Last year's most popular, most controversial, and best selling PlayStation 2 game is finally coming to the PC. Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2 was--and still is--a highly innovative game that blended nonstop action with a compelling plot and believable characters. The game built on the "steal a car, use it snuff out your competition, and run away from the cops" type of addictive gameplay that made its two predecessors so much fun to play by adding a completely new 3D world that you could explore and interact with as you pleased. And what's more, the game didn't wear its controversial M-rating like a badge. Instead, its mature themes were merely a reflection of the kind of violence you'd hear about on the five o'clock news, not the over-the-top gore slapped together by Hollywood. For nearly six months, PlayStation 2 owners have had the game all to themselves, but that'll change this May. To find out what changes are in store for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto III, we sought out Rockstar's creative director, Dan Houser, and development director, Leslie Benzies.
GameSpot: Why have you decided to bring the Grand Theft Auto series back to its PC roots?
Dan Houser: We've never shipped a GTA game and not released it on both PC and console platforms. We were always going to release it on the PC. The lag between the two versions was a result of the fact the game is now so big that to make both versions play and handle as well as they possibly can takes a lot of time.
GS: Is the mature nature of the game going to remain intact in the port to the PC?
DH: No. In the PC version you play as a cuddly toy who was hurt and left out to die, and now nobody loves you. You go on a series of wacky adventures through toy land before finding a lonely little girl who makes you realize you had everything you needed all along, which was good friends and a song in your heart. Of course it is going to remain the same. It is the [same] game.
GS: Funny stuff. From the screenshots we've seen, it's clear that you've improved on the resolution of the PlayStation 2 version. Are you doing anything else to take advantage of PC hardware?
Leslie Benzies: Yes, the textures are much higher resolution in the PC version. They also have more colors. We've also allowed the player to configure things like draw distance for all buildings, pedestrians, and cars in the city. The player can also adjust the number of cars and pedestrians on the streets. Another addition that takes advantage of the extra memory available on a PC are the replays, which enable you to play back the last 30 seconds of gameplay and watch the action again from different camera angles. The replay is also saved to disk, so you can save any cool sequences or even e-mail them to your friends. The audio effects have been really enhanced in the game also. We fully support surround sound systems so you really feel like you're in the action. The sounds happen all around you and enable you to pinpoint where they are coming from--cops approaching from the right, helicopter closing in overhead...
GS: The original Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2 both had multiplayer modes. Why isn't there any multiplayer support in Grand Theft Auto III?
DH: We felt we made massive advances in the design of 3D single-player action in Grand Theft Auto III. Attitude, characterization, immersiveness, and the seamless combination of driving, gunplay, and running about in a fully developed world while following a nonlinear story. We always felt the multiplayer versions failed to do justice to the single-player games in previous iterations of Grand Theft Auto, and now that the game is in 3D, we thought this would only be exacerbated by the completeness of the single-player game. With a multiplayer version of the game, we want to do something more than just a deathmatch mode in order to stay true to what the game concept is all about. It is going to take a long time to get this perfected.
GS: How have you streamlined the interface and controls for use with a mouse and keyboard? Will the PC version be compatible with gamepads and wheels?
LB: We've spent a long time perfecting the controls for the PC version and believe we've come up with the ideal setup. There are two control methods. The first we call "classic," as it is exactly the same as the PlayStation 2 control scheme. This works with either the keyboard or a joystick. The second method we call "standard," and it's a completely new configuration made especially for the PC and it requires a mouse to function. In standard mode, the camera and therefore the player's direction is controlled with the mouse, while movement and all other actions are managed on the keyboard.
GS: For someone who has played and enjoyed the PlayStation 2 version of Grand Theft Auto III, what are the reasons to pick up the PC version?
DH: Beyond the graphical improvements and the various other PC-only new features and modifications, the main reason is in the two control methods that Leslie mentioned. The result is that the major irritations inherent in playing any third-person game on a console can be avoided. No matter how robust and responsive a camera system is, it is never as good as you want it to be in all situations, as it doesn't have a neck, and this can get frustrating at times. This is inherent in making third-person games for consoles, where you have to make the games very easy to play. For someone who likes playing PC games, giving the player complete control over the camera gives him or her the freedom normally expected in a PC shooter. Liberty City is an incredible place, and the new controls will give the player the freedom to really discover the details of the city, to look around and see just how many things are going on at any one time.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to tell fans of the series about this PC game?
DH: We hope you enjoy it. We have always supported the PC community on this game. It is the only PC game Rockstar will release. The game was lovingly rebuilt by the team who made the original, so it has taken a little time to get ready, but we believe it is worth the wait.
GS: Thanks for your time.