Grand Theft Auto III (PlayStation 2) review
"The setting is Liberty City. The goal? Creating complete and utter terror among its inhabitants. The name of your besieged metropolis alone should strike up images of freedom (freedom and liberty are synonyms you see); stirring mental pictures of a man with no restraints, just doing as he pleases. Grand Theft Auto 3 is indeed a game that offers this to you. By accepting the persona of one of its lowliest residents you’re taking on-board a role that is not just a chance to explore the mysteries o..."
The setting is Liberty City. The goal? Creating complete and utter terror among its inhabitants. The name of your besieged metropolis alone should strike up images of freedom (freedom and liberty are synonyms you see); stirring mental pictures of a man with no restraints, just doing as he pleases. Grand Theft Auto 3 is indeed a game that offers this to you. By accepting the persona of one of its lowliest residents you’re taking on-board a role that is not just a chance to explore the mysteries of petty theft and mafia politics, but also a way of life. Your character - a punk with a fashion sense that’s representative of the late 70’s - is nothing more than a minnow in the ocean of organized crime. Left for dead by a wicked temptress, and on the run from the law, you must help this worthless pawn create a name for himself.
Indeed, Grand Theft Auto 3 is the latest adaptation of this amazingly popular “gangster simulation” series. The original - a top-down 2D effort - introduced us to the gritty, dangerous life of organized crime. Its major problems lay in the over dramatization of its design, a side-effect from the obscene amount of realism Rockstar attempted to fill their game with, and something that created too tough a challenge and created a good number of jaded gamers. Part two saw a great cleaning-up of everything; things that were previously over the top could now be perceived as harshly underdone. And unfortunately everything was left with a more “sci-fi” feel; one that just didn’t suit the game at all. This brings us to the present day, and the third incarnation of this franchise. With Grand Theft Auto 3, one can’t help but feel that the developers have performed a marvelous balancing act. The game has its fair share of realistic aspects, but to even the scale we see some spectacular arcade features thrown into the fray. Together they create one of the most immersive gaming experiences in recent history.
The most important feature of the game, but one that its detractors often hit on, is the lack of basic structure that it can appear to have. Countless hours of storylines and computer-assigned tasks can be tackled, but on a larger scale one can’t help but note the insignificance of these missions. With the move from mundane two-dimension graphics into a dazzling 3D picture, the Grand Theft Auto series could now be considered more of a life (not much of a life, I admit) simulator. No longer do gamers have to bend their intentions to suit the wishes of others; you are in complete control of everything you do, and the city is certainly going to be hearing about it!
Moving back to these missions for a second! For even though they play a minute part in the overall time frame of your gangster lifestyle they’re still an irresistible part of the game. Generally, most of your jobs will come from a meeting with a powerful figure, impress him and you’ll find yourself with a personal introduction to somebody higher up the food chain. Admittedly your work is of a rather shallow nature, and not at all original. You’ll find yourself playing the role of personal courier, marksman or even grim reaper. Taking part in some very arcade-ish rituals such as driving really quickly and shooting really accurately will usually result in the death of somebody or other or the delivery of whatever and will earn you huge cash bonuses. However the most important part of these missions is the opportunities that they unlock for you further down the track. There are three parts to this glorious city, and in the beginning you’ll only have access to one of them. You’ll probably want to tear through some of these missions as quick as you can, just to get a taste of inner city and suburban life.
Of course the trials and tribulations of the Salvatore family won’t be enough to keep you interested for long. You’ll just be itching to get off the beaten path, stray out on a tangent and do your own thing; lucky for you that Liberty City hosts a true plethora of activities for scum such as you, and will accommodate your every needs. With all of the tweaking and upgrades that have been introduced since part 2 your rampages are going to be a true joy to experience.
Emerge from your tenebrous alley and out into the hustle-bustle of the streets, and within seconds you’ll realize how far the depth of the game has plummeted. Cars of numerous makes and models tear down the streets, people with a similar randomness patrol the footpaths. Perhaps the best part about them is the range of personalities they have between them - some are willing to take on a hardened crook like yourself in a fistfight, while the smarter kind flee at the first kind of danger - and boy oh boy are they a lot of fun. There’s just too much that you can get up to with the civilians, with most of the outcomes being the death of your targets. You can stroll down the streets armed with a wooden bat, or just jump into a car and “oops, I think I may accidentally be driving 100KM/H down the footpath!” Truly, there has never been anything like it.
The city that all your escapades occur in has a truly brilliant design. Entire networks of major roads and highways are intertwined with countless back alleys and hard-to-reach areas such as rooftops. The actual amount of mileage that can be performed has dropped from the prequels’, but the game is now given a greater feeling of real-time, and this stops the drop in area from being a hindrance to the lifespan. Unfortunately it appears at times that somebody was trying to get a little bit too clever with his construction of the cities. What you’re left with (particularly in the second and third sections) is a chain of roads that often lead you nowhere, and certain sections of the map that are almost impossible to reach. Once you’ve spent enough time cruising the streets it may not be as much of a problem, but there’s no denying how anal some of these designs are.
