Grand Theft Auto 3 Review
Grand Theft Auto; quite possibly the most controversial videogame series ever. First person shooters, violent fighting games, and horror titles have nothing on the GTA series. The original Grand Theft Auto (for the PC) was a pure breed of hellish fun! Violence and language aside, the folks at Rockstar/Take-Two created a simple looking title, with some of the most addictive gameplay aspects to date. Take-Two was walking on some dangerously thin ice, and there's no doubt about it. Is there any other game that will allow you to hi-jack vehicles, run over pedestrians, blow up hospitals, go on frantic shooting sprees by eliminating every piece of flesh around you, blow up police vehicles and be associated with various gang organizations? Let me help you out, no! Grand Theft Auto is the kind of title that there is room for only one. In other words, another GTA-like game would spell some serious trouble in this industry. Grand Theft Auto is one of my favorite games, its content was realistic, the atmosphere was superb and it was just something that my mind could handle. Those who never touched a GTA game, chances are the top-down visuals were the case. It's a shame that someone could be so shallow as to avoid a game, because of its visual setting. When the sequel to GTA rolled around I didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the first. There was just something missing, on both the PC and PSX versions. I kept on playing the original Grand Theft Auto for months to come, when one day word comes that Rockstar/Take-Two and DMA are developing an all new Grand Theft Auto game for a next-generation system. As the gruesome days pass by, we eventually reach February. Just a few days into the month, DMA finally shows the very first screenshot of Grand Theft Auto 3 on the PS2. A couple of more days later, dozens of GTA3 screens spill from DMA, as information on the game is finally revealed. GTA3 was looking fantastic, and as an avid fan of the first I remember my shocked reaction! GTA in 3D on PS2= Love.
I was extremely impressed when I first played and witnessed Rockstar's Midnight Club: Street Racing first hand. Angel Studios obviously went way out of their way to create one of the finest looking titles. On top of that, both of the environments were based on actual locations, New York City and London, England. One of the things I loved to do in Midnight Club was cruise around exploring the cities, and using the freedom to my advantage. I absolutely love to cruise around in videogames that allow it. Stopping on red lights, watching the speed, maybe cutting off a car or two on the interstate, I enjoy creating realism in the videogame, and I know many of you probably do the same. All of these happenings wouldn't be possible without the freedom that games such as Midnight Club and Grand Theft Auto bestow. When I first began playing GTA3, I cruised around and got a feel for the city. As I progressed in my adventure, I could slip and slide my way through the city as if it was second nature. I would memorize the whole map within a matter of time. It's no secret that Liberty City is pretty much set to somewhat look like New York City. The initial portion of Liberty City -called Portland- has you set in a Bronx/Brooklyn like environment, rundown neighborhoods and the atmosphere really presents that feel. The second portion of Liberty City -Staunton Island- is a very high-profiled commercial district with dozens of office buildings, condominium complexes, and sports cars on the streets -a mock up of Manhattan, if you will-. The third and last portion of Liberty City -Shoreside Vale- is a "suburban residential area." The city as a whole is unbelievably huge! There is no larger environment that offers this much freedom in any game! At the moment, I feel Sony's The Getaway seems to be the most likely challenger to compete against GTA3's level of exploration.
The living and breathing city is superbly justified via the PS2's visual prowess. But because there is so much to show off, don't expect mind-blowing next-generation visuals that can go toe-to-toe with games such as Gran Turismo 3. Don't get me wrong, GTA3's visuals aren't based on how shiny the cars are, but more or less how much space you're given in a world so sophisticated, that it's inhabitants may very well be sharing you air. GTA's environments are extremely diverse. The redundancy factor for structural placement is almost non-existent, as each and every building has its own distinctive look. In an environment as shockingly huge as Liberty City, you'd expect to see a lot of the same dull designs, but DMA did a fantastic job at creating a varied atmosphere that easily suits the targeted approach. Detail on the buildings is great too, as the texture detail helps contribute to a well-rounded effort that really shines. Your surroundings will include other structures, not just buildings; lengthy bridges and railroad tracks to be specific. GTA3's gameplay is broken up into three pieces, so don't expect to head into all three cities of Liberty City initially. I'll explain why in the gameplay-read below. The vehicles are modeled to reflect various real-life machines such as Ford Crown Victoria, BMW 525, Jaguar XJ220, Dodge Viper and even a Ferrari 355 Spider. Once again, the cars aren't of Gran Turismo quality, but then again nothing is. That said, let me mention that these vehicles are modeled for real-time damage as well, but my gripe with the damage is that the cars are too damn frail! If I was as to bump another car, my windshield cracks, or my bumper bends or the hood deforms. It's pretty annoying, especially when you are just cruising around and acting casual.
