Grand Theft Auto III

a game by Rockstar Games
Platform: Playstation 2
Rating: 9/10
See also: Grand Theft Auto Games, GTA Series


After a successful heist with your girlfriend, she realizes that you would better serve her and her upward climb in the criminal underworld as a patsy found dead at the scene of the crime. By some strange twist of fate, you miraculously live and are sentenced to prison. However, Liberty City has other plans for you. While being transported to the prison, a daring jailbreak occurs for a top mafia boss who happens to be in the same armored car as you. Seizing your newfound freedom you carjack a vehicle for another prisoner and drive to a safe house. Thanking you, this other prisoner hooks you up with a local mob boss who's in need of a good man. You gladly oblige as the scars from those gunshot wounds begin to burn.

Beat, rob, steal, kill and generally live the life of a sociopathic thug who would like nothing better than to rise up the ranks of organized crime. But in order to make the slow ascent, you will need to do a lot of favors -- every one of them illegal.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The first thing I will say about this game is that it is nasty... very nasty. Characters sleep with prostitutes, deal drugs, murder rivals and systematically destroy every moral law in existence. This game is NOT to be played by children. Rockstar Games designed this game for the mature player and you would be hard pressed to find movies with this level of violence. Pick up a bat and start beating the hell out of a bum sitting on the side of the road. Walk up to a car, pull the driver out, shoot him in the face with your handgun and make off with his humvee. The game breaks countless ethical and moral rules, God bless 'em.

As the newest thug on the street, you will be asked to do several favors in order to get your foot in the door. As the game starts, you meet a man named Luigi who runs the local area for a powerful mob boss. Luigi will send you on various tasks in the beginning in order to see if you have what it takes to run with the big dogs. Jobs involve transporting hookers and beating up a rival drug dealer and stealing his car. The missions throughout the entire game are varied and involve several methods of completion. One example is when Luigi finds out a rival gang is pimping their hookers on his turf -- he sends you to kill them. Well, it turns out your hit is driving around the area in a souped up muscle car. Hitting the car causes it to stop and the two occupants to start shooting at you. Now, while I could always kill one of the thugs, the second always got me, until I realized if I stayed in my car and waited for them to exit their car, I could simply run them over [[Brutal]].

Obviously the appeal of the game is to indulge your wild side, and I certainly did. Unfortunately, living this kind of life has its price. I must have been killed 20 times the first three hours of gameplay, as I found shooting the guns in the game to be quite difficult. Since the game is viewed in the third person perspective, you must face your character's enemies, hold the R1 button down and press the 'O'? button to shoot. I found this setup to be questionable. I know it doesn't sound that difficult, but for some reason the whole 'shoot'? concept just didn't seem to work really well. It was so much easier to just take a bat and bash in someone's skull, although after the first few missions, that just isn't feasible because everyone seems to be carrying a gun.

One of the neater aspects of GTA3 is the fact that there are mini-games within the overall game. You can carjack anyone in the game. When taxis, ambulances and cop cars jacked, you can activate missions that can only be done while posing as one of these professions. It's an excellent way to score some extra cash.

Speaking of carjacking, your primary mode of transportation is the car. Cars are all over the city and just begging to be stolen. To carjack someone, run up to the vehicle while it's standing still and hit the triangle button. This throws the door open and your character will grab the driver and pull him or her from the vehicle. In the beginning you can do this with little trouble, but eventually you might run into someone who does not want to be carjacked, and just happens to be packing heat.

Since driving is so important, you should realize that the car physics, while not entirely correct, are present. If you run into another car or obstacle (besides people) the car will sustain visible damage. If you smash the car up too badly, it will catch fire and blow up, effectively killing you. I stole so many cars in this game that with our current legal system I would have been looking at almost 14 days in jail. Controlling these cars was simple as they all were automatics. Steering with the left analog stick and using the brakes and gas will get you around the city in a flash.

As the game continues and you gain more and more respect you will find yourself in other parts of Liberty City (the most dangerous city in America). In the beginning, you play in the Portland district, working your way through Stanton Island and eventually onto Shoreside Vale. Needless to say, the paycheck for completing missions will greatly increase when you get to the more advanced missions. What I found to be interesting was that there are nine different gang/criminal organizations in the city. Yes, you will piss off every one of them and they will come looking for you.

Now, I keep talking about money. What's it good for? Money is used to fix cars, repaint them to avoid the law, and to pay for medical bills that you will incur during the game. Of course if you are a penny pincher, you can look for the health icons that are scattered throughout the city. Other icons include drugs, weapons and a mystery package (you must find all 100 of these). My pro-tip? Get out of your car and start exploring those back alleys.


While the game certainly has a flair for the illegal, the graphics are just average. Characters all look underworldly, but they also look to remedial and blocky. There's no doubt that this game is a next gen game, but the people look too drab and simple looking vehicles are apparent. The city itself is pretty sharp looking, as attention to detail was not overlooked. It's not a simple grid shaped burg and it's got all the goofy turns and one-way streets you would expect from a major metropolitan city. Cut-scenes are short and informative (while looking average) and can be bypassed by pressing the 'X'? button.


Well, here we have it; the game boasts a nine-channel radio (while in the cars) complete with wacky commercials. The music is at once appropriate and original. I would expect to hear latino music if I stole a 'Diablo? gang member's car and I did.

On another positive note, the game has top-notch actors doing the voice work for all the major characters. Michael Rappaport (Deep Blue Sea), Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) and Robert Loggia (Prizzi's Honor) are only some of the top-notch talent lending their recognizable voices to this game. In a word, 'wow.'


GTA3 has a fairly informative manual, but unbelievably has a fold out map of the entire city, including all the hot spots. I love it when games have foldouts.

Originality / Cool Features

This game takes on the perspective of the bad-guy. There isn't a single real good guy to be found anywhere in the game and if you do happen to run into one, chances are you'll kill him. An honest-to-God real mafia type game. Nothing like the ill-fated Kingpin.

Bottom Line

As a person who has always considered himself to be an honest, non-lawbreaker type, I was fairly disgusted with myself for having as much fun as I did. This was a graphically violent game that certainly pulled no punches when it came to the money shots. I can't stress enough that this game is meant for players of an older age bracket, like 17 and up. I must say however, that it was a refreshing change for me as I have never played anything that made being bad feel so good.

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