After an unbroken string of successes that have made the gritty and violent Grand Theft Auto series one of the world’s most successful video game franchises, publisher Rockstar Games (a unit of Take-Two Interactive) stumbled badly this month when it released what may well turn out to be the gaming industry’s least successful expansion pack ever: GTA: Courteous Driving School. After nearly three weeks on the shelves, the game has sold just 184 copies nationwide, and most of those sales were to driving schools, which have adopted the game as a training tool.
GTA: Courteous Driving School takes place at the Happy Drivers School in Liberty City. Players assume the role of Phil “No Points” Bell, a newly hired driving instructor who must rise through the ranks of the academy by consistently arriving to work on time, maintaining a neat work station, always displaying a professional attitude toward both customers and colleagues, and successfully completing a series of increasingly challenging missions assigned by higher-ups. Along the way, players must master myriad skills such as parallel parking, appropriate lane changes, signaling safety, and defensive driving techniques.
Many of the 18 missions in GTA: Courteous Driving School focus on honing specific skill sets. Examples include Mission 3, “The Silent Killer,” which stresses the importance of proper tire pressure, Mission 7, “One Quart Down,” which teaches routine engine maintenance, and Mission 12, “Don’t Be a ‘Led’ Foot,” which focuses on driving for maximum fuel efficiency. Like other recent Grand Theft Auto games, GTA: Courteous Driving School offers numerous “morality choices,” points at which the player must choose between several problematic options. In one situation, for instance, the player must decide whether or not to slightly exceed the posted speed limit in order to inform another driver that his license tags have expired.
Responding to the poor sales for this expansion, Rockstar Games has already announced an add-on, “Driving School Vendetta,” that promises to return the expansion to GTA’s more traditional fare. In this new story, Phil Bell returns to the Happy Drivers School, executes in cold blood the director who had previously issued him a demerit, burns down the school, and sells its fleet of training vehicles to a local chop shop.
Below is a sample of actual game play from GTA: Courteous Driving School.
(Props: Thanks to Mat Jacobson for the graphic.)