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Grand Theft Auto III (PlayStation 2) artwork

Grand Theft Auto III (PlayStation 2) review

"It’s a dark night. People are still walking down the streets, hitting each other, swearing and stealing. You are driving a car you just stole from some old lady only moments ago. You speed into a back alley, get out of the car and climb the stairs to the top of the building. You look down at the brothel below on the other side of the busy street. You load your sniper rifle, zoom in and wait – you know your target. The door opens, and several mafia gang members with Uzi’s flank a bald man. You ai..."

It’s a dark night. People are still walking down the streets, hitting each other, swearing and stealing. You are driving a car you just stole from some old lady only moments ago. You speed into a back alley, get out of the car and climb the stairs to the top of the building. You look down at the brothel below on the other side of the busy street. You load your sniper rifle, zoom in and wait – you know your target. The door opens, and several mafia gang members with Uzi’s flank a bald man. You aim for the bald mans head; pull the trigger and fire. His head is blown off clean in one shot. The dazed mafia men soon realize where the shot came from. Suddenly you put your sniper rifle away and run down the stairs and back to your car. Speeding out of the back alley, you run over the angry mafia members and some innocent bystanders. You lose them and you take a breather once in the safety of your hideout. This is just one mission you’ll have to complete in Grand Theft Auto III. Indiscriminate killing, car theft and dirty deeds is all in a days work for you, as you are a mercenary who works for the highest bidder. You wouldn’t hesitate to assassinate your old crime boss once he’s run out of work for you either. The city itself is corrupt, as the police will turn a blind eye towards other crime, but if you so much as slap a cop on the back of the neck, they’ll be all over you like STDs on hookers. Such is the way of life in Liberty City.

The basic premise of GTA3 is to carry out missions for various crime bosses that are located around the city. At first the size of the city will be a bit intimidating, but just as you can remember where things are in your local city, so will it be with Liberty. You will soon remember the location of your hideout, the gun shop and several other useful locales. The best way to learning the layout of the city is not to just drive around aimlessly and look at things, but to complete missions. Completing missions will teach you the quickest way to get to places. After completing several missions for different bosses, other islands of the city will be unlocked, giving you more areas to explore, memorize and break the law in.

To get around the city, you can take pretty much any car you see. Simply run up to it and take it. Some cars will be parked, and some cars will require some skill and exploration to obtain. You can walk or run around the city too, but it will take much longer and will leave you more vulnerable to the attacks of rival gang members (the Cartels and Triads come to mind). You aren’t completely defenseless on foot though, as there are several weapons you can acquire, ranging from the simple handgun, to the rocket launcher and even a flamethrower.

Missions will start off fairly easy and simple, but will get much harder in the later stages of the game. Your first real mission is a pick up job. Just drive down to the hospital and pick up your bosses girl and bring her back. Not too brain-taxing. There are also simple assassination missions and stealing certain things. While crime is fun, it can get repetitive and annoying, with only some of the missions being interesting or fun. Some missions like destroying a boat and killing old crime bosses are very fun, but the mandatory ‘escort’ missions are stupid.

Aside from the mandatory missions, there are a multitude of optional ones, ranging from wanton destruction of cars and people or shady crime bosses who will only make contact with you though a public phone. These missions are often extremely easy or insanely harder than the norm, so they are usually left until you don’t feel like doing anything else. Picking up a certain item, touching an icon or getting into a particular car, can trigger them.

You probably won’t want to be doing missions all the time, and I can fully sympathize with that, as they can often become monotonous and frustrating. It’s often fun to let off a bit of steam by just driving around the city running people down or attracting the attention of the cops. Some of my favourite past-times included making my way to the tops of buildings and sniping people down below, or walking through the park hitting people with a baseball bat. I’d often steal cars just to wreck them. I once stole an ambulance, ran over dozens of people with it, and crashed it into a wall where a lot of people were congregated, escaped and turned around to see the ambulance explode killing dozens more.

For the first part of the game, you will be restricted to one third of the city, and in this time you will learn the layout perfectly. Most roads seem logical and are easy to memorize, but when you are given the other parts of the city, you will find them harder to learn, because they are not as logical. In the third part of the city, which is a more residential area, roads just wind around in really stupid directions. You might be on a timed mission, heading to a place, and you’re driving along, looking at your map, and suddenly you’re confronted with a vast cliff; it can get a bit annoying.

For the most part, the control is good. Moving your guy around the screen isn’t difficult, as running, jumping, hitting people and stopping cars are easy to pull off with these actions assigned to the four main buttons. You can move the camera to face behind you with the L1 button, although it’ll do this automatically some times. Each car controls as well as you’d expect. Obviously the sports cars will still control reasonably at high speeds, but if you tried that same speed in a truck, you’d tip over. The controls are realistic, and are what separates each car. A getaway isn’t going to be very successful in a bus, while in a sleek Yakuza; it’d be a lot easier. The only real problem with the control is the aiming. When you have a weapon in hand, you can aim at anyone nearby. It’ll naturally go for the most dangerous person first. When the action heats up, and pedestrians and policemen surround you, the auto aim might not aim at the cop if he’s further away, thus making it hard to deal with the law. It isn’t a real big problem, but it can sometimes detract from the intense action if you choose to stand and fight rather than drive away to see another day.

Visually, this game is very good. Every person, car and building is wonderfully presented in appropriate colours and design. The building design in the first island is gritty and industrialized leaving the overall impression of it as being the slums. The people and the cars are generally lower class types and everything is depressing. The second island is a more commercial locale, with booming businesses everywhere and a much brighter colour scheme and tone. The final area is more residential and is much more pleasant, though it is the most violent place of them all.

Every car looks great. From the clichéd yellow taxi and red fire engine to the sleek black Sentinel or Kurama, most cars can be a pleasure to drive. Handling is varied in each car depending on the size and design; giving the game some much needed variety. It can make all the difference completing a timed mission in a Police Car as opposed to a van that steers like a brick.

The sound is also of exceptional quality and humour. From the little voice clips of pedestrians fitting the role perfectly to the talk back radio; there is plenty to laugh at. On “Chatterbox” an obnoxious and pretentious guy named Lazlo talks to people who call in. He often gives them a hard time and shows a lot of disinterest. Some of the conversations are hilarious; one particular woman calling in about the marvels of the Internet was enough to make me laugh out loud. There are other radio stations to cater to your music tastes, such as Flashback for “all the songs you were tired of twenty years ago” or the Classical, rock or alternative music styles that can be heard.

At first, killing and stealing seemed fun but the more I played, the more I realized I was actually really enjoying it. I then started to think that what I was doing was wrong, even if the people weren’t real. I was still killing people without any real cause. I was still stealing cars just for the fun of it. The shocking realization of what I had become after playing this came when I shot someone’s leg with a sniper rifle, only to hear him scream out in pain hobbling around spraying blood everywhere until he just collapsed in a pool of his own blood and died. Needless to say, I still ran up and stole his money. I then stopped playing, but after noticing no real blood lust in real life, I picked the game up again and used it to vent my frustrations.

Grand Theft Auto 3, while not in any way perfect, is actually a fun game. It might upset some people with the gross killing, and others with the repetitiveness, but with such an un-linear approach to game play, it is indeed something rarely come across in the days of FMV bloated games. It is both challenging and easy and will engage the player in both the laid back un-linear approach to the missions and the structure of actually doing all the missions. Both are completely different aspects, yet contrast and compliment each other to deliver a great game.

jerec's avatar
Community review by jerec (September 03, 2003)

On very rare occasions, Jerec finds a game that inspires him to write stuff about. The rest of the time he just hangs around being sarcastic.

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