Grand Theft Auto 3
Score: 9.8 / 10
Theft Auto 3 (GTA3) works well on so many levels that it is hard to
imagine what could have been done to improve it.
On the PS2, players had to deal with low-res textures, some
slowdown, and a horrible targeting system that turned gunfights into
crapshoots. All of these
problems are eliminated in Rockstar’s PC port of GTA3, and players are
left with a stunning, involving experience that, though not for
everyone, will appeal to both the gamer looking for a long, structured
action/adventure game and the one looking for loosely organized chaos.
the structure. GTA3
features an enormous amount of missions, all assigned to the player by a
representative of organized crime.
The central missions that must be performed are varied and
exciting. GTA3 is the first
game to truly capture the visceral thrill of working for the mob.
Non-believers need only play about an hour into the game to
encounter the first truly exciting missions (up until the following
mission, the game is a slower-paced version of Crazy Taxi—“Hey,
fetch my woman for me, capo”). The
first mission to leave an impression involves going to a restaurant,
stealing a opposing mafia don’s car, taking said car to be strapped
with bomb, and returning it to its original parking spot before the don
leaves the restaurant. When
the player has completed the mission they are treated to an in-engine
cut-scene of the mafia don leaving the restaurant, strolling to the car,
and then…BOOM!. It is an
amazing moment. Many other
great moments follow. The
player who focused only on completing the main missions and the various
side missions, would get his or her money’s worth out of the game.
As a bonus, players who are not interested in the controlled, mostly linear plotline provided by the main missions are free to ignore the plot entirely. The world of GTA3 is so fully realized and dynamic that even ignoring those main missions, players can get a hundred or so hours of play out of the game.
Of course, much attention has been given to one minor aspect of the free-form game design: the invitation to ultra-violence. Certainly, that aspect of the game is hard to ignore. Any person walking the street, whether he or she is a pimp, a prostitute or a bag lady is fair game. Many players get a cathartic charge out of walking around the city mugging, maiming, killing and car jacking. Though this is fun for a few minutes (or maybe hours), for me, just
swinging a baseball bat at the heads of little old ladies didn’t hold my attention long. More interesting to me were the many hidden missions and mini-games. Steal a taxi cab and you can drive around the city picking up fairs; steal an ambulance and you can drive around the city looking for the wounded and drive them to the hospital. Steal a fire truck and you can drive around the city looking for fires to put out. On top of these mini-games are many hidden “rampage” missions where the player is asked to destroy so much property or kill so many gang members in a short period of time as possible. There are also hidden packages to collect and, a personal favorite, hidden ramps to jump from that provide cinematic cut-scenes when hit perfectly. No game released prior to GTA3 provides even half of the free-form game play featured in this game. Add GTA3 to the recently released Morrowind in your PC collection and you don’t need a top 10 desert island game list. The two games alone provide nearly infinite replay value.
does the PC version compare to the PS2 version?
The graphics are much improved by the higher resolution, as is
the texture quality. I
never experienced a frame-rate stutter and the draw distance is
significantly improved. In
fact, the game is simply beautiful to look at.
The extra graphical punch provided by a high-end PC and a good
graphics card makes the game seem even more realistic and involving.
controls are better also. Though
I normally swear by the Dual Shock 2 (and even have an adapter to use it
on my pc), the mouse and keyboard combo is simply better for maneuvering
your thug around town. For
targeting, the mouse and keyboard are a huge improvement.
Gunfights in this version are fast paced and winnable.
Many of the missions that were a struggle for me on the PS2 were
simple and quick on the PC version.
is one place that the PC version of GTA3 lags behind its console
controls. Using either the
keyboard or the mouse to steer stolen vehicles is clumsy and poorly
executed. In fact, after
the first few hours with the game, I found myself switching to a game
pad when I jacked a car. The
changeover could be a bit clumsy, but it was certainly preferable to
driving with the keyboard. (A
note: steering wheel
support is not included in GTA3 though those of you with wheels that can
be mapped to keyboard functions could certainly use them and improve the
game in my mind).
other gripe that must be made is about the game’s lack of online
support. This was never
promised, and was likely always a pipe dream, but it would be infinitely
cool to wonder around the world of GTA3 with, say, 32 real people
scattered amongst the computer AI crowd.
These minor complaints aside, GTA3 is as close to a perfect PC game as I have seen so far this year. Despite having turned the PS2 version inside out over the past year, GTA3 gripped me from the beginning and only a busy life and a constantly growing list of games to review and preview have kept the game out of my disc tray.
- Tolen Dante
(July 20, 2002)
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