Like many gamers, I started the Grand Theft Auto Series with Grand Theft Auto III (GTA III); I didn’t know what to expect. When I purchased my PS2 back in 2001, I couldn’t decide what PS2 game I should get first. I was planning on getting Twisted Metal: Black first since I loved the previous installments on the PlayStation, but I wanted something to blow my mind – a next-gen experience if you will. I didn’t feel Twisted Metal: Black would deliver that experience.
Every time the TV was on, adverts of GTA III would air, and I kept thinking to myself, “What is this game about?” Also, many of my friends were wildly chattering about the game, persuading me to obtain it. Under peer pressure and intense marketing, I decided to purchase the game, and it was a decision I would never regret.
Upon booting the game and finishing the opening cutscenes, I was able to control the nameless avatar. The driving aspect was very reminiscent to Driver, but at least I was able to run over grandmas and the likes. When I ran over a cop, all hell broke lose. Police patrols were on my tail and many tried to block my way. The wanted stars kept rising, and it became more difficult to evade them. Suddenly, I was captured and had to redo the mission. What a great way to start off this fantastic game.
The thing that struck me the most about Grand Theft Auto III was its freedom, being able to do what and how I wanted. Sometimes, the nameless character was working for three different people at a time, but he could only take on one mission at a time. The game gave me the opportunity to accept the missions in the order I wanted. I could do all missions from one person and move to the next, or I could one mission and then one from the other person.
The most remarkable thing about progressing through the story was making alignments and feuds between gangs. At one point, I was working with the Mafia, and the next thing you know it, they were trying to assassinate me. Every time I took my car for a spin, they would shoot at me and take me out of my car. The AI was great as the gang members distinguished and attacked rivalry gangs or me, if they had a grudge against me.
If I didn’t want to work my way through the main story, I could roam around the city and do as I please: accept side-missions from the mysterious phone booth caller, work as a taxi driver or just cause havoc in the city. Oh how I adored stealing cars, driving on the sidewalk, and picking up fights with grannies.
When I caused too much mayhem, the police would start chasing, and it eventually evolved into the FBI and the Army chasing me. It was pretty overwhelming how many patrols were on my tail and how strong their weapons were, but that’s what I deserved for playing the bad guy.
Overall, this is what I wanted when I made the jump from the fifth generation to the sixth generation, – a next-gen experience – and Grand Theft Auto III delivered it. While I vastly prefer the 80s vibe from Vice City and the gangster rap theme from San Andreas, I felt obliged to give GTA III an admirable mention well deserved for its freedom and influence on future sandbox titles.
Without it, we probably wouldn’t have seen titles like Saint’s Row, The Getaway, Crackdown and others. I haven’t had the opportunity to play the GTA IV (Persona 3 FES came out around the same time and ate up my whole summer), but considering how charming and satisfying its predecessors were, I can’t wait to devote some of my free time and play the hell out of it – hopefully in July. Liberty City, I’m sorry I killed tons of innocent people, but it provided a lot of amusement.