2. It popularized seamless hybrids of driving and on-foot action
many gamers, GTA III introduced the entire concept of an open world where any
vehicle was yours for the taking. Of course, there’s a hint in the game’s title
that it wasn’t actually the first time this type of gameplay existed, but even
aside from the earlier GTAs, DMA Design (the developer that became Rockstar
North) had toyed with the concept in Space Station Silicon Valley (where you
didn’t hijack vehicles so much as you possessed robotic creatures) and Body
Harvest, which came awfully close to being a prototype for GTA III’s 3D
sandbox. Because nobody but the most studious gamers knows what the hell those
games even are, however, we have to tip our hat to the original hooker-beater for
ushering in the era of run, drive, shoot.
Above: Baseball bat or Humvee? Hmm…
III made “sandbox” a gaming term, and it couldn’t have done it without the
interwoven on-foot and on-wheels action. You can’t just plod around a city on
foot, after all, so unlike other, more standard action games of the time (which
frequently featured distinct vehicle missions separate from the “real” action),
GTA III gave players freeform motion. This opened up all kinds of tactical
possibilities, like running over enemies, picking a heavy vehicle for increased
survivability, and parking your car for impromptu cover.
Above: Getting shot in the back is less of a concern when there's a car behind you to soak up bullets
driving being such a major part of the game, GTA III couldn’t simply knock out
a single physics model and copy-paste it onto all the cars. It needed different
behaviors, providing variety and choice – more often than not, specific cars
would be better suited to specific missions. In the years since, countless
other sandbox games have followed a similar approach, and seamless use of a
variety of vehicles has also bled over into less free-form games, like Warhawk,
Pursuit Force and the Battlefield series. Even games with no jackable cars,
like InFamous and Prototype, probably wouldn’t have developed their
sprinting/super jumps/gliding/grinding/parkour without GTA III first showing
that to have a truly sprawling world, you need special mechanics for getting
around in a hurry. The result is a whole genre of action games in which half
the fun isn’t the “action” itself, but the journey along the way.
1. It turned open-world games into a real genre
GTA III hit, open-world games weren’t really a new thing, but they were
relatively rare. PC RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series and Ultima had been
giving players absolute freedom for years, and MMOs like EverQuest were setting
players loose in huge, detailed 3D worlds. And as we pointed out in the last entry, there were GTA, GTA 2 and Body Harvest, although their 2D presentation and/or obscurity
kept them from becoming huge breakout hits.
Above: Body Harvest was GTA III crossed with Earth Defense Force, before either of those things existed. Yeah, you missed out
of those games, however, managed to create worlds that were quite as vivid and
interesting as GTA III’s – or quite as destructible. The freedom to explore
sprawling fantasy worlds was one thing, but being able to go apeshit in a
convincing, mostly consequence-free clockwork city was quite another.
some, the result was an unfocused mashup of different game types that didn’t
really appeal. But for so many more, GTA III was nothing less than the
fulfillment of a promise games had been making for years: a big, open dream
world in which we could do whatever the hell we wanted, whenever we wanted to
do it, no matter how insane or destructive it might be. It was the world on our
own terms, and it was a watershed moment that made open-world sandbox games a
genre unto themselves.
Above: For better or (cough) worse
sure, the initial attempts weren’t much more than (frequently disappointing)
knockoffs of GTA’s formula. Gradually, however, sandbox gaming grew and evolved
past its criminal origins. Games like Spider-Man 2, Jak II and Mercenaries:
Playground of Destruction proved that open worlds could be much more than venal
opportunities for joyriding and pedestrian-smashing (although, more often than
not, there was plenty of that, too). More recently, series like Assassin’s
Creed, Dead Rising, Just Cause, Crackdown and InFamous have refined the genre into something exhilarating,
giving players true, complete freedom of movement and lots of room to experiment.
Above: Nothing that led to this existing could possibly be bad
not an approach that works for everyone, of course, but GTA III broke important
new ground, and gamers who like to freely explore, experiment with game worlds
and generally just tear shit up with no clear agenda owe it a huge debt.
Oct 17, 2011
The Top 7… Games with badass helicopter fights
The only good copter is a crashed copter
6 Reasons why kids should play GTA
Why parents, politicians and the media need to leave kids the hell alone
Grand Theft Radar: Daddy's back, you glitches!
Car-killiing swingsets, two-way eyeballs and five more of Grand Theft Auto IV's most entertaining bugs