Rockstar Games dropped by the GameSpot offices with a near-final build of its upcoming game, Grand Theft Auto III. For those unfamiliar with the game's roots, the game was released last year on the PlayStation 2 to almost universal acclaim. The game's open-ended design, matched with a mature storyline that never resorted to shock tactics, resulted in a fun, refreshing game that pulled no punches.
The PC version of GTAIII is roughly the same as the PlayStation 2 version. The real improvements come in the obvious areas. For starters, the graphics are, of course, much crisper and cleaner than those in the PS2 version. The game can run in resolutions up to 1600x1200, and the game can run in 32-bit color. The textures are nice and crisp, and on the test system we used--a Pentium 4 1.8GHz with a GeForce3--the frame rate was pretty smooth. Options menu sliders let you adjust things like draw distance, and you can toggle the blur effect used throughout the PS2 version on or off. The game also allows some slight modification. You can create skins for the game's main character, and you can create your own radio station using your MP3 collection. You can also view replays of your past antics at any time and save those replays for later viewing or sharing. The loading times have also been greatly shortened, now taking no more than a couple of seconds to load up things like mission briefings.
The biggest difference between the PC and PlayStation 2 versions of GTAIII is the way you control your character. In the PlayStation 2 version, you mostly aimed weapons at people using a lock-on targeting scheme that allowed you to lock onto a person, then run away while shooting over your shoulder in his direction. The PC version of the game uses a much more conventional mouselook-style control scheme. It puts an aiming reticle onscreen and lets you use the mouse to aim anywhere you like. The keyboard works well for moving, though the default scheme seems to spread functions all around the keyboard. Right-shift is used for running, enter gets you in and out of cars, and the arrow keys move your character. Other keys are used for more auxiliary features, such as looking out the side windows of your car, turning on optional missions, and so on.
Control differences aside, the best parts of GTAIII seem entirely intact. The game still features the same amazing mission design, the same fantastic voice work, and the same sort of "go anywhere, do anything" mentality that made the console version of the game such a runaway hit. The game will be in stores next week, so stay tuned for a full review of Grand Theft Auto III.