Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grand Theft Auto 3 review


     With the release of Grand Theft Auto V coming soon, it seemed a good time to review the game which started the phenomenon. While there had been previous Grand Theft Auto games, the third installment was a sensation that changed the way people looked at video games. On the positive side, it helped create the adult-gamer market and brought millions of new fans into our hobby. On the negative side, massive amount of media time and political lobbying was wasted trying to regulate a harmless video game.

Admittedly, this might have come off as a 'little' shocking to your parents if they were only used to Mario and Zelda.
    Grand Theft Auto 3 is the first of the 3D video game continuity for the series. It's impossible to overstate the impact of the game and how its formula was copied by literally hundreds of other games. Without Grand Theft Auto 3 there would be no Just Cause, True Crime, Saints Row, Sleeping Dogs, Mercenaries, Saboteur, or a dozen other titles. It established a particular formula of mayhem and chaos which remains playable to this day. But how well does it stand up, really?

    Well, let's find out.

    The premise of Grand Theft Auto 3 is an unnamed protagonist, later identified as Claude, is carrying out a bank heist with his girlfriend Catalina. Catalina shows what she thinks of Claude by shooting him during their escape and making off with the money. Claude survives and is lucky enough to escape police custody when a group of Columbians attack his prison transport to rescue another crook. Penniless and on the run, Claude must build a network of allies to take down Catalina and enact his revenge.

Claude is certainly a cool-looking cat, isn't he? I think it's the rocket-launcher which makes the ensemble.
    The storytelling is minimal, Claude doesn't have a voice actor and mostly just accepts orders from a variety of oddball criminals, but that doesn't mean it's ineffective. There's a strong undercurrent of betrayal, loyalty, and revenge to most missions. Claude isn't an innocent bystander in these missions either. He's willing to do anything for revenge and that includes turning on employers even if they've done nothing to earn his ire. The character of Claude really brings the anti to the term anti-hero.

    Honestly, I think the game might have been improved by just making some mild tweaks. Giving Claude a more coherent personality (and a voice), making the interaction between quests a little more fluid. This is mostly complaining about a game I already like, however, and these are tweaks rather than wholesale changes. Grand Theft Auto 3 is still a fun game, despite the fact its graphics are dated and its been copied a hundred times over.

Big Bad Catalina may not be the best animated femme-fatale but she's dangerous.
     The gameplay should be familiar for anyone who has played one of Grand Theft Auto's many knock-offs or descendants. Claude is able to steal any car around the city and they all have different statistics like durability or speed. Claude has a variety of weapons he can acquire with each having their benefits/hindrances. I, for one, was most fond of the Uzi because its ability to lock onto targets was much better than the 'free aim' of the assault rifle or rocket launcher.

     There's numerous mini-games which make the "free roam" section of Grand Theft Auto incredibly fun. You can go on a rampage, torching gangsters or do wild car-chases around the city with taxi cab pedestrians. If your heart is merciful, you might steal a paramedics van and deliver dying patients to the hospital (possibly injuring dozens of more people along the way). Most of these mini-games would be improved in later editions but their origins are still entertaining.

The variety of vehicles available was truly staggering.
    The cars are a little too fragile and missions where you have to turn them in without a scratch are decidedly irritating. Furthermore, the police are too effective in the game. It's all too easy for a cop to grab you out of a vehicle and put you on the ground. Complaining about game features which were fixed in later games seems like sour grapes, however.

    A cool fact I enjoyed about Grand Theft Auto 3 is the game is really fun to cheat at. There's an immense amount of freedom in the game and making liberal use of both cheat codes as well as the environment is a source of endless fun. Having troubling completing the race? Block the other races with a bus at the starting line. Can't complete a level? Summon a tank to smash through all of your opponents like they're cars are filled with dynamite. One impossible mission involving a boat chase I resolved by simply blowing up every vehicle in the map.



     The aforementioned minimal storytelling aside, Grand Theft Auto 3 has an amazing cast of characters. Tony Cipriani, Maria, Salvatore Leone, Donald Love, and Asuka are all equal or better than the characters which followed them. Lazlow's talk radio is occasionally hard to listen to but his segments are hilarious (as always). Finally, the soundtrack for the game is great with the entire music selection from Scarface. Nothing says the joys of being a criminal than a high-speed car chase set to "Push it to the Limit."

    In conclusion, Grand Theft Auto 3 is still worth a play. There's a variety of platforms for users to play it on and I suggest they get one they're comfortable with. The game isn't as innovative as it was in 2001 but that doesn't mean it's not fun as hell.


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