Review: Grand Theft Auto III

“It would be no exaggeration to say that Grand Theft Auto III changed the industry, and we can basically separate the time before and after its emergence as distinct eras.”

The quote by Yoshinori Ono a producer of Street Fighter series holds true even till this day. Grand Theft Auto III (GTA 3), is truly one of the industries and genre-defining game. In a similar way that DOOM or Metroid changed the industry, GTA 3’s impact on the industry is undeniable. Almost every aspect of the game was copied or has influenced numerous games, and even created a term “GTA Clones”.

Developed by Rockstar North a subsidiary of Rockstar Games (Note: PS2 release was released under the studio’s name DMA Design, all of the post-PS2 releases were released under the studio’s new name Rockstar North) and published by Rockstar Games. Released in 2001 for the PS2, and for Windows in 2002, the game was also released for Xbox in 2003 (NA)/2004 (PAL), GTA 3 made a huge impact on the whole gaming industry.

You play as Claude (although his name is not mentioned in the game, it was later revealed in game files, and Rockstar later embraced the name when discussing GTA 3 protagonist), and after a bank heist, his girlfriend betrays him and leaves him to die. Claude somehow survives but is arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. On his way to the prison, the police convoy is attacked by Colombian Cartel in order to free the elderly man, and thus Claude and a fellow prisoner 8-Ball are freed. During all of this, the bridge is destroyed isolating a part of the city. Claude soon starts working for the Mafia and starts his path of revenge. The story missions usually consist of killing someone, stealing cars, blowing stuff up, etc. The story is nothing special, a typical revenge story with a few twists.

The city in the game is based on New York City, in the game named Liberty City consists of three parts Portland, Staunton Island, and Shoreside Vale. As the game progresses you unlock the rest of the city. You start in Portland, an industrial and lower class part of the city, similar to Brooklyn or Queens. Staunton Island is a business part of the city, based on Manhattan, and Shoreside Vale is a residential based on New Jersey and upstate New York. The parts of the city are connected in several ways. Once you unlock the rest of the city you can get to them, by crossing the bridge, using the subway, going through the tunnel or by a boat.

In GTA 3 there are several gangs in the city, and the most notable ones are the Triads, the Mafia, the Yakuza and the Colombian Cartel. Each of the gangs has its own preferred vehicle and weapon. They all talk in typical cartoonish accents, often sounding hilarious, never intended to be taken seriously. If you are seen breaking the law, you will get a wanted level with the maximum being six stars. At the begging of the game, the maximum wanted level you can get is four stars (which means the SWAT Teams are going to chase you), once you unlock Staunton Island the maximum is five stars (the FBI is going to chase you), and once the Shoreside Vale is unlocked you can get a maximum of six stars in your wanted level (which means that the army is chasing you, and they will use tanks that can kill you instantly). The wanted level in the game can be reduced, either by collecting a star hidden throughout the city, which will reduce the wanted level by one or by getting a new paint job for your vehicle by using “Pay ‘n’ Spray”, which will erase your wanted level. If you get arrested or killed, you will simply lose all of your weapons and some money, and be spawned at a police station or a hospital. This is also the first game that doesn’t use lives, and you can die without any severe penalty to your game.

The arsenal of weapons in the game is decent. You start with your fists but can get a baseball bat, a pistol, Uzi, Shotgun, AK, M16, Flamethrower, Grenades, Molotov cocktails, Sniper Rifle, and an RPG. There is no over the shoulder aiming, usually nowadays in third-person games, instead of once you select a weapon, a targeting circle will appear and that’s pretty much it. Some weapons offer zooms, like an M16, Sniper Rifle or an RPG, and it is implemented very well. Weapons can be purchased from a gun shop, found throughout the city, or simply picked up from killed enemies. You can also use body armor, which basically acts as a second health bar.