It used to be the case in the older games that money dictated your passage through the game. Certain totals had to be reached, and bonus multipliers played a large part of attaining the totals. This feature left you with unrealistic requirements, and not enough lives to get them. In this case the mundane features of life numbers and cash multipliers have been removed, giving you a more even challenge. Still included in the game is the various gangs that patrol the city. Befriending them is a difficult thing to do, but it’s incredibly easy to get them pissed off at you. You’ll soon find yourself under siege from all sides should you enter their territory, and this makes your travels far more hazardous.
One of the most appealing aspects of the game would have to be the charm that it exudes. Any old bum can try and create a gangster game, but it’s the way that you give it life and personality that is really important. Perhaps the most alluring feature in this case is the way it has recreated a sense of normality and wedged it between scenes of sheer terror. Let me just list a few of the things that make GTA3 such a realistic title.
- Functional police, fire and ambulance services that respond promptly to any major problem
- The ability to take on-board roles such as taxi driver and ambulance officer
- Modes of transport such as the subway; city-spanning bridges and a complex tunnel system
- Nosey civilians that will flock to the scene of a disaster
- Petty crimes such as muggings going on around you!
Okay, perhaps we’re only treated to real-life equivalents of these in a seedier environment, but the attention to detail displayed by Rockstar and their ingenuity is nothing short of dazzling. If you have any wishes at all concerning death and destruction, then this is the game that harbours the necessary materials.
Of course all of this superfluous maiming raises the issue of morals and censorship and all of that hogwash. There are undoubtedly a number of scenes here that are nothing short of brutal, and when you add them to the underlying themes of sex and drugs then you’ve got a lethal combination on your hands. Sure, people have become hardened to this kind of stuff, but there are still sensitive people out there and I give my strongest recommendations to leave this game be. Any game that gives you access to dangerous weapons and grannies, or streets filled with pimps and their wares should be given due consideration before splashing out on it. The dirty stuff is actually considered so extreme in certain circles that it’s now facing a ban in Australia!
It’s very difficult to follow up a paragraph detailing granny-bashings with one describing the fun of the game, but I’m going to try damn it! GTA3 could be more fun than anything you’ve ever played before, not because you’re beating the crap out of old people, but because you’re being given the chance to do things that would never be possible in a real-life situation. There are enough fast paced thrills here to keep the more superficial crowd equally entertained; it’s just very difficult to find a person who won’t be willing to immerse themselves in the manic antics that this title promises.
In this case the design elements of the game actually go a long way in improving the experience of it all. The switch to three-dimensions was always going to be a tough act to pull off, and Rockstar risked losing the pick-up and play appeal that the original had. It appears that the task has bee completed with much aplomb, as I cannot see too many problems with the new view (and if you must, the camera can be switched back to the retro camera angle). The graphics are very clean, but suffer from a few technical faults because of the expansive environments. All of the buildings and houses and such have some great little details etched onto them, they’ve created a really big and pretty environment, but at times there can be a whole lot of pop-up going on around you. A high amount of detail is hard to ignore, and the technical side of things is only a minor distraction, so the graphics score highly!
The sound.…oh dear lord how good is the sound!? There is no doubt that GTA3 has one of the finest sound schemes that you’ll ever hear, there’s just so much going on at once! The people walk down the street, talking or singing to themselves, cars with different engine noises tear around the city, honking horns at whoever is in their way. The sound effects have a lot of class and a lot of depth, but the music is even better. Get yourself inside a car of some sort and the radio will kick in. With 10 or so different music stations to choose from, there’s a station to suit the needs of everybody! With a selection encompassing hip-hop, dance, golden oldies and perhaps the greatest talkback station of all time, the music could be the most endearing part of this game (that’s the third time I’ve said that this review!). Couple this with the workmanlike graphics and you’ve got just what you need to impress the player with a little bit of razzle-dazzle.
Grand Theft Auto 3 is a top-notch game, perhaps the best in the series. With its hundreds of hours worth of compulsory and non-compulsory gameplay features there should be something for everybody. Sure it can be hard to find your way around the city at times, everything can seem a bit fiddly and once you’ve got all of the various gangs after you a whole lot of death will be coming your way...but it really is great fun and a worthy play. You must check out this clever little title, before it gets banned in your country!
- Breathtaking audio section
- Unsurpassed lifespan and fun factors
- A great platform to release all of that pent up frustration through
NOT SO GOOD POINTS
- Anal roads all over the place
- Some missions are a little TOO hard
- The gangs (particularly the mafia) can make life excruciatingly painful
OVERALL - 10/10
Community review by kingbroccoli (April 25, 2004)
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