Lately there’s a trend in game development that I happen to like a lot. It can be summarized in only one word: freedom. The ability to do whatever you feel like hasn’t been particularly popular, until now. Grand Theft Auto 3 is the PC conversion of the game that was critically acclaimed, yet hated by parents. You take the role of a small-time criminal, who on a heist with his girlfriend runs into some genuine bad luck. First off, your girlfriend thinks of you as trash whereas she is “a girl with ambitions”. So, after taking a few hits from your girlfriend’s pistol you’re left on your own to escape from the police. This doesn’t go too well, and you end up in prison. When you are being transferred to the actual prison you happen to be with some nice guys who happen to have good friends on the outside. To make matters short, the police-van is stopped by criminals leaving you free to do as you please. You are told that if you’re looking for work you should go see a local tough-guy. And that’s how you begin your quest up the ladder of crime, to once settle the score with your ex and maybe even get rich in the meantime.
At first your jobs are very easy, and basically just to teach you “the ropes”. The skills you’re going to need will be at driving, quick thinking and being able to use the good old firecrackers. An exciting and action-packed world is open for exploration!
It’s obvious in Grand Theft Auto 3 that the guys at Rockstar Games really wanted to immerse the player in the game. The islands you visit are extremely detailed, with both great architecture and a superb sense of detail. You can drive through Chinatown, where gangs may be fighting each other, rest in the park for a while, or head on down to the harbour. These are just a couple of examples, but I can assure you that the islands are very lifelike, and basically filled to the brim with whatever you could expect. The graphics may not be of the best technological standard, but the way every small detail is put together makes it very enjoyable. Even though Grand Theft Auto 3 requires somewhat of a powerful PC I will have to include that if you have hardware that’s up for it then give Quincunx or 4x anti-aliasing a try, because it will greatly reduce the amount of jaggies when playing. Secondly, playing the game on a high resolution is in my opinion recommended, because some of the screen is filled with various information which sometimes gets it your way when driving.
The Sounds / Music:
Now this is where Grand Theft Auto 3 really shines. The voice acting is very professional, with even great sounding accents. When walking through the city you constantly hear people next to you chatting, shouting, cars driving, or even people suddenly firing at each other. In fact, the sound effects are so detailed in every aspect that I can’t think of anything that could be better. Another brilliant move by Rockstar Games is that when driving the various cars of the game you can choose from a set of radio stations. These radio stations are great because most people can find music they like, even if you fancy listening to 80’ish retro-tunes, or if you prefer turning up the volume and listening to hip-hop. The main genres you can choose from are hip-hop, retro pop, trance, drum’n bass, reggae, regular talking and classical music. Each radio station has 15 – 25 minutes worth of content, and a big plus in my opinion is that they are recorded at bitrates from about 250 to 350, so you can’t really complain there. But, if you get tired of the pre-recorded radio stations you can copy any mp3 you want into a sub-folder called Mp3, and by doing so you can select a new radio station called Mp3 Player. I assume you guessed what that radio station plays, so if you feel like riding around in a low-rider listening to gangster rap there’s really nothing stopping you. There’s really only one complaint I have regarding this part of the game, being that the hip-hop radio station isn’t longer than a good 15 minutes, which is only three normal length songs.
A few years ago when Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 were released I was a bit turned down by the somewhat boring missions; bring item A from place 1 to 2, or simply go to place 3 and kill A, B and C. To some extent I was pleased with this third instalment. As I previously said; you start off as a nobody. You then meet mobsters and leaders of various gangs. The missions become increasingly difficult, but most of them are logical and manageable after a couple of tries. Some of the missions resemble each other, but Rockstar Games really used their imagination in this title because some of the missions are downright fun, exciting and brilliantly thought of. The biggest issue I would’ve liked to see different is that it wouldn’t be as linear. Since you meet several rivalling gangs and such it would be interesting to select which cause you wanted to support, and see results accordingly. This way it would be more fun to re-play the game after you’ve completed it. I would say the length of Grand Theft Auto 3 is longer than average. There are really a lot of missions you have to complete to advance onto the next island, and I’ll tell you that they get pretty challenging after you’ve played about 15 to 20 hours.
Controlling the “hero”, or villain to be exact is done very much like Hitman, by default using W, A, S, D for directions and the mouse for aiming the weapon. There are quite a few nice firecrackers to choose from, ranging from your fist to a regular rocket launcher. Besides that you can use M16s, shotguns, Uzi’s and AK-47s. There are also throwing weapons like grenades and Molotov cocktails, so basically something for any situation you may encounter.
Besides using your feet for transportation you can also use pretty much any car you can see, boats and more. Controlling is just like any other racing game, still using W, A, S and D to go forward, for turning, and going backwards. The physics are really nicely done, and even though cars have a tendency to handle a whole lot of beating when falling down from buildings and such, but moving around in general feels more natural than several games where racing is all you do! A very cool feature about the cars is that the damage dealt upon them is depicted in great detail. Say you happen to near a crazy taxi-driver who while racing down the street happens to bump into the side of your car you clearly see your car is not in a perfect state, and a door may be loose.
So, my take on the violence. While not being as grotesque as Carmageddon you clearly have the ability to kill people in many ways. Running people over with a car is by far not a bloody as it could’ve been. Neither is shooting people as messy as in games like Soldier of Fortune, so I feel the violence is at a tolerable level. When playing the single player missions you rarely need to kill huge groups of people, but this is not a game I would want my kid playing. Some kids tolerate violent games better than others, but I don’t think anyone younger than 14 should play this game.
Some of you may know that Rockstar Games chose to not include a multiplayer part, but with such an excellent single player part you may think a multiplayer part wouldn’t be so important. I disagree. When I was bored with driving my sports car across town, hitting the occasional senior citizen, it came up to me that it would be insanely fun to battle actual people. When you die in the single player part you end up outside of a hospital, robbed for all your weapons and with a bit less cash than earlier. Something similar would be great in multiplayer as well, and even with only deathmatch and team deathmatch you could have some awesome hours of LAN-partying. Oh well, hopefully it will be in Grand Theft Auto 4.
Grand Theft Auto 3 does a great job at immersing the player within the game, and for me, racing from the cops trying your best to stay alive is a more exciting than most new games. It may not have the most technologically advanced graphics, but it’s put together in such a great way that the cities truly come to life. The audio also plays a very important part in Grand Theft Auto 3, with professional voice-overs and very diverse music. Multiplayer would be an awesome addition to the game, and even though it sadly isn’t included the single player part is very fun to play, and with so many challenging missions you’ll surely get your money worth. If you like action in any way and have a somewhat new PC then be sure to buy this game, just don’t shoot the clerk at the store.