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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Rockstar

 

Developer

DMA

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2002

 

- Gorgeous Graphics

- Amazingly free-form

- Cool, original, and varied core missions

- Play MP3’s in lieu of the game’s soundtrack

 

 

- No online play

- Wonky driving controls

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (Playstation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Playstation 2)

 

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Grand Theft Auto 3

Score: 9.8 / 10

 

Grand 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.  

 

grand-theft-auto-iii-pc-1.jpg (19554 bytes)         grand-theft-auto-iii-pc-2.jpg (21057 bytes)

 

First, 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.

 

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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 

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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.

 

grand-theft-auto-iii-pc-3.jpg (25839 bytes)         grand-theft-auto-iii-pc-4.jpg (21526 bytes)

 

How 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.

 

The 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.

 

There is one place that the PC version of GTA3 lags behind its console counterpart:  driving 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).

 

The 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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