Back when the first GTA came out, I'm sure that someone was beating the hell out of some noob for praising the "unique" features like city-wide exploration and random pointless destruction, because they had already bean around for four years, in a kick ass game called Quarantine.
Basically, the storyline is pretty weak: In a future not too far away, what is considered "criminal" is a little screwed up, and with the ensuing "Lock 'em up, they're all guilty of something" mentality, the judicial system is rapidly filled beyond capacity.
Desperate to find a means of containment, the government turns a city into a cross between a maximum security prison, and a huge gated community. As you can guess, it is a rather hostile environment. So how do you manage to scratch out a little means of survival? The main character decides the best course of action would be to keep a low key, so he becomes... a cab driver.
I'll admit, it sounds...pretty lame, simple as that. But as if to counter balance that fact, the game's atmosphere more than makes up for any plot problems. It is a perfect blend of the Cyberpunk and Post Apocalypse genres (my two favorites, hands down): the streets glow with shattered street lamps and ancient, half dead Neon billboards,
and the gadgetry you see on a constant basis is high tech enough to come straight out Blade Runner.
Quarantine is interesting for another reason, to: it is one of those games where you can either play to beat the game, or you can play to have fun. Playing to win is very similar to the GTA series, and it is basically composed of you going through a series of linear missions, most of which feel repetitive and completely pointless. On the other hand, playing just to play is composed of basically living the life of a stereotypical heavily armed convict cabby. Basically, you go around, picking up the occasional passenger, running over the others, and exploring the massive play area. Both kinds of play are fun, but they both get old eventually. After about ten missions, I just didn't have it in me, and you can only watching a pedestrian splatter over the front of your car so many times before you have to ask yourself why you aren't doing something else. Luckily, driving around is painless, and actually quite fun, with fairly reactive intuitive controls, and a great map interface.
Of course, as it is a prison of sorts, it isn't often that the task is as simple as "Drive from Point A to Point b". The citizens are in there with you for some pretty sick stuff, and are ready and willing to try their destruction skills on you and your car. They generally add a fun element to the game, employing anything from roadblocks and gunman to land mines and heavy artillery, they can be a serious pain in the ass when trying to complete some of the more difficult missions.
Now, considering what you're up against, it stands to reason that you should have some means of fighting back, yes? Well, your cab isn't exactly stock. Nothing says "Get the hell away from my car" like spiked bumpers and a flamethrower on the hood. There is a pretty good amount of both offensive and defensive upgrades and equipment, but most of it is fairly spendy, putting a good dent in your wallet. But even the cheapest among us will feel all warm and tingly inside when purchasing that special means of maiming the masses.
Considering how old the game is (came out in '94) the audio and visuals are pretty good. Just about every building and sign in the game was detailed enough to see fine detail on, even if it was occasionally to grainy to notice, and the music always seamed to fit the mood, though the digital sound eventually got annoying. I think the main problem with the game is that you never get to leave the car. Even if it was just inside a store to purchase upgrades, or something like that, this great game would have been near perfect, but even as is, this game is a must have for any serious gamer.