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PS2 Reviews: Grand Theft Auto 3


Grand Theft Auto 3 screenshots

The Final Say!

Grand Theft Auto III - reviewed by Yianni P
Review Date: 12 March 2002
Review Score: 9/10
Distributed By:
Take2 Interactive

I consider myself to be a decent enough person. I don’t steal cars, I drive sensibly most of the time, and I almost never feel the urge to beat people to death with blunt, heavy instruments. So why on Earth do I derive so much pleasure from playing Grand Theft Auto 3? 

You see, all of these questionable pastimes are par for the course in this latest update of the GTA series from DMA Design.

Players assume the role of an up-and-coming criminal in Liberty City, the ‘worst place in the U.S.A.’. After being double-crossed and left for dead by his girlfriend/partner in crime, our anti-hero escapes the police in the company of a hoodlum who goes by the slightly unusual name of Eightball. This fellow lines him up some work with the local Portland mafia. After that you’re on your own…

 GTA3 takes place within three massive areas of the aforementioned Liberty City. To begin with the player is limited to the Portland area, with the other two zones (Staunton Island and Shoreside Vale) opening up after enough missions have been completed. Don’t let this fact fool you into thinking that the game is linear though, because it certainly isn’t. The title offers an unprecedented level of freedom to explore, experiment, and of course wreak havoc. Tired of doing missions for Luigi? Have a poke around town and answer one of the ringing payphones for a new job. Or steal a cab and go and earn a few fares. Or, failing inspiration, just see how many people you can beat to death with a baseball bat before the cops take you down in a blaze of glory. There is one thing to bear in mind regarding this particular title. It’s NOT for the kiddies. 

Graphically the game is absolutely top-notch. It may not have the spit and polish of such titles as Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, but taking into account the sheer size of the world in which the game takes place, and the level of detail that surrounds the player, the visuals are a very impressive feat indeed. 

Everything about this game exudes class. You may not even notice it at first, but all  the tiny incidental details come together to turn Liberty City into a living, breathing metropolis. The cycle of night and day recurs every half-hour (one hour in-game is equal to around a minute of real-time). As this time passes, citizens go to work, gangs peddle their “spank” and get into brawls, the police walk their beats, and your incredibly cool character goes about his missions and does his best not to draw unwanted attention to himself.

Unfortunately, such is the nature of the game that the attention of unsavoury types (muggers, rival gangs, officers of the law, etc) is sometimes unavoidable. Tearing down the street into oncoming traffic with a whole bunch of black FBI cars pursuing you is an insane rush, and the joy you feel when you finally escape them (assuming, of course, that you DO escape) is an overwhelming relief. 

The sound is amazing. The cars themselves sound great, and the crunch of collapsing metal and twisting chassis is music to the ears. On the subject of music, there are nine great radio stations available whilst driving, with enough variety to please almost every taste. 

The voice talent the developers have employed is staggering. Amongst others, they include Michael Madsen, Kyle MacLachlan and, my personal favourite, Joe Pantoliano (you may remember him as Francis Fratelli from The Goonies, or more recently as Cipher in The Matrix). The result of having such big-name actors lending their voices is that everything seems just that little bit more polished. And the voices of the myriad people wandering the streets of Liberty City are just fabulous, from the construction workers singing Village People lyrics to the elderly women crying “I’m an old lady, for Christ’s sake!” as you make off with their vehicle.

Grand Theft Auto 3 provides enough challenge to keep players busy for a very long time. In addition to the seventy or so main missions, there are also a whole lot of Rampage missions, as well as dozens of Taxi, Vigilante (uphold the law in a stolen police vehicle) and Ambulance missions. Not to mention the amount of fun to be had simply exploring Liberty City and seeing how much trouble you can get yourself into. 

The one major criticism that must be made of this game is not of its execution, but rather of its content. I must stress that this is a game for ADULTS. It allows, nay, encourages players to engage in extremely immoral activity in exchange for monetary gain. As much as I loathe to say this (as I remember arguments with my parents about why I couldn’t watch R-rated movies), children should not be allowed anywhere near this title. Moral qualms aside, however, Grand Theft Auto is an immensely playable game, which I would recommend any mature PS2 owner add to their collection. Just try to remember, it’s only a videogame… 

- Yianni Pak

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