Classic game appreciation section: Grand Theft Auto III

Obviously, that’s a problem when the media get hold of it and tabloids were up in arms about this murder simulator. They all pointed to the way the game forces you to have sex with prostitutes and then kill them for their money.

I love to point out that at no point does the game even explain to you that you can pick up prostitutes, or that you can sit in the car with them while it bounces on its suspension (erm... they’re meant to be having sex, but if you move the camera round to the front, they’re both sitting perfectly upright in their respective seats - oops).

And it certainly doesn’t tell you to kill them. So, really, who's the sicko here?

I’m not denying, the violence is the game’s biggest pull (or perhaps second-biggest after the freedom of the sandbox world, but we’ll come to that). My best mate at uni used to love watching me play the game, but he would not touch the controller while it was on. Probably didn’t want to get his hands dirty. Whatever's wrong with this wholesome gameplay?

So it was left to me to decapitate people with sniper rifles, set them alight and torch their cars. But it wasn’t the violence that did it for me. It was that open world. The feeling of driving up to the cliff above the beach at night and just sitting there, listening to Laslow on the radio while the clouds swept in and rain started to patter on the roof of the car.

The best game since Bouncing Bananas

I can remember thinking to myself ‘OK, my Dreamcast wouldn’t have been able to do this’, which is a shame really, because after seeing the subsequent PSP iteration of the same city, Dreamcast probably could have managed a crude but faithful version of GTA III. 

Above: Dreamcast GTA III? No, it's the PSP version. But I'd like to think it could have been

But at the time, if any one game showed what PS2 was capable of that other machines simply hadn’t come close to, it was GTA III.

Controversial to the last

I’ve actually only finished two GTA games - III and IV. And I remember being surprised by the end sequence of III, where you save the girl, then during the credits she just won’t shut up, so Claude shoots her dead. You don’t see it, but it just capped off the game’s rebellious personality. I mean, Mario wouldn’t shoot Princess Peach (especially after traipsing through all those damn castles) - he’s a dated icon of a more innocent era.

GTA is a game about everything that’s wrong with society. So its success actually speaks volumes for the state of it.

Above: It's hardly Mickey Mouse's Castle of Illusion

So is this really what people want? Yes. The days of cutesy videogames were well and truly over. For better or worse, the climate was now about realism, violence and sitting in a car with a lady while it inexplicably rocked on its axles. Manual hydraulic kits have got a lot to answer for.

20 Oct, 2011

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  • IceBlueKirby - October 22, 2011 6:16 p.m.

    My experience with GTA3 was mainly notable because I wasn't supposed to be playing it at all. My mom wouldn't let me play M-rated games until I turned 17 (I was around 15 when I played GTA3) so it was a forbidden pleasure, adding a lot to the game's appeal because even if I'd been allowed to play it, I still would have cracked an evil grin over the unrestricted violence and theft. But knowing that I wasn't supposed to be doing it made it even more deliciously taboo. I'd played GTA2 before (because, oddly, it was rated T on PSX and M on DC, so I got it for PSX) but because of the aforementioned sprites and top-down view it just didn't have the same grit to it. GTA3 looks (and mostly plays) like ass now, but it's still got a special place in my nostalgia banks.
  • spawny0908 - October 22, 2011 11:03 a.m.

    Ok I'm not the biggest fan of the GTA series but out of all of them I played this one the most. I may not like the series but I do respect it. I respect what the game did for gaming and me. It ushered in open world games, exposed me to games with a darker storyline and more mature themes, and showed me how fun just exploring in games can be. So happy 10th GTA3!
  • NotSteve - October 22, 2011 9:15 a.m.

    I still remember the Christmas my brothers and I got this as a present (we were 18, 16, and 14 respectively, so not too inappropriate a gift to get from your folks). We spent ALL DAY playing it, dying, and passing the controller, breaking only for meals... pretty good day.
  • Ninja-KiLLR - October 22, 2011 8:44 a.m.

    i played GTA 3 after i played vice city and this game didnt even come close to matching the awesomeness of vice city. im sure if i played them in the order they came out my view would have been different but this game was zero fun compared to vice city in my opinion.
  • Moondoggie1157 - October 22, 2011 7:18 a.m.

    Oh GTA III, the days and nights we had. Please come back in HD :D
  • IREPMINNEAPOLIS - October 22, 2011 6:41 a.m.

    I dont think I've ever heard or seen the word watershed so much in my entire life than this wk. Its been a watershed wk for watershed.
  • Mezolitik - October 22, 2011 4:59 a.m.

    I didn't like this one, largely because I played it after Vice City, which was incredible. I played III (and Liberty City Stories) for ages, but I couldn't tell you anything about either game. Loved San Andreas. Now playing IV, which is good so far, but they've REALLY worn out Liberty City. Eight GTAs are based in Liberty City. Rockstar have really missed a trick by not branching out into Japan, Columbia, Cuba, Brazil, etc. Even Resident Evil moved on after a while. So yeah, love GTA; bored of Liberty City. In other news, Steam is currently selling a pack of seven GTAs for £4.99. Score!
  • MCN2011 - October 22, 2011 5:59 a.m.

    Problem is, as soon as Resident Evil moved location, it got accused of being racist. Imagine the furore if GTA had you shooting up a city full of Brazilians or Japanese. It was bad enough when they were forced to remove the Haitians in Vice City.
  • icbacomingupwithapropername - October 22, 2011 9:08 a.m.

    true but you could always try moving it to somewhere like England Germany or France.
  • joerevs300 - October 22, 2011 4:35 a.m.

    I barely dabbled in GTA III (I didn't hear about the series until GTA:Vice City) but to this day, GTA:Vice City is the best game I have ever played, period. I am a HUGE 80's nut, and Rockstar absolutely nailed that decade, right down to the radio stations, atmosphere and story. Outside of wanting an HD remake of FFVII, this is the other game I PRAY that Rockstar will update to 2011 standards. If they could somehow do that with GTA III and GTA: San Andreas, now THAT would sell some serious copies. I'm guessing, despite the PS2 having fewer and fewer games released for it, these are still 3 of the most popular. My favorite pastime in GTA? Getting on top of a roof (after getting a wanted star) dropping grenades down to get enough for the helicopter to come, and then just shooting one after another after another...until I got to 6, dropping a grenade, jumping down, stealing a Rhino and going to the streets to cause chaos LOL
  • Y2Ken - October 22, 2011 3:29 a.m.

    I remember reading magazines when this came out, and when my friend brought it over for PC. Didn't get my own copy as I was about 11/12 at the time but I loved playing it. It wasn't even about the violence specifically, even the driving around in this realistic 3D world was incredible to me, and the open-ended mission structure just felt so fresh as a change from the linear progression of most games. Certainly a landmark moment in gaming history. Nice article Justin!
  • karlosswan - October 22, 2011 3:19 a.m.

    I knew nothing about this game when it came out, only that it was GTA in 3D. Based on that alone I took a punt on it and fell in love. It was the first game that blew me away and the only game since that has given me that wow factor and utter utter genuine pleasure from not knowing a single thing about it before hand.

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