Fire is a damaging component of Grand Theft Auto games, designed to inflict a constant amount of damage on anyone or anything for a period of time. Introduced in the original game, fire has long been utilized as a weapon in game via the Flamethrower and Molotov cocktails, which were both introduced in Grand Theft Auto 1 and Grand Theft Auto 2, respectively.
Fire in the Grand Theft Auto series has changed over time as the game engine is improved or recreated repeatedly.
Grand Theft Auto 1 initially programmed fire for use in its flamethrower, the only flame-based weapon in the game. The flames of the weapon were primarily effective in setting people alight in short range; even if briefly in contact with its flame, the person remains on fire for a period of time, losing a portion of or all of their health; feeding more fire to the person will result in a quicker death. Vehicles, however, are less likely to remain on fire when out of the flame's way. The player will constantly have to fire the flamethrower onto a vehicle until it explodes and is destroyed.
Grand Theft Auto 2 carried over GTA 1's fire mechanics, while introducing Molotov cocktails as a new fire-based weapon. The Molotov cocktail, which functions the same way as GTA 2's grenade, generates an explosion and a ball of fire, but behaves more like a small-scale explosive that does not inflict long lasting fire damage. Fire is also introduced as a clear indication of a vehicle's imminent destruction; as a vehicle is progressively damaged, a small flame will emerge from the vehicle and grow until the entire vehicle explodes when totally destroyed (killing any occupant inside).
Grand Theft Auto III retools the effects of fire with devastating results. Upon impact after being tossed, a molotov cocktail generates a ring of fire in its vicinity, torching anything within it, and leaving a temporarily lingering blaze in the center. In addition, fire may now continuously burn a vehicle, and the player themselves may also be burned if in contact with a flame. The flamethrower, however, functions similarly as before. The concept of severely damaged vehicles in flames was also brought over to GTA III, but is used simply to indicate that a vehicle is completely damaged and is on the verge of exploding.
The system remains in games where the GTA III engine is recycled, including Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, which are based on GTA Vice City's engine.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas modified and extended the fire's presence in game. Explosions of any form may generate fire in its surrounding, and fire has the ability to grow, spread and die out. If the player lingers around the fire it will continue to grow, it does not simply burn out. Carl Johnson can also be heard yelling in pain if he catches fire.
Grand Theft Auto IV adopts more realism in the manner fire behaves. The flamethrower was dropped while Molotov cocktails were retained. Fire may still inflict injury on a person, but the fire deducts a random amount of damage as the victim may attempt put out the flames by using the "stop, drop and roll" technique instead of simply running around in previous games. Fire is still an indication of a vehicle's imminent destruction as the engine may erupt in flames, but fire from the gas tank(s) of the vehicle is the game's final sign of a vehicle's imminent explosion. Fire may also destroy a vehicle's tires, burning them before they explode and expose the bare rims. When a vehicle explodes fire will burn out of it and the player will be instantly set on fire if he steps in it, however small ground fires caused by Molotov Cocktails will not burn the player instantly like in previous games. Instead the player must stand in the small fire for a few seconds before catching alight. Unlike in previous games, fire does not spread as easily and will stop burning after a while.
In the enhanced version of Grand Theft Auto V, fire can now spread much easier, and realistically spreads quicker on flammable materials such as wood and fuels. Large amounts of flames are significantly seen when helicopters explode, and the remains fall onto grass. Fire will spread across large areas of forest areas and grass land.
Fire can now also spread on vehicles. Rockets and missiles can cause large balls of fire to form around exposed areas and fuel tanks, but do not always cause the vehicle to blow up. Vehicles like the Cargobob and Rhino are prone to this during gunfire and head-on Rocket contact, but usually don't lead them to explode.
Since GTA 2, various methods were invented to allow the player to overcome fire, be it on themselves or others.
The most apparent addition is the ability for the Fire Truck's water cannon to extinguish fires in GTA III. When aimed correctly, fire may be put out with water as white smoke or vapors emerge; this system has remained unchanged since. Aside from the Fire Truck, the S.W.A.T. in GTA San Andreas and the RCV in Grand Theft Auto Online come mounted with a similar water cannon that is capable of putting out fires in the same manner.
If the player is near a body of water, the player has a limited amount of time to extinguish the fire coming from himself/herself or a vehicle about to explode by diving into water, though with exemption on certain games where the player will instantly drown (GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA Liberty City Stories), and in GTA IV and GTA V (story modes only) where the player will attempt the stop, drop and roll technique upon setting on fire.
Another fire fighting tool is the Fire Extinguisher in GTA San Andreas, which allows the player to extinguish small groups of fire when aimed directly at them. Due to its use, the extinguisher may be utilized in two of the game's missions, Burning Desire and End of the Line, when the player may be required to clear paths in burning buildings. It can also be used, like the Spray Can, to "gas" other people.
In GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, GTA Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and GTA Vice City Stories, the player may also be awarded invulnerability to fire by completing specific levels in the Firefighter side missions. This allows the player to burn without losing their health.
- In all GTA games, the water cannon from the Fire Truck will extinguish fires from the Molotov Cocktail and Jerry Can even though those fires are from flammable liquids, in which case it would spread with the use of water in real life.
- In GTA 1, buildings can also be set on fire temporarily. This can be done in certain missions or outside of a mission by firing bazooka missiles or shooting at them with a tank. Flamethrowers do not set them on fire.
- In GTA San Andreas, when the Firefighter side mission is completed, Carl will no longer yell in pain when set on fire.
- When on fire, Tommy Vercetti auto-aims the Ruger, M4, or M60 at enemies instead of using the manual aiming mode.
- In GTA San Andreas, during the Los Santos Riots, fires randomly start on buildings.
- In GTA IV, if a car's door happens to fall off seconds before the car explodes, the player may notice how the door will turn burnt, despite not being in contact with the flames.
- In GTA IV multiplayer, a deleted physics script for fire will keep the player in flames and die unless they dive into water to extinguish them.
- In GTA Online, the player does not flinch when on fire.