When Grand Theft Auto was released years ago, it immediately became a hit game with its original but controversial ideas. Those who haven’t played GTA have really missed out on something, and would probably do themselves a favor by picking it up. It’s a practically 2D game where you play a small-time crook who makes his way up trough the ranks of various criminal groups. For those with a 3dfx card there was a Glide version, which made the game look a lot better. I remember how my Voodoo2 used to make the game fly. GTA also had multiplayer, but the code was so horrible that even in a lan it was almost unplayable on what were high end computers back then. Still, we played it a lot in school, despite the lag.
GTA2 was a disappointment to many, including myself, since it didn’t bring much new to the game, except for “better” graphics (which in my opinion looked too dull) and more gangs. There was also a mission pack for the original GTA, GTA: London, but it never impressed me like the one and only original GTA.
When GTA3 was released on the PS2 it became an instant hit, and now it’s available for the PC too. Is it worth your hard earned money? Read on to find out.
The Concept in GTA3 is pretty much the same, but the game is entirely in 3D. You start out as an unknown crook who is betrayed and shot by his girlfriend during a bank job. After barely surviving, you are put on a prisoner transport, but are rescued by your fellow criminals. This is where the game takes off and you are put into action. Your first job is to get into a getaway vehicle and escape to a safe place.
You start out in Portland, which is the biggest of three Islands in Liberty City. The bridge to the other islands is damaged during your escape, so you won’y be able to get to them before it is repaired later on in the game.
The game advances as you get missions from various people. Examples are the Mafia, the Yakuza and the Columbian Cartel. The in-game map has the locations of mission briefings on it, so all you have to do is find a car and get to the right spot to get your instructions. These places can be, telephone booths, cars or the homes of criminals, depending on the mission. Usually you have a few of the main missions to choose from, so if you’re having trouble with one mission, you can just play another one and try the tricky one later.
While the missions in GTA3 aren’t too complex, they are a lot more fun and imaginative than the ones in the previous games. They can be simple get from point A to B, require you to frame someone for murder, or anything in between. In some missions you have to collect packages that fall out of a plane, while others are comparable to full-blown gang wars. You’ll be doing drive-by shootings and sinking ships, in this game, everything is possible! After a while they do get a bit repetitive since some missions are basic get from point A to B types. It didn’t bother me though, but I imagine that some people might get bored with it.
If you get tired of the normal missions, there are dozens of sub-missions that can be played at any time. For instance, there’s a warehouse with a list of cars on the wall. To pass the mission and get a reward, you’ll have to boost all the cars on the list and bring them to the warehouse. Sound familiar? It’s like being a part of Gone in 60 seconds! Have you always wanted to be a fireman? No problem, steal a firetruck and press the special mission button and you’ll get to to extinguish burning cars. You can also be a vigilante who fights crime, drive a taxi or take sick people to the hospital in your ambulance. You can even pick up prostitutes if that’s your thing! Some parked cars trigger missions just like in GTA, so you can always find a mission nearby.
When you don’t feel like playing missions at all, you can just drive around the city or just go crazy and start shooting people. This won’t go unpunished of course, so expect to have the cops on your tail if you start killing people. The wanted level is represented by stars, and the more of them you get, the more agressive the cops get. At the lowest level, you won’t have any trouble getting away. Be a really bad boy (or girl), and the FBI too will come after you. Ultimately even the army gets involved and you’ll have to avoid police cruisers, FBI agents, helicopters, army trucks and even tanks!
Most missions become practically impossible to pass with a high wanted level, so getting your current car repainted and the plates changed is often advisable. Luckily there are a few Pay ‘n’ Spray shops in the city which will get those annoying officers off your back. If you need some more ammo or armor, just go to your local Ammu Nation for a refill. These all cost money of course, but being the clever criminal you are, that isn’t really a problem. As you pass more missions, the gangs will start to recognize you, which means that entering their turf is asking for trouble. So don’t go there unless you are ready to fight for your life.
The AI is pretty good, but still annoying from time to time. It’s no fun racing down a freeway at full speed with your recently “aquired” sports car when some dork decides to change lanes right in front of you. If this is good or bad AI is up for you to decide, at least it’s pretty realistic when it comes to some people. Law enforcement officers mostly just ram you and shoot, and fooling them is too easy. If you stop, they’ll get out of their cars, which allows you to steal them very easily. This doesn’t mean that you’ll get away from them when the wanted level is high though since they always bring friends.