Perhaps where GTA3 falters most is apparent - character detail. GTA3's characters aren't anything special, in fact it's probably nothing the PSOne can't handle. Clipping and 32-bit detail makes these characters look very average, but seeing as how much this game has to offer the gamer, I think weak character detail can be definitely pardoned. Unlike the past two Grand Theft Auto titles, the third has a progressive world where day and night are present. In addition, weather effects such as thunderstorms and halos from the setting sun occur quite frequently, and look very nice. GTA's game engine is very robust, but with all of that detail there are some minimal draw-in issues to be encountered. Thankfully, none of them have any direct affect towards the gameplay, which is very important. Take my word on it, the draw-in is pretty minimal and isn't anything to fret over. As a whole, GTA3's visual package is spectacular. The bestowed level of freedom is what is so incredibly impressive about the visuals. This is next-generation standards by all means, chances are you won't be disappointed.
Grand Theft Auto games aren't just about senseless murder, car jacking and blowing up 'stuff'. Believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto titles have had stories behind them, but neither of the predecessors had stories as deep nor engrossing as the third. We're talking a mobster RPG here folks; this is the Final Fantasy of mobster titles. *Spoiler Alert* The game starts out with a great intro. Your character (who I believe remains nameless throughout the whole game) is arrested for robbing a bank. He would've got away with it, but he was betrayed by his girlfriend, as she shot him leaving him in an alley next to the bank. He was screwed and he knows it! He now vows revenge, but is apprehended by the police and first taken to a hospital for intensive care. After his release from the hospital, he, along with a bunch of other convicts, are put in a police convoy truck. On the way to the Portland police precinct, suddenly a gang halts the police and the convoy truck on the Callahan Bridge with the use of weapons. The gang members bail their own and take off. Your character and a character named 8-Ball will flee as well. Before they do so, a bomb explodes on the center of the bridge, severely damaging it and sending tons of debris to the ocean below. The bridge is now out of access and getting into Shoreside will now rely on your gameplay skills. If you accomplish 20% of GTA3 you will be notified of the bridge's re-opening, in addition to a tunnel's re-opening. So make note that progression is key. If you hang around and not do any missions, the game will become boring very quick.
So now that you've avoided a lengthy sentence in jail, you will now be entered into the world of the mafia, and be enrolled as a Mafioso. You will meet the Leone family; Liberty City's most notorious mafia. They will give you missions to do (some may require set timing) and if you succeed, you will be rewarded with heavy cash. Of course car jacking, exploding and shooting your way through the dust will be a necessity if one wants to make his progress well worth the effort. The game offers nearly 80 missions to do, all varying upon difficulty. Aside from the missions, the gamer can voluntarily seek out 100 hidden packages scattered throughout Liberty City's three boroughs. Even more so, additional side quests include a Crazy Taxi like mode where the gamer can pick up and drop off various people on the streets of Liberty City, and make profit while he's at it. The same can be done with a police cruiser. If you steal a cop car you can enter Vigilante mode and act as the long arm of the law by running down highlighted wrongdoers and stopping (killing, stopping, same thing) them in their tracks. Of course by now you've guessed that you can do the same with an ambulance vehicle as well as a fire truck, and earn a lot of cash. Answering phones isn't as primary as it once was in the previous GTA titles. This time around hideouts are the most primary source for retrieving missions. As an initial impression, I wasn't expecting much in terms of a storyline, but I was completely blown away with the plot twists that this game has to offer. I absolutely love the way everything unfolds. Literally, it's as if you're producing your own episode of The Sopranos.
The freedom is a visual perk that directly affects the gameplay in the most positive way imaginable. The living and breathing city displays artificial intelligence like no other. In contrast to Midnight Club's lousy vehicular traffic AI, the traffic AI in GTA3 is quite precise. The pedestrians have some knowledge. Some may interact with you; if you punch them, they'll punch back. If you punch and run, they'll run right after you. The dirty minds at DMA went as far as to allowing a hooker to enter your vehicle. When you're in an isolated area and still for about 5 seconds, the car begins to rock back and forth and the main character will regain lives. As far as artillery goes, GTA3 has a vast one. This time around you've got Molotov cocktails, grenades, uzis, flame thrower, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, baseball bat, the good ol' baseball bat, and of course your fists. You can purchase weapons and beat someone up who is carrying one, but be warned if you attack a gangster and his fellow members are around, they'll chip in and beat the sh*t out of you; just a pre-caution you know. Now that we are on the topic of explicit language, all of you 13 year olds and 14 year olds, I highly urge you to stay away from GTA3. Unless you enjoy being beaten by your parents for watching porn, I don't suggest playing Grand Theft Auto 3 without some sort of parental acknowledgment. Grand Theft Auto 3 should've definitely been rated "A". I don't know how Rockstar managed to avoid the dreaded ESRB. The level of gore and violent content, suggestive themes, explicit language and sexual content is through the roof. But for all of you adults out there, that only makes the mafia atmosphere more realistic. Grand Theft Auto 3 features roughly 50 unique vehicles to jack, according to my rough count. The game lasts for nearly 60-70 hours. So those who are looking for long-term relationship with their videogames should look no further, GTA3 is your game.
