#473 Grand Theft Auto III

Posted: 14th January 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

300th played so far

gta_3_10Genre: Action
Platform: PC/Playstation 2/Xbox
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Rockstar Games

I’ll be honest – the lead-up to playing this game was a bit more difficult than normal. All excited about playing game 300, we inserted it into our Playstation 2 and started playing it. Within seconds it crashed with a disc error. Surprised, we cleaned it, tried, and got the same error. A third deep clean was tried, but crashed again after the first few missions… I was getting fairly upset since these original PS2 versions aren’t exactly cheap so… ack!

So yeah, we were happy Steam was having one of its semi-regular sales (summer sale – sorry, we’re about six months ahead at the moment – we like our buffer!) so we could cheaply get it and play it – we wanted to do it!

With it being a classic, Grand Theft Auto 3 came up as one of Peter’s big (and influential) games, with his love of the series having become quite clear to me. Saints Row 2, to be fair, showed as much. Of course, that also means it’s my turn to play.

Our Thoughts

It’s difficult, sometimes, to divorce a game’s innovation and features from the effect it had later. This feels especially true for this game, which might not have been the first to do the open sandbox genre (a form clearly introduced by DMA Design’s earlier Body Harvest, but in a way going back to early Elder Scrolls game and even more, Elite). Alright, retract those claws. Remember this is a game I love!

Still, the GTA series put the sandbox on the map with this game. While it doesn’t feel as open as later games, with less semi-organized activities, there’s quite a bit of pleasure to be had from riding and traveling around the island. Although the world doesn’t feel as expansive as, say, the Saints Row series, or your average Elder Scrolls game, there are still plenty of things hidden inside. (Patience grasshopper).

There’s more that could be improved here though. The city is made up of mostly greys and browns. While there’s some splashes of colour, it feels few and far between, and even when it’s there it’s faded. With the last-gen graphics, it all becomes a bit blurry and messy together, and doesn’t leave for many memorable sights. Even the bigger showpieces just don’t feel that way.

The game starts off a bit bland as well. Your mission is a generic escape and the first few missions have very little characterization in their storylines and cutscenes. This changes a bit later on, especially when the branching missions get unlocked. It’s still a bit flat, with nothing standing out in the main character, and as a player your avatar is generic enough that your involvement doesn’t matter. You just get swept up in everything. It’s fair enough as a choice, but makes the storyline a bit more distant.

Although there’s some occasional issues with missions (having to park a car in the exact same place as where you stole it from gets really fiddly, especially as you can’t damage it at all) on the whole they’re fun and varied. There’s a few mandatory murders, but this soon diverges into a lot more. The aforementioned mission requires you to steal a specific car, get a bomb strapped to it and drive it back to the same place (undamaged – you have to repair it if it isn’t) to blow up the owner. Well, that’s murder too, but the process is different! Different in style is certainly driving prostitutes to the police ball, or just ferrying people from one place to another. There’s a whole list of the latter, where just disposing of the car is fun on its own.

While the missions get difficult early on, they’re not frustratingly so. While there’s a big tutorial element early on, it isn’t that obvious. Aside from some initial prompts, the new things are easily integrated to the points that you don’t really realise they’re doing it just to teach you something.

The main thing is that it takes some time to get going, but after that the game feels like it is up there with most other games of its type. The main downside is, as said, the colours being drab, while everything else needs more time to fall into place.

Final Thoughts

Here’s the thing. There are a few things in this game that its sequels and such improved. The main thing I can fault it for is its bad graphics, and with that in particular its colour choice. The lack of vibrancy makes the game feel a bit less alive, which is a shame when you want to create a city that feels lived-in.

The thing is that when you play this having not played it back in the glory days it appears underwhelming (at least it did to him). To me the moment we started up the first mission I was instantly taken back to those evenings in the park killing hookers after they filled up my health bar, running from the Triad after pissing them off and that insane sniper mission which took me FOREVER to clear. Is it the best game in the series? No, for me that’s a tie between Vice City and IV. But it is a clearly ahead of the first and second installments in the city and is a worthy game to have such a landmark number.

I may have to replay this now…

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