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Grand Theft Auto 3 Review
publisher: Rockstar Games
developer: Rockstar Games
PIII 450, 96MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 700MB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: May 20, 02 (released)
|» All About Grand Theft Auto 3 on ActionTrip|
I nearly forgot what good games are (or rather should be) all about.
I forgot that graphics sometimes just aren't the most important thing in a video game. (See? Design is LAW! - Six)
It's a vehicular threesome!
Cap that mutha!
It's been a while since I played a title that puts more emphasis on intelligent game play than any other element of game design (though in all honesty, Grand Theft Auto 3 isn't lacking in any of these areas either). I guess many of you played the original two games, but for those of you who are new to the series I will tell you that Grand Theft Auto 3 is the equivalent of a violent urban-gangsta' Elite game. The way that GTA3 combines the seeming open-ended nature of the in-game world with a scripted story is one of the things that make it so good. Just like in Elite, the player gets the freedom to explore the world, interact with it and decide if he or she wants to partake in the main story or not. The possibilities are many, and you can be anything from a badass outlaw, to a super wheelman or a mere hired thug. The choice is yours, and the way you go about surviving in this game is entirely up to you.
As I went deeper into GTA3, I realized that even with all the things that the designers thought of and put in the game world - all the urban buzz you can experience in this world, there was so much there, and yet so much more room for additions and improvements, it's a bit scary. Even if we totally disregard the main story one could make a great game out of GTA3 just by adding more stuff to buy, more secrets to unlock and some experience points to gather. This game definitely has the potential of becoming an evil-Sims game or something like it. That's how much the consumer spending philosophy could do for this title. Mind you, the way you earn (take) cash isn't exactly the way I'd recommend doing that in real life, but that's what GTA3 is all about: It's edgy, it's in your face, and it rarely compromises on the violence. It's the archetypical (though a bit clich'd) representation of the gangster underworld. Yes, you can kill just about anyone in this game. In fact, I think you can kill everyone in this game! That's how unrestricted it is! You can crash any car and run over innocent pedestrians; you can throw bombs in the middle of a crowded city and get away with it if you're fast enough. You can beat an old lady senseless with a baseball bat and merely get a slap on the wrist from the police. Hookers, pimps and gang bangers are roaming the streets; you shouldn't look anyone in the eye unless you're packing a piece: an AK-47, Uzi, or a shotgun. It's all good, baby, just as long as they show some respect!
However, do not be fooled by the game's tough gangsta' exterior. This is by no means a realistic video game. In its essence, it's an arcade and as such, it's good enough to help you vent some of that negative energy that's been building up during the day. GTA3's got plenty of dark humor and subtle innuendos that are clever enough to keep you amused during the action-packed Liberty City joyrides.
Make no mistake about it, a lot of effort went into designing this game, and it's no small wonder that the PS2 version of GTA3 sold millions of copies worldwide. Finally, PC gamers around the world will get the chance to try it out and experience some of that fever that has captivated the console players for quite a while now.
Essentially, the player is cast in the role of a genuine tough guy, a strong silent type (he literally doesn't say a word in the game - hella cool) who is betrayed and shot on a job by his girlfriend, and consequently thrown into a maximum-security institution to serve his time. The game's story begins as we witness the daring bust-out of the protagonist carried out by an organization willing to hire our guy for a job. From that point on, the main narrative is triggered and its up to you if you wanna take part in it straight away, or take the laid-back approach and get to know the city first.
I ain't no Max Payne, but I can sure whoop cop ass!
No sudden moves!
An armored car? No problem!
You can drive cars and you can smash them; you can be a criminal and you can be a vigilante. Drive a cab? Sure, you can do that, too... even work for the local hospital and drive the ambulance. Sooner or later though, you will take part in the main quest, and this is where the real fun begins....
Of course, real fun doesn't mean everything in the game is great. Just running around the city can get really boring, really fast, so my suggestion is to stay on the main course. This is one of the game's biggest drawbacks - the fact that it doesn't offer more things to buy. If there were, there would be more of a reward factor for your loot. Also, a point-based character progression, like in an RPG could've been a great addition here. The main story is fun and involving enough, but players really should have been given more side-missions and nasty secrets to unravel in the Liberty City. Maybe some NPC needs assistance, or there is an armored car you can follow and hit along the way? More buildings to enter? I'm afraid none of these will be available in the game, which will force you to follow the plot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the story is interesting enough, but for this game to be truly great, players need more rewards for their hard-"earned" cash, and more ways (any?) to level your character.
Given that GTA3 is primarily a PS2 title, the conversion to the PC was generally well-done. The controls work great and there is the much needed mouse-keyboard control for your character. Unlike in previous GTA games, GTA3 is usually played as a 3rd person action driver. The birds-eye view is still an option, but the fact that you're now right there on the streets is one of the reasons why GTA3 could be considered the best game of the series. Graphically, I must say the title is lacking in some aspects, as it simply isn't a bona fide PC game. The character and NPC animation is a bit stiff, the textures are (as you'd imagine) low-res, and we don't have the luxury of dynamic shadows (just look at what those did for DOOM 3). The whole artistic feel on the other hand deserves nothing but praise, as the artists have managed to successfully convey the harsh atmosphere of a bustling big city. The day and night cycles together with weather effects and pieces of paper blowing in the wind on the filthy streets do wonders for the overall mood. Another great addition is the 'motion blur' effect, which (somewhat similar to Max Payne's bullet time) increases the cinematic feel of the game. The car damage system is remarkably done, and you will truly see the damage you're doing to your car, and of course to all the other cars as well. This makes for some hella cool stunts that are a must-try in this game. And hence the great arcade feel to the in-game action.
The solid visuals are accompanied with an absolutely fantastic soundtrack and sound effects, which does wonders for the game's ambiance. Once you get into the groove, you'll truly walk the Liberty city and instantly become addicted to the GTA3 world. The open-ended nature of the city will give you plenty of great moments and if you stay on track with the missions, you'll find out exactly why this game sold millions of copies all over the world.
In a nutshell, GTA3 suffers a bit from console porting syndrome, and the designers could've worked a bit more on the whole side-quest concept, but I think you'll find that in the end, this is one addictive, intelligent and original game that's definitely worth your money.
Fantastic urban underground atmosphere; the seeming open-ended nature of the game play; good story, and a crazy-good soundtrack;
A few console drawbacks, visually speaking... Running around a city can get boring if you don't pay attention to the main quest. And that could be because there is no character progression and very little things to buy.
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