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Grand Theft Auto III (PlayStation 2) artwork

Grand Theft Auto III (PlayStation 2) review


"There’s nothing like good ol’ fashioned violence and crime, and Grand Theft Auto III has plenty of it. The Grand Theft Auto series became notorious for its violence and “go anywhere, kill anyone” gameplay. While the previous 2 installments had to be played in an annoying and limiting overhead view, Grand Theft Auto III represents the series’ jump to 3D. The jump to 3D can be disastrous for a game series; just look at what happened to Bubsy way back in the early da..."



There’s nothing like good ol’ fashioned violence and crime, and Grand Theft Auto III has plenty of it. The Grand Theft Auto series became notorious for its violence and “go anywhere, kill anyone” gameplay. While the previous 2 installments had to be played in an annoying and limiting overhead view, Grand Theft Auto III represents the series’ jump to 3D. The jump to 3D can be disastrous for a game series; just look at what happened to Bubsy way back in the early days of the Playstation. While GTA III is no where near that horrid, there are quite a few flaws that make this game only average. This could have easily been a classic.

The first glaring flaw is the plot; actually it’s the lack of a good plot. Our nameless and silent hero has just been betrayed by his girlfriend and left for the cops during a bank heist. Apparently she did this because she wanted someone more ambitious with his crime ways. After busting out of confinement, you’d think he could carefully plot his revenge on the woman who got him arrested, right? Wrong. Instead he just basically forgets all about her and does work for crime bosses in Liberty City for no apparent reason except to make money. Considering I had half a million dollars halfway through the game, I can’t see why our hero doesn’t go into early retirement. Then, at the last moment, you hear from her again. Weak. And how can we relate to a character that doesn’t even speak or express any signs of personality? If the plot was more developed it could have been great, but the developers at Rockstar decided that having a plot isn’t important. What a wasted opportunity.

Gameplay is basically the same as the previous 2 installments, and they were revolutionary. You can move anywhere you want in Liberty City, with very few invisible boundaries holding you back. The city feels remarkably realistic, but never to the point of being too complicated. Hundreds of people walk the streets while muggers wait for the chance to rob them. Firefighters rush to put out a blaze that was mistakenly caused by a Molotov cocktail. Overall the city is quite impressive, but don’t expect a truly realistic metropolis experience or you’ll be let down.

What would a Grand Theft Auto game be without of cars to steal? Like the title implies, stealing automobiles is an integral part of the game. Any vehicle that you see driving around can be stolen. You can use the vehicles to get from one place to the other quickly, like in real life, or thet can be used as a weapon for the sick and twisted. Each different type of vehicle responds as it should. Big trucks are a bit slower; sports cars can’t handle crashes too well and so on. The physics make more some fun times, but cars flip over almost all the time, which leads to a deadly explosion. This becomes a bit annoying.

If you get tired of using cars as weapons, you can use actual guns. Weapons can be bought at the store or found in the most awkward of places. To put it bluntly, the aiming system sucks. Most weapons seem to automatically lock on to the least dangerous person. For example, a bunch of gang members are coming after me with their guns blazing. Being the badass that I am, I whip out an uzi and get ready to cap their sorry asses. I hit the lock on button and...What the hell! Why am I shooting at the old lady across the street instead of the guys shooting at me? By the time I aim at the gang member I’m almost dead. Situations like this constantly arise. Let’s not forgot the overly sensitive aiming when it comes to the sniper rifle. Why there isn’t an option to change the sensitivity I will never know. Fortunately drive-bys are always fun. It unleashes the inner gangsta inside of me. Word.

The main reason why this game is so popular is the violence and ability to wreak total mayhem. It’s a riot getting the cops after you and then wasting them. The more havoc you wreak, the higher your wanted level gets. Eventually cops set up road blocks and the F.B.I and army get involved and try to take you out. What better way to vent out your frustration then murdering virtual policemen. I admit that breaking the law in this videogame is fun and often chaotic for a little while but some people may be appalled that you can kill officers of the law. I’m not one of them.

Sounds like a great game so far, doesn’t it? Running from the cops and shooting everyone is fun, but it can only be fun for so long. Once the dust settles from the mass murder and carjacking, you’ll have to start the actual missions. This is where the torture starts and the game becomes ruined.