In GTA there were only a few weapons, but now you get to play with more. Among my favorites are the sniper rifle (decapitate people!), bazooka and assault rifle. There is one problem with weapons though, they don’t fire fast enough. There seems to be a slight delay from when you press the button to when the weapon is fired. This makes it hard to shoot short bursts when you’re being attacked by many enemies. Otherwise the firing is a lot better than on the PS2, thanks to the mouse and keyboard combination.
Multiplayer is, well, it isn’t. Unfortunately they chose not to add any form of multiplayer to the PC version, leaving it as a straight port. Instead they are focusing on GTA4 which according to rumors will have online play.
In my opinion, the graphics in GTA3 are great, especially considering the vast amount of objects displayed. There are huge houses, dozens of cars and people, trees and more on-screen most of the time. The PC version doesn’t really differ from the PS2 except for the higher resolution, but the graphics are still good. The detail of the cars is among the best I’ve seen, with a lot of damage zones which means that the cars get damaged differently and more realistic looking depending on how you dent or crash them. There are also different lighting situations, so playing a mission at night will make everything look different than at day. Driving a fast car when it rains can be very tricky, and the visibility is severely reduced when a thick fog settles over Liberty City.
There aren’t many different settings to tweak the graphics except for resolution and view distance. I didn’t note any performance difference when changing the view distance and would have liked to be able to increase it even more, since it was a bit too low. While the buildings are drawn very far away, the cars and people aren’t. So when going at full speed, you’ll have to look out for cars that are coming out of nowhere, nowhere being pretty close. Another problem with this is that you can’t follow a car that is out of the drawn area, since it ceases to exist. Instead, there will be more randomized cars when you move ahead. This gets pretty annoying sometimes if you see a car you want, but when you follow it around a corner too slowly it’s gone.
The game runs great on my computer, for a while that is. After I gained access to the second island, the game started getting choppy during game sessions of about an hour. This is fixed by rebooting, but it’s very annoying to have to do that all the time, and is one probably the biggest problems in this game. This is not a problem limited to my system, but something I’ve read that a lot of people are having trouble with. Performance is also a problem when you have a lot of cops chasing you, which naturally makes the game harder. Rain has the same effect although to a lesser degree. Some have claimed that these problems aren’t apparent in Windows 98, but I haven’t been able to verify that. UPDATE: Two of our readers mailed me on this issue, and they both had similar problems in Windows 98. So there definitely is need for a patch.
There are also a few other major bugs, such as the game crashing, often on an older 3D accelerator. I even know people who have had to use a no-cd crack on their legit versions of the game to get it to run! Luckily, I didn’t face any of these issues. Hopefully these and the performance problems will be fixed in a patch since the game runs very smoothly otherwise, even at 1280x960x32bit.
Sound is definitely one of the strong sides of Grand Theft Auto 3. The city is filled with noise with people screaming at you in traffic, police sirens, choppers, Mr. Whoopie’s ice cream truck and lots more. All the cars also have different sounds, but unfortunately the volume of your own car is a bit low, so you won’t hear the roar of your V8 well enough. The cut scenes are well acted, or should I say over acted, and fit the game’s humoristic nature perfectly.
When you enter a car you get access to the radio, which has several different channels and an mp3 player. The radio channels all play different programming, ranging from pop on Lips 106 to the rasta music on Jah Radio. There’s also Chatterbox with Laslo’s hilarious live program with guests and the possibility for the listeners to call in. Even the commercials are fun in GTA3!
If you get tired of the radio channels or they just don’t appeal to you, don’t worry, since you can add your own mp3’s to the game. Just copy them over or create shortcuts to them in the mp3 folder and an mp3 player will appear in the game.
Despite it’s problems with performance, GTA3 is a great game, I’d even go as far as saying that it’s the best game I’ve played in a long time. Definitely in my top-10 of all times. That’s how much I like it, so without the bugs, I’d give it an even higher score. If you like games of this type, then you have to get GTA3, it really is that good!