A Vision Realized
Grand Theft Auto III (PC, PS2, XB)
Read The Review!
The most obvious difference between Grand Theft Auto III and previous games in the series is the 3D engine, which was made possible by the series moving onto the PlayStation 2 console. Instead of having a detached and distant top-down view of the action, Grand Theft Auto III allowed you to explore a fully 3D world from a third-person perspective. This change brought you much closer to the action, giving the game a more personal feel. The people you were running over and shooting didn't look like squashed bugs anymore. You could actually see the main character inside of the cars, steering as you commanded.
The setting was restricted to just Liberty City, but from the new perspective, the town took on a whole new feel and it encouraged players to explore. Compared to the tiled, repetitive look of the cities in the previous two games, Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto III felt like an actual, organic place. There was an array of storefronts, funny signage to read, and unique buildings to visit, such as a stadium and a casino. The city was designed in such a way that those who played the game long enough could actually navigate by landmarks without using the map. The use of a day and night cycle also contributed to the atmosphere, and it gave the game a more lifelike feel. There was also licensed music and speech in the game. In fact, the developers used celebrity voice actors like Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, and Kyle MacLachlan to lend a more professional air to the game's cutscenes.
The dramatic difference in production values from the first Grand Theft Auto to the third was breathtaking. But the spirit of the actual game did not change. The open-ended gameplay design of the original games remained, allowing you to still explore a huge city, jack cars, shoot random people, and cause mayhem. Perhaps the biggest change in the gameplay department was the inclusion of a well-written, main storyline, influenced heavily by popular crime films like Goodfellas and Heat. The integration of an overarching plot into Grand Theft Auto III gave players a much better sense of purpose to each mission. Every time you delivered a package, knocked off an opposing crime boss, or tailed a snitch, you were helping your family get ahead in the mob wars.
For those not so interested in following the main story, there was still plenty to do in Grand Theft Auto III. Many found it fun just committing random crimes and earning higher and higher "wanted" ratings so the FBI helicopters and military tanks would go after them. You could also steal emergency vehicles like fire trucks and go on special missions with them. In a somewhat ironic twist, you could also steal a police car to go on vigilante missions to snuff out other criminals. The changes made to the series in Grand Theft Auto III took the game to a new level and spawned plenty of imitators in the video game market. But none of these really surpassed GTA 3 until the next game in the series: Vice City.