GTA - training game for murderers?

On Friday, Grand Theft Auto, perhaps the most notorious of the shoot-em-up &to=http:// ' target=_blank>computer game genre, upped the ante again. After months of slavering speculation, its newest incarnation, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, was officially released.

With an 18 certificate and a promise to be "more savage than ever", the battle lines are drawn. On one side, the games-obsessed, itchy-fingered boys, some as young as eight, who are desperate to get on the virtual street and waste some traffic cops. On the other, their fretful parents, wondering if they really want to spend £39.99 on a game that was described by an American attorney as "a training film for mass murderers", informs the Sunday Times.

According to the New York Post, the newest edition to the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise, now in its fifth incarnation and available only on PS2, has moved from the '80s-set "Vice City" (which sold more than 13 million copies) to the fictitious West Coast state of "San Andreas."

Taking place in the early '90s and borrowing from "Boyz N the Hood" and "Menace II Society," it features characters voiced by celebrities such as Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, and even reclusive Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose and a soundtrack of rock- and rap-heavy cuts from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Public Enemy.

In short, it's jam-packed with the sort of aggressive, violent anti-social shenanigans that keep our jails packed to capacity.

In the past, many high-profile personalities, like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, have used the "GTA" games as a prime example for excessive violence in gaming and disregard for law and order. Despite the protests, it didn't hamper sales then, and it hasn't this time either.

Already copies are flying off the shelves faster than a souped-up low-rider, and it's estimated to sell around 5 million copies before the year's end.

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