Grand Theft Auto III emerged on the scene in 2001 on PC and PS2, two years after the game’s sequel. Unlike the first two games, including expansion GTA: London, GTA III ditched the overhead view that had become synonymous with the series, and opted for a more life-like 3D approach, thus giving gamers all over the globe a whole new virtual world to play with.
GTA III was ground-breaking at the time. Nothing on this scale had ever been done before. The little rectangular cars from GTA had been transformed into realistic motors that you could actually see and admire in all their glory. It now made it easier for gamers to carjack and the control of the vehicles were more akin to their real life counterparts.
A stark contrast from the previous games, the missions in GTA III had cut-scenes that evolved the storyline and with the addition of voice-over talent, the player could immerse themselves even more into the gritty crime world of Liberty City, an environment loosely based on New York City.
Like turning a drawing into a full colour painting, Rockstart North took everything what their fans enjoyed – the carjacking, the crime missions, the police chases – and crafted a living, breathing world for gamers to enjoy and perform these fun-filled tasks. They transformed a game into something more, something that people could get their teeth into. Unlike GTA 1 and 2, GTA III looked so realistic that the players felt they were the character doing each and every action and mission. The building were sprawling, shops had signs and window displays, the pay and spray had actually become a garage you could drive into. Buildings were real, as though you were actually walking through a city and spotting the shops, the police stations and the people walking the streets. Everything became more real in that you actually felt you were there, as part of the game.
The radio stations became an integral part of the game, alerting players to instances happening in the city, for instance information updates on the blocked off road that prevented you from exploring more of the mammoth map. The radio stations were varied to suit players tastes, with each raido station dedicated to a particular style of music. GTA III became the first game of the series to feature music tracks from popular artists and also introduced one of the greatest DJ’s to the world of GTA, Lazlow, who hosted the first chatshow radio station in the GTA series, called Chatterbox FM.
GTA III included everything we loved. Fast cars (and slow ones!) and lots of guns! One of the notorious additions to game, that was not seen on any of the previous games, were the prostitutes. Go curbcrawling at night and these ladies of the night could be picked up for a good time, and they’d restore your health bar, albeit for a fee. What ensued afterwards was the realisation that you could in fact run over the prostitute post-coitus and get your money back. This aspect of the game was one of the talking points at the time, and several games later, the ability to pay a prostitute, get jiggy and get your money back has stayed with the series ever since.
Grand Theft Auto III was a turning point in the series. The game had become what every GTA fan could have ever dreamed of. GTA III was the start of a whole new era, and this was just merely scraping the surface on what was yet to come…
Juan says: “GTA III could not have come soon enough. It was the game I felt that the PS2 was invented for. Ever since I stepped foot in the top down, 2D Liberty City of the first GTA game, I’d often fantasised what a fully realised 3D Grand Theft Auto would look like, and boy, did this game deliver. Yes there’d been GTA clone prior to this (Driver 2 springs to mind more than any), but GTA is the daddy, always has been, always will be. Liberty City was an amazing place to cause havoc and the game felt like it had endless possibilities. The sandbox world had truly opened up. Not just that, but the dialogue was clever, if somewhat vulgar, the now common place movie references are always a joy and the soundtrack was great, with GTA regular Lazlow, providing the best of the radio shows with his chat station. As dry witted and hilarious as can be, it encapsulated the tone of the game perfectly. How could this be bettered?”
Bat says “Having played Vice City prior to GTA III, I felt that it was a bit grey and drab at times, but I appreciated how incredible this must have been to have played upon release after GTA 1 and 2. However, the game’s missions were entertaining and varied, keeping me on my toes. I found the game extremely difficult compared to Vice City, which was also not an easy game. My memories of GTA III include burning gang members alive with a flamethrower during a Rampage and driving a garbage truck loaded with explosives to kill the triads, which was painfully cumbersome but still fun to drive!”