Staff writer, Official PlayStation2 Magazine
What: Grand Theft Auto III
Why: For an early preview
Like many people in this industry, so it seems, my greatest GTA memory is not of a particular mission, some convergence of music and mayhem or a hard-won Easter Egg. No, my greatest memory of Rockstar’s incredible series predates the release of Grand Theft Auto III by several months.
As a fresh-faced staff writer on Official PlayStation2 mag (well, as fresh as my face has ever managed) I found myself on a day trip to Germany - yes, day trip - to see Rockstar’s latest games. One of these (but at the time, no more than ‘one of’) was a new Grand Theft Auto. GTA III was actually one of many 2D updates for ‘next gen’ back then, and almost all of them had been fun like spontaneous incontinence. The increasingly familiar cry of “It’s X... in 3D!” was beginning to rhyme with “It’s like being kicked... in the balls!”
I should have known that this was no ordinary demo when, after catching the red eye flight to Frankfurt, our group of journalists was ferried by taxi to a very unpromising looking residential district, rather than - as is more the norm in this business - a bar. Soon we were dropped off at what looked like a derelict sports centre. Once inside, however, it turned out to actually be… a derelict sports centre. Albeit one repurposed into a Rockstar showcase.
If I was taken aback by the location of the presentation for a game I was fairly sure featured things like carjacking, gunfire and 150mph speedos rather than backstroke, verucas and pink Speedos - it was in the deep end of a drained swimming pool - that was nothing compared to what came next.
The game demo started and GTA III looked just like a shinier version of the earlier PSone Grand Theft Autos. We were looking top-down on tiny cars doing bad things between skyscrapers. It looked tidy, but nothing to get massively excited about. Two-dimensions on PS2? Whatever.
It was then the guy leading the presentation flipped the top-down view off (only an option in GTA III, as it turned out) and the game swooped into its default, third-person view. There were audible gasps. Three dimensional gaming wasn’t new, but a GTA world - a wide open, go anywhere, do anything how and when you like world - in 3D? Now that was a staggeringly exciting proposition. I think everybody there that day knew right then. This was a pivotal game - the start of something absolutely massive. The onlooking gaggle of journalistic brains and hearts were afire with prose, with revelations and the urge to write. And then we went to the bar.