Scottish developer DMA--famous for its wild, lighthearted, and gratuitously violent Grand Theft Auto series--is at it again. GTA's next installment, set to appear on the PS2, will expand on all the madness we've come to associate with the series and turn it up a notch.
The upcoming sequel's most notable alteration to the GTA formula is that it's in full 3D. Historically, the Grand Theft Auto games are played through a top-down perspective, with every element in the game rendered as a hand-drawn 2D sprite. In a bold move, the first two Grand Theft Auto games puts you in the shoes of a vicious, albeit novice, criminal. Traditionally, your missions center on the gangs inhabiting the city--each one always has jobs for you to perform, and your prosperity as a criminal depends on your ability to manipulate each gang. Ice a few members of one gang, and you'll gain its rival's favor. But if you roll through the former gang's neighborhood while its love for you is low, expect a good jacking.
GTA3, naturally, takes all the series' elements and applies them to a 3D game that's fully populated by not only potential victims and cops, but also by innocent bystanders and pedestrians. The game will be a sort of combination driving/shooting/adventure game, set in the aptly named Liberty City. Liberty City is an ingeniously designed place that's split into three distinct areas--industrial, downtown, and suburban. The city runs on a real-time schedule, which governs the habits of its inhabitants and their vehicles. Gangsters, thugs, and their sleazy rides, for instance, will populate the downtown area at night, while a quiet afternoon in the suburbs will be populated by school buses, ice cream trucks, solid citizens, and such. Each of the city's districts is connected by bridges, which open up after certain missions have been completed. Liberty City also enjoys a fully functional public transit system, which you'll often have to use. Citizens--both pedestrian and motorized--will interact amongst each other, and they will react logically to your actions. Shoot a rocket at a school bus, for instance, and onlookers will flee, scream, and call cops. Attempt to carjack a tough cabby, and he'll likely put up a fight. DMA knows that a dynamic, realistic AI model will greatly help GTA3's cause, and it seems bent on perfecting just that. Adding to the level of realism will be a complex, detailed weather system, which will dynamically render atmospheric conditions. Elements such as rain and fog will affect your ability to drive effectively, and various vehicles will react individually to different conditions.
GTA3's gameplay model will essentially be identical to what's come before. As a neophyte hustler, you must strategically align yourself with Liberty City's gangs and do jobs for them. Jobs range anywhere from running dope and taking out rivals to sabotage and kidnapping. GTA games are traditionally open-ended, and GTA3 will be no different. While you can take on jobs at any time, players of previous GTA games can attest to the fun of driving around and causing a row for the simple fun of it. Few games are conducive to this type of "pick up and play" accessibility, and DMA surely realizes this. Every car in the game can be jacked--45 in all--and if the previous installments in the series are any indication, players will be encouraged to scour the city streets in search of the right car on which to direct their aberrant excursions. Tons of weapons will be at your disposal, including rocket launchers, all manner of firearms, baseball bats, and Molotov cocktails. All of the weapons have yet to be revealed, but we're quite certain that the final list will be impressive indeed. Some weapons will switch into a first-person perspective when they're activated, but for the most part, all combat occurs in third-person.
GTA3 is one of Rockstar Games' more anticipated titles and seems like one of the few truly "next gen" sequels on the horizon, easily deserving a place among the best of what the larger publishers are pushing this year. The game is slated for release in September.