Review written by Simon (03/06)

Once in a while, a game comes along that oozes originality and charm, in this case it also happens to be highly controversial. Grand Theft Auto 3 has risen to cult status on the PS2 and has no doubt sold a few consoles for Sony. After what seemed an eternity it has finally hit the PC and the charm of the game is still intact.

Grand Theft Auto 3 thrusts you into a living, breathing city. You play a hardened criminal on the run from the law after busting out of a prison van, the metropolis of Liberty City is now your playground and with a few mates you will seek your ultimate revenge. Revenge for what I hear you ask. As the game begins, the deep gritty story line portrays a bank robbery in progress with you and your so called girlfriend knocking off the joint. On the way to the car, you are gunned down by her and thus you take the blame for the entire robbery. A stroke of luck has it that a gang wants their leader back and thus blows up the prison truck you’re travelling in, and so begins your quest for revenge.

Lets get one thing straight at the get go, this game is not for kids and both Take2 and Rockstar make no qualms about it. Those of you who have played Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 will be instantly familiar with the gameplay, albeit with one change. The game is now in a 3D world as opposed to a top down 2D style. If you prefer the top down view it can be enabled but behind the shoulder is the better view in my opinion. On your path to revenge you will be hired by gangsters, drug dealers, protectors and other underworld figures. The story line is so deep, sometimes you will swear you are watching a movie such as The Usual Suspects and this is where Grand Theft Auto 3 really excels. The addiction that grabs you is because you want to know what’s going to happen next and what the next assignment will be. Gang warfare is rife in Liberty city, with multiple gangs trying to take each other down. Once they realize who your allegiance is with you can’t run and you can’t hide. They will track you down and try to take you out, so watch your back.

Missions that you can be assigned are unique and never get boring. Some missions will be a simple escort mission for a gangster’s girl and some will require the utmost skill such as infiltrating the mansion of a drug gang. Missions don’t have to be followed however and this is another great aspect of Grand Theft Auto 3, the game is open ended and you can basically do anything. If you choose to run around creating havoc you can, if you just want to cruise around the city checking out the sights you can. Chances are if you can think about it you can do it in this urban sprawl. Of course crimes cannot go unpunished and it’s not long before the long arm of the law are chasing your back. Authorities ranging from simple police officers, through to the FBI will be hunting you down and later in the game a much more powerful authority will be trying to end your reign of chaos.

The structure which was used in Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 to get missions has been retained. Drive to a certain location in the city and receive a mission via phone, pager or in person. There are 73 missions in the game, but only 40 have to be completed to finish the story. Transportation around Liberty City is everywhere you look. Like the look of a certain car? You can have it. Just like GTA1 and 2, jacking a car is easy. Walk up to the door, throw the driver out, jump in and burn rubber. Of course there are some cars that you just don’t want to jack, for instance the Mafia car or you will be a marked man. Throughout the game you will meet gangster families, corrupt cops and other gangs who just want some help to wipe out a new force sweeping the city, the Colombian Cartel who are pushing their drug known as SPANK. As each mission progresses you will be introduced to higher levels of management in the gangs hierarchy, they will then be available to give you missions.

There are over 70 cars for you to hijack and drive around in. From typical sedans to souped up sports cars this game has it all. It is even possible to hijack police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. In fact when you do this one of the more unique portions of the game is displayed. Pressing caps lock will enable vigilante missions. Vigilante missions turn you into a law abiding citizen out there to help people. For instance in the police car you have to catch a criminal, in the fire truck put out a fire and so on. These all come with financial bonuses as well being a nice distraction from the missions at hand. The best car to do this in is by far the taxi. Once in a taxi the game can then be played like Crazy Taxi, drive around picking people up then dropping them off at the desired destination. Once again reaping a financial reward.

Liberty City is so detailed it looks like it could have been done in a game such as Sim City. Three islands make up this metropolis but only one is available at the start. The two bridges connecting the three have been destroyed by gangsters and must be repaired before they can be used. Once certain missions are completed the bridges will open and exploration of the new area is the key to success in missions. Some of the missions are timed and to complete them you will need to know the city like the back of your hand.

Thankfully the game, like the others in the series ships with a map with important locations such as where each gang’s hideout is located. As mentioned before the town is living and breathing, every where you go people will be roaming the streets. Gangs walk around shooting each other up and often you will find yourself in the middle of a gang battle trying to escape. Transportation around Liberty City is varied with the primary mode of transport the humble automobile. Other transportation includes the Subway to move between islands, the monorail, and some boats and for the first time in GTA a plane. Unfortunately multiplayer has been left out for the final PC release which has knocked the replayability a bit, but the fact the game is completely open ended will have you coming back for more time and time again.

Grand Theft Auto 3 uses the Renderware engine which I hadn’t even heard of until this title but it has definitely produced the goods. Whilst the visuals haven’t really changed since the Playstation 2 version, nor are they ground breaking, they do the job well. Each car and object is unique to a certain extent and the environments are highly detailed, so much so it is quite easy to know exactly where in the city you are just by looking for landmarks or unique buildings. Weather now also plays a part in the game to a small degree, rain aside from killing your frame rate makes it harder to target objects which are far away. The cut scenes are excellent and portray the story line of the game perfectly. Each are done within the actual game engine and once the game has loaded there are no more loading screens, except for a few seconds between islands. The opening introduction to the game is also excellent, something you would typically see at the start of a ‘60s gangster movie, and presented in a film noir style.

Unfortunately there is one problem with the PC version of the game, it is a massive resource hog. If you have anything less then an 800mhz PC then it may struggle to run the game depending on the video card, of course there are some tweaks that can be done to improve gameplay speed but overall it takes a lot of grunt in that beige box to run this game like it was meant to be played. One thing the PC version does have over the PS2 version is the fact players can re-skin the main character, and no doubt in given time people will create modifications and new missions, cars etc for the game.

Grand Theft Auto 3 is a top game. The story line, missions and other details come together to form the crux of an excellent game. The fact that is highly controversial doesn’t take away from the fact that this game is one of the best ever. The only way you don’t need to own the PC version of this title is if you already own the PS2 version.

Graphics: 8.8
Utilizing the Renderware engine they haven’t changed much since the PS2 version but the game is no slouch in this department.

Sounds: 9.0
Different styles of music for different tastes, choose what you want to listen to.

Gameplay: 9.1
Continuing on the game mechanics from GTA 1 and 2 nothing much has changed but nothing really needed to change.

Replay Value: 8.7
No multiplayer was a disappointment to PC gamers but the fact it is one hundred percent open ended you will be going back to the game again and again.

Overall: 8.9/ 10
Grand Theft Auto 3, whilst being one of the most controversial games ever, is one of the best games to come out for PC in a long while. The deep gritty storyline will have you enthralled to the very end and the open ended engine will have you coming back for more time and time again.

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