Before each mission there is a little cutscene, and once it is over the “fun” begins. Possibly the missions are the least fun I’ve had while playing a game. There are no words to describe the sheer monotony of this portion of GTA III. The objectives range from “kill this guy” to the exciting “kill this guy in the car.” Once in a while we’re blessed with the “drive here in a certain amount of time” missions. One of the missions even utilized something called a “Spookometer.” What the hell is a Spookometer? Were the developers wasted or are they that lame? To be fair, a few missions spice up the torture. Occasionally we get to ride a boat, which is more entertaining then it sounds. It seems as if Rockstar didn’t spend any time at all play testing the missions. 90% of them are devoid of any excitement at all. The missions killed this game.

At least there are a few diversions besides running from cops and doing the missions. There are a few challenging segments that involve hitting all the checkpoints with a certain vehicle while being timed. Learning how to fly the Dodo plane is a challenging, yet rewarding experience. The best diversion is the “unique jumps.” Scattered throughout the city are jumps that can be hit. Once you ride off of them, the camera gets all cinematic and it goes slow motion. If you successfully land it, you get cash. Thanks to the cinematic camera angle, I always held my breath in anticipation. While these diversions are interesting, they don’t make you forget about the other awful missions.

There are still a few other problems. It is unnecessarily difficult to safely get off a boat. Half the time you end up falling in the water and dying if you aren’t incredibly careful. Also when you run down a flight of stairs you almost always take damage. After progressing through the game, you attack rival gangs in a bid for power. Once you beat these missions, the gangs automatically attack you whenever you are in their turf. For some odd reason I could be driving down the street doing 60, but they still know it’s me and fire their shotguns with perfect accuracy at my car. These problems are apparently the result of lazy programming.

Considering the PS2’s graphical limitations, GTA III is a fairly good looking game, but they’re far from perfect. The best part is how huge Liberty City looks. Buildings can be seen from a few miles away,. Unfortunately, cars and people just pop up out of no where. While driving down the road full speed cars constantly appeared out of no where, which caused me to crash. Sometimes the cops could be chasing me, but then I don’t see them anymore. So I get out of my car to do something and it turns out they were there the whole time.

The citizens of Liberty City are very repetitive. It’s fairly ordinary to see a group of 4 people who look exactly the same walking in front of the same building. Apparently cloning is legal in Liberty City. The level of detail used on the “important” characters far surpasses the ordinary people walking on the street. And the hookers are ugly. Wait, that’s realism. My bad.

Damage looks incredibly realistic on most vehicles. If you hit the side of another car the car becomes indented and the door falls off. When your vehicle is close to exploding the engine starts to emit black smoke. The excellent damage modeling helps make Liberty City seem a bit more real, which is quite an accomplishment. Sadists will be disappointed that the only way to shoot of arms and legs of people is by using a code. It does feel strangely rewarding blowing the head off of an old lady who just got done shopping. I’m a bad man. Overall the scale of city is done exceptionally well, but the popup and lack of character models are big downers.

Cruising in your car listening to the radio is a blast. The radio stations on GTA III sound like real stations at first, but they are full of humorous bits of satire. The DJs, commercials and interviews aired on the Liberty City radio waves constantly had me laughing. Each radio station plays a different genre of music, with the exception of talk radio. Some of the genres include rap, reggae and techno. Most of the music from the Scarface soundtrack is given its own 80’s station. Its 80’s-licous. The music does get repetitive after playing a while, but the radio stations are still excellent.

Voice acting during the pre-mission cutscenes is high-quality. The guys really sound like wise guys or gang lords, not that I know what they actually sound like. A few of the cutscenes had some genuinely funny moments which might have been ruined if the voice acting was weak.

For the first 2 hours I played this game, I thought it was great. After playing it longer and doing the missions, I realized this game is spectacularly average. Killing and stealing is only fun for a little while, but it gets old fast. With some minor tweaking, a good plot and drastically improved mission objectives this game would have been great. Instead Rockstar focused on violence, which is the main selling point of this game. It’s a shame they created such a huge city and it only stays fun for a few hours. Give this game a rental for some fun, a 2 day trip to Liberty City is all you need.

Rating: 6.8/10

djskittles's avatar
Community review by djskittles (March 29, 2004)

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