This being a GTA game you can steal and drive a wide variety of vehicles, and not everyone handles the same. Obviously, sports cars are faster, the old ones go slower and will turn slower, and some require more control and precision. There are also unique vehicles like the airplane, which can be actually flown (although this can be difficult to pull off), a fire truck whose water cannon can be used to put out fires or knock people over, etc. Each vehicle can be damaged, and visual damage is shown. For a game released in 2001 this is pretty impressive, as you can see your car with a damaged door, or a trunk and other damage your car can take. Once your car catches fire it cannot be saved and will explode. You can also perform a drive-by if you have an Uzi, which becomes a viable tactic in the game. All of the cars can be blow up, by driving up to 8-ball where he will put a bomb in the vehicle. There are several types of car bombs: in Portland, the bomb will go off once you or someone else enter the car, in Staunton Island, you get a remote bomb, and in Shoreside Vale you get a time bomb.

GTA 3 being an open-world games offers a number of side missions and activities. If you get a Taxi you can start a “Taxi Driver” mission in which your goal is to drive people around the city with a limited time frame, in a similar way to Crazy Taxi. Getting a police car or any police vehicle, you can start a “Vigilante” mission in which you must kill criminals, and if you steal an ambulance you start “Paramedic” mission, in which you must get people to the hospital. Finally, you can get a fire truck and start a “Firefighter” mission in which you must put out fires. All of the emergency vehicles have a siren, and once turned on other cars will get out of your way. There are also other challenges in the game, like collecting every vehicle in the game or founding hidden packages throughout the city. Successfully completing these missions will get you a reward which you can collect at your safe house.

The game also has a decent soundtrack. Whenever you are in the car, you can listen to the various radio station. Radio stations play a variety of music ranging from rock, reggae, rap, classical music, an entire soundtrack from the movie “Scarface” and a talk radio station. They can get repetitive pretty fast, but if they annoy you, you also have the option of importing your own music.

GTA 3 made a huge impact on the industry but was not without controversy. After the 9/11 attack, the color of the police cars was changed from blue (resembling those of NYC at the time) to a simpler black and white. Also, several missions were changed, including one alleged mission of flying a plane into a building. The cover was also changed for the US release, but the discarded cover was used for European release. At first, the game was banned in Australia, but after reaching an agreement, several things were changed and the game was available, after removing some sexual references and content, receiving an MA15+ rating.

GTA 3 is considered one of the most important titles of the sixth generation console generation, and one of the best games ever made. The game also supports mods, but most of them are simple skin or texture changes, with very few mods which truly change or enhance the game. Following the 10th anniversary of the game, GTA 3 also got Android and iOS versions of the game. Looking today at GTA 3 and you will see a solid foundation for games, and how those foundations were used to improve the following games in the series and inspire other video games. Although GTA 3, may seem primitive compared to the newer GTA games, GTA 3 can still provide you with hours of fun. Give this one a try if you want to see how the modern GTA started, or if you are looking for a good old game.

3 thoughts on “Review: Grand Theft Auto III

  1. Darkstalker90

    Nice review. I have all of the PS2-era GTA games but I find it difficult to go back to III and Vice City due to how we’ve been spoilt by the newer games. Vice City, for instance, is just too flat and uninteresting to drive around. III, on the other hand, is very difficult to play due to how badly the shooting mechanics seem to have aged and how quickly you take damage. I do have to say though that I much prefer the urban setting and early 2000’s time period of III so it has that going for it. On the whole, however, I usually opt for Liberty City Stories since it is the same map but just so much more refined.

    San Andreas is the oldest GTA that I can legitimately still enjoy for hours thanks to its crazy scope and varied terrain. Beyond that though, we have definitely been spoilt by GTA IV and, especially, GTA V.


    1. Cola Powered Gamer Post author

      Thanks for liking and commenting!
      I see your point about GTA III and Vice City, but I always come back to play the old GTA titles, mostly due to nostalgia. As for Vice City it’s nostalgia and the superb soundtrack. Everytime I hear the soundtrack, I just have to go and play it again.


      1. Darkstalker90

        Oh yeah, I will still revisit them occasionally for the same reason. Vice City’s soundtrack definitely makes up for any age-related shortcomings. It was my first PS2 game as well so the nostalgia will always be strong for me.

        One thing that always catches me out with III though is that they hadnt yet implemented the ability to dive out of moving cars so you have to remember to bring them to a halt to escape before they blow up!

        Liked by 1 person

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