Tuesday, 26 August 2008

GTA Retrospective III - Grand Theft Auto III

  • Game: Grand Theft Auto III
  • Console: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
  • Developer: DMA Design
  • Publisher: Rockstar Games
  • Released: 2001
While the original Grand Theft Auto was a revolution in gaming for the whole industry, GTA III would become more of a revolution of the series, but would have just as much impact as the original when it was released. You see, even though the move into 3D seemed the next logical step for GTA, Rockstar pulled it off with aplomb, whilst using the rather restrictive technology of the PS2. To squeeze this massive 3D world out with hardly any loading screens to kick you out the game, Rockstar, instead of just trying to get the best looking game out onto the shelves, sacrificed the best graphics it could muster from the PS2 for a free-flowing game, all set in an absolutely huge game world. Never before had such a massive and rich game-world been delivered. Grand Theft Auto is all about freedom, and never more-so had a game given this to its players than Grand Theft Auto III.

At its heart, GTA III was still very much a GTA game, as everything you could do in the previous titles was there; steal cars, shoot guns, evade police, etc. There was even a top-down camera angle à la the original game, which, was probably for those who preferred the original games, but more likely that it was the original viewpoint of the game which was eventually dropped in favour of the conventional 3rd person camera. The game also added layers upon layers of extra things to do, to give a little more depth to a world that had come alive in 3D. Hijack a taxi and you could then start a mini-game where you could drive around Liberty City and pick up fares. Get them to their destination within the allotted time and you got paid for your services. This mini-game was the basis for the game Crazy Taxi, yet here it was in a game that let you do this and much more. In Crazy Taxi, if you got bored, you couldn't just get out of the taxi and blow it up, or drive it off a cliff with your passenger trapped inside just for a laugh or just because you could. Moreover, if you hijack an ambulance, you could search for patients to take to the hospital. 'Jack a cop car and you could take out criminals trying to muscle in on your territory. 'Jack a fire engine and you could put out fires from the safety of your truck thanks to the roof-mounted hose. All of these mini-games earned you money for completing each level of them and they got increasingly difficult with every level, in true gaming fashion.

Apparently, the dude you play as is called Claude, even though it's never mentioned in the actual game

Also, for the first time in a GTA game, your character had a back-story and the game had its own discernible plot that revolved around your character, even though he never talked and apparently didn't have a name (however, there is some speculation that his name is Claude). The game opens with 'Claude', his girlfriend, Catalina (who would make an appearance in GTA: San Andreas along with 'Claude') and an accomplice robbing a bank. Catalina then betrays 'Claude' and shoots him, leaving him to die. However, 'Claude' doesn't die, and gets arrested. Whilst being transferred, an attack on his police convoy aimed at freeing another prisoner sets him free along with another prisoner named '8-Ball'. With each other's help, they flee the scene, with 'Claude' driving the getaway car as 8-Ball's hands are bandaged up. To thank 'Claude', 8-Ball introduces him to Luigi Goterelli, who owns the night-club 'Sex Club 7.' Luigi sets our hero off on various menial jobs, but 'Claude' uses these to rise in power with the various gangs of Liberty City and to eventually get revenge on Catalina.

Another other the features added: Racing!

garnered a lot of controversy when it was first released, as have all GTA games since. Most notably, though, was GTA III's introduction to the series of prostitutes. Bloody violence comes second to sex in the controversy stakes, despite the fact that we're all more likely to experience first-hand the delight and pleasure of sex than we are to come across a gun-fight racked with bloodshed or to see someone getting decapitated by a sword. Without getting into too much detail about the game's controversial issues, the fact that the inclusion of hookers in the game caused more uproar than the fact that, in the same game, you can blow someone's head off with a shotgun is really quite baffling, especially when the act of sex isn't even shown and only ever implied.

Despite all the controversy, GTA III burst the series into the mainstream. Its predecessors were popular, but were far more underground that the third title in the series. As of March 26th 2008, GTA III has sold 14.5 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. An astounding figure. It has also influenced a fair few games since its release, but we'll save that for another day. Needless to say, the impact of GTA III is still being felt today, whether from the game itself, or its sequels.

Coming up: we get our 80's on with one of GTA III's aforementioned sequels: GTA: Vice City.