competition. This was best seen in the Vice City 'Autocide' mission, where you had to assassinate members of a European gang of bank robbers who were all named to spoof characters from other games. Your targets were Mike Griffin (Mace Griffin from Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter), Dick Tanner (Tanner from the Driver series), Marcus Hammond, Franco Carter and Charlie Dilson (Mark Hammond, Frank Carter and Charlie Jolson from The Getaway) and Nick Kong (Nick Kang from True Crime: Streets of LA), all of whom had to be terminated with extreme prejudice.
POLICE BRUTALITY Set in 1992, the location San Andreas takes place in is based on California and Nevada, and the storyline reflects many of the real life events which took place in Los Angeles at that time. These include the gang rivalry between the Bloods and the Crips, the crack cocaine epidemic, the LA riots and the LAPD anti-gang unit corruption scandal. In your dealings with Officer Tenpenny and his partners you experienced much of this police corruption, but there was another element to it that was hidden from view. If you went to the Los Santos Police Station then followed the road down into the underground parking area, you would find a pedestrian being beaten down by a police officer, while a second officer held them at gunpoint. The guilty cops would flee when you approached, earning you a wanted rating in the process for uncovering their dirty secret.
LEWD STATUE Rockstar have shown a great fondness for putting adult references in the GTA games, including Cluckin' Bell's "Taste the cock" tagline, the Vice City hotel featuring windows that lit up at night to resemble a gentleman's parts complete with spurting fountain on the roof, and a swimming pool in the shape of a nude lady when viewed from above. One of the more subtle examples of naughtiness appears in San Andreas, and is found in the Atrium used in Big Smoke's 'Just Business' mission. The ground floor of this area hosts a number of apparently innocent statues, but returning for a closer look once all the shooting is done reveals the truth - the statue in the middle is clearly touching itself inappropriately, while the rest of them look on in horror and cover their eyes.
GET THE CLAUDE LOOK Although he was never given a confirmed identity in GTA III, the main protagonist's name was revealed to be Claude during his brief cameo appearance in San Andreas while racing against CJ. That was the last time he was seen in the series, but it was possible to recreate his distinctive look of a black jacket, green cargo pants and black and white trainers with Niko in GTA IV. If you decided to execute Playboy X during 'The Holland Play' mission you received his penthouse suite to use as a safehouse, and accessing the wardrobe allowed you to slip on Claude's memorable outfit. To add to the old school vibes you could also go into your mobile phone settings and change the ringtone to 'Pager', making it play the GTA III pager tone whenever you were called.
THE HEART OF LIBERTY CITY In GTA IV, the Statue of Happiness sat on Happiness Island overlooking nearby Algonquin, and was obviously a parody of one of America's best-known landmarks. Instead of holding a torch she had a cup of steaming coffee in her hand and her face bore more than a passing resemblance to former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, which may be a reference to the San Andreas "Hot Coffee" controversy that she investigated. Although inaccessible from the ground, you could reach the raised pedestal beneath it by jumping out of a helicopter, where a sign by a door read "No Hidden Content This Way". Ignoring that and heading through you found a ladder going up the inside of the statue, and at the top was a huge chained up beating heart. In The Ballard of Gay Tony DLC you could make Luis drink shots until he passed out and woke up in a random location around the city, one of which was here inside the statue.
JUST FOR LAUGHS The Split Sides Comedy Club in GTA IV was found in Star Junction between Frankfort Avenue and Jade Street, and was easy to spot by the huge pair of Groucho glasses on the front of the building. By approaching the Frankfort Avenue entrance players were transported inside, where they could watch a number of stand up comedy routines performed by digital versions of real life comedians Katt Williams and Ricky Gervais. As well as performing their own material they also made specific jokes about aspects of Liberty City, such as the abundance of drugs or lack of dogs on the streets, to give their sets a more local feel. Between them there were eight different routines to watch, and if that wasn't enough then visiting the club within The Lost and Damned DLC added a new comic to the roster - controversial Scottish funnyman Frankie Boyle.
INTERNET SECRETS Although TW@ ("Totally Wireless") internet cafes had been seen around Liberty City since GTA III, it wasn't until GTA IV that players could actually go inside and use their computers to get online. There were various in-game websites to visit, where you could send and receive emails, read news stories about your exploits, use the Love Meet service to set up dates, and download new themes and ringtones for your mobile phone. There were also several sites you could receive links to with other effects, such as whattheydonotwantyoutoknow.com which displayed maps to show the locations of collectibles, weapons and side missions, as well as listing various cheat codes. Another was littlelacysurprisepageant.com, a riff on the "Little Lacy Surprise" children's fashion underwear advertised in Vice City Stories, which turned out to be an LCPD sting operation to catch people accessing indecent images online and gave you an instant five star wanted level after viewing it.
SWING GLITCH Although fairly rare, there have been a few glitches discovered in the GTA series of games, and the best known of these was the swing glitch in GTA IV. In the Firefly Projects area of southeast Broker there was a playground, which included a set of swings that were capable of launching vehicles across the map due to a quirk in their physics. By driving a car up to one of the swing's legs then pressing against it, players could be randomly flung into the air and potentially travel long distances if the nearby buildings were cleared. It was best to reverse into the swing, as when the glitch occurred the impact was so violent that players would regularly be thrown through the windshield or the engine would catch on fire if approached in a forward direction. Due to the forces involved the cars would usually become much more deformed than regular crashes would allow, but were often still be driveable once they finally came to rest.
PARTY ON! Rockstar have built much of the GTA world on pop culture references, and while many of these are obvious there have also been plenty of subtle nods slipped in too. One of these appeared in GTA IV's The Lost and Damned DLC, and paid homage to the iconic scene in Wayne's World featuring Wayne and Garth singing along to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". In the film this took place in their 'Mirthmobile', an AMC Pacer, which in-game vehicle the Rhapsody (see what they did there?) strongly resembled. Not only was the car the same, but a "W" badge also appeared next to the Rhapsody logo on the sides of it, and if you got close and zoomed in on the interior you could find a photograph of Wayne and Garth themselves taped to the inside.
MINIGOLF MONUMENTS Found in the Firefly Beach area of south Broker in GTA IV, Funland was an abandoned amusement park featuring various rides and other attractions that had seen better days. Although none of the rides were operational, it was possible to 'ride' the Screamer rollercoaster by approaching from the north side and driving a vehicle onto the ground level section of the track. The site also featured a minigolf course, where the obstacles on each hole were repurposed models of landmarks from previous games in the GTA series. These included the Ocean View Hotel from Vice City, along with the Los Santos Lighthouse, a farm windmill and the World's Largest Cock sculpture that were all seen in San Andreas.