Rockstar’s latest creation in the series, Grand Theft Auto III. This game puts you in the role of a criminal who is looking for a way to make a name for himself in the crime business. The easiest way to do so is by getting to know the local crime boss by jacking cars, running drugs, and contract killing. GTA3 is one of the most thrilling PlayStation 2 games to be released this year.
It’s rated M, for mature, which means if you monitor the kind of content in games that your kids play (if you’re a parent), you definitely want to check this out before buying it. It’s aimed at a mature audience and it’s got mature themes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it. Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive have sold millions of copies of Grand Theft Auto all across the world, and they have convincing monetary evidence that people love the series, and that they want more. I think the game is insanely good. The videogame market is growing, it’s filled with wildly different kinds of games, and there is a big broad vein that includes titles with mature content. Grand Theft Auto III is one of them, and it’s worth picking up.
Players start off as a nameless criminal, who in the midst of a bank robbery, is double-crossed by his girlfriend, shot, and left for dead. As the “kid,” “friend,” or whatever your latest boss decides to refer to you as, you escape from the police through a mysterious high-level hit-and-run, and begin life again with the help of your friend 8-Ball and the Italian Mafia. From there, the game leads players through an odyssey of non-linear missions for various factions of organized crime, from the Italian to the Japanese mafia and on. The 3D world of Liberty City is on a scale that’s truly epic, consisting of three large urban areas, the industrial, commercial and suburban districts, each with appropriate architecture, landscapes, and aggressive, distinctive AI.
What makes Grand Theft Auto III so different than other games in the series is the volume of characters, cut-scenes, and story imbedded in nearly every mission, large or small. Players find that their missions are packed with characters who are acted out at a professional level, and who perhaps sound more far more realistic than their simplistically visual caricatures reveal. The game actually does have a beginning, middle and end, too. Players can choose missions from telephones like before, or they can be paged like before, but most often, there are central characters whose missions drive the story, and whose missions tell the story, too. Thus, players find that in amongst the throng of distracting missions and the humungous landscape that must be traversed, there is a central focus, and it’s there when they’re ready.
Getting the cops on your tail and then trying to run away is insanely fun, and the game gives you a pretty amazing arsenal to make sure that the cops stay busy. Your first weapon will be a baseball bat, great for robbing citizens by beating them to death, but it won’t hold up in a gunfight. Eventually you’ll secure a pistol, which is when the game’s lock-on targeting comes into play. Holding R1 will target a nearby person, and the L2 and R2 buttons can be used to cycle through different targets. As you outgrow your pistol, you’ll score an Uzi, giving you fully automatic fire while still being light enough to allow you to run. In addition, the Uzi is the only weapon that can be used from inside your vehicle. When you’re driving, the L2 and R2 buttons let you look out either side of your car, and your Uzi can be fired out the side windows. This drive-by technique is amazingly handy for slow-moving pedestrians but doesn’t work well at all on vehicles because even though you can see the drivers inside the cars, you can’t shoot them directly. All hits to a car simply do generic damage to it, and once it reaches a certain damage level, it catches fire and eventually explodes. Since the Uzi is a fairly low-power weapon, it’s next to impossible to shoot up cop cars as they try to ram you off the road, forcing you to do your serious battling on foot. In addition to those weapons, you’ll also encounter significantly heavier artillery, including assault rifles, a shotgun, grenades, a rocket launcher, and a flamethrower.
Rockstar and DMA Design have obviously spent some time making sure that Grand Theft Auto III is a quality product, and that quality shows in everything, from the graphics, to the sound, to the plot points, to the gameplay itself. Unlike previous games in the series, the game is extremely fun whether you play it as it was intended to be played or eschew the game’s intended mission structure and set out on your own to wreak havoc throughout the city. While the violent nature of the game will surely turn some people off and kids simply shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it, Grand Theft Auto III is, quite simply, an incredible experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone mature enough to handle it.