Unbelievably great voice acting is cast in the game! This is fantastic stuff. The voice talent is actual Hollywood, as Joe Pantoliano (Memento, The Matrix, US Marshals) plays as Luigi Goterelli. Robert Loggia (Return to Me, I Dreamed of Africa) plays as Ray Machowski. Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) voices the role of Toni Cipriani. Finally, Micheal Rapaport (Men of Honor, Deep Blue Sea, Dr. Dolittle 2) stars as Joey Leone. There are other less known talents in the game, but they still provide excellent voice acting to the game's sound. Like the previous two GTA titles, GTA3 has radio stations. While I could care less for the half of them, I absolutely love the rap station 'Game FM', talk station 'Chatterbox' and classical music station 'Double Cleff FM'. Every other station I really couldn't stand listening to, but I don't care. Those three stations make up for all of them. The rap soundtrack consists of talents such as Royce da' 5'9, DJ Stretch Armstrong, Rush and Black Rob. Even though I can't stand to listen to today's rap/hip-hop, I enjoyed the offerings of GTA3's rap, because it wasn't quite as stereotypical as the genre is today. In all honesty, I've been playing the game for a good 15 hours, I only listen to three radio stations, and redundancy hasn't hit me yet. Instead of just streaming music, each and every radio station has approximately 15 minutes of recorded speech provided by the respective DJ, with 35 more minutes being put into the songs, and 5 minutes of commercials. Essentially, you have an hour or so of recorded time per radio station, which is amazing, seeing as how only one DVD-Rom was used. The voice acting is some of the best I've come across in a videogame. The gangster atmosphere is 'perfectly' created with the use of the talents, if I didn't know better; I'd say I was watching a virtual episode of The Sopranos. Great stuff!
Honestly, I was expecting to be able to use my Logitech Driving Force Wheel for when I just felt like cruising around. To my expectation came disappointment. Every wheel I threw at GTA3 wouldn't respond, or just not function properly. But I let that gripe go, as I quickly became infatuated with the game altogether to care anymore. Now that Grand Theft Auto 3 controls in the third-dimension, the controls have obviously drastically changed. The Dual Shock 2 works masterfully with the game. The analog precision for handling is all there, the dual shock vibration is fierce, and the various camera views to choose from are sure to accommodate every body's needs. Returning is the classic-GTA camera view (top-down), which can be selected by pressing Select button a couple of times. GTA3's controls have also been created to suit those who've played games such as Driver before. L2 and R2 buttons are to look the left and right, holding both of them will enable a rear view, and if you have an Uzi equipped, you can even pull off drive by shootings by looking to the side and pressing the fire button. GTA3's controls are a breeze. Give them five minutes and it becomes second nature.
Despite not being perfect, Grand Theft Auto 3 is easily one of the most satisfying experiences the PS2 has to offer. Its unique qualities separate it from every other videogame on the market, and that's a great thing. During an era when tensions and fright runs high, game companies have generally become afraid to release software as controversial as Grand Theft Auto 3. Thankfully, Rockstar doesn't succumb to what's going around in the world and cancel every project that has to deal with violence. Despite being scarred for life, this country needs to return to normalcy and in the gaming industry, titles such as Grand Theft Auto 3 will constitute to that hope. Overall, there's little to nothing wrong with the game. Aside from a few visual flaws, everything looks and runs perfectly fine. The gameplay is absolutely phenomenal, as this is single-handedly one of the most environmentally open games since Midnight Club and ATV: Offroad Fury. On top of that, the replay value is theoretically infinite. At a time like this -where AAA PS2 games are overwhelmingly flooding into stores- it's tough to decide if Grand Theft Auto 3 is a sure purchase. I feel no PS2 library is complete without GTA3, but then again there are those of you who can only get a game or two, and most seem to pick Metal Gear Solid 2 and Devil May Cry as their two choices. But if you celebrate Christmas, then make sure GTA3 is on your wish list, along with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. This is one experience to be savored for years to come.
10/30/2001 Arnold Katayev