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atari saboteur
Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (989)
Written on  :  Nov 09, 2005
Platform  :  PlayStation 2
Rating  :  4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars

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A realistic, revolutionary title that gets passed off a mindless violence

The Good

As a teenager, this was one of my favorite games. The idea that there was an entire 3D city open to me to do anything I wanted to was a completely new thing to me at the time. No game ever offered me a chance to do this, and as a result, I spent a huge amount of time playing it.

I am, however, disappointed at the fan base the GTA series has created. Most casual gamers see this as the game to shoot a bunch of people while stealing cars and having sex with hookers. As a result, most serious gamers see the game as mindless, repetitive, and boring with nothing to offer but mindless violence and thrills. I am tired of the title this game carries as nothing but a violent, overrated game from 2001. It is way more than that and it deserves more.

The game has one of the best storylines I have seen from a sandbox game. The player is presented with a typical situation of rising up into the crime ladder to get revenge on your girlfriend who shot you during a bank heist and left you for dead. As the story progresses, you will notice things like how gang members will respect you and help you throughout the game. You will be backstabbed by multiple groups of people, and as a result, the groups you have betrayed or have been betrayed by will take it upon themselves to shoot you on sight. The game has some of the most memorable characters and lines of dialogue in any game.

The main character, named Claude Speed (revealed to us in GTA: San Andreas) is the “silent protagonist”. The game developers felt that a personality and voice for the character would get in the way of your own personality. As a result, you can picture that main character any way you want, whether he’s a ruthless killer, or a loyal servant, or just a guy looking out for himself. It doesn’t matter which way you look at him because there is nothing in the way of telling you what to think of him.

The openness of the game is perfect for anything. If you want to do missions, then you are fine to do so. But you can also do a number of sub-missions like firefighter missions, ambulance missions, collecting hidden packages, driving people around in the taxi, and finding cars to deliver to the garage. You can entertain yourself with all of these things (and plenty more ways!). Or just do the simple thing and go on a rampage. The possibilities are endless when it comes to game play and the replay value is through the rough!

The controls are smooth and easy to learn after a few seconds of playing. Driving feels natural and is easy to get a hang of even after a few minutes of driving.

The missions in the game are NEVER the same. One mission you may be partaking in a gang war, another time you are shooting cops off of high-rises, and another time you’re just collecting the protection money that you need. To list every type of mission would take forever because nearly every mission is new, which makes sure the game play never gets stale.

The gangster atmosphere is very realistic in the game. The good parts are that enemy gangsters will recognize you either as an enemy or a friend in the game. When you are a friend, they will sometimes help you out by shooting a pursuing cop, or maybe an enemy gang member. As enemies, though, they shoot at you or your car on sight. This gives you diplomacy towards other gangs, and gives a nice gangster atmosphere with themes of loyalty and betrayal.

The greatest attention is pad to the tiniest of details to make the world seem as real and immersive as possible. Attention is paid to small details like billboards, cars, road signs, and traffic cones to make the city seem like a living, breathing world that you could destroy. Graphics on cars are relatively good for their time. People say things like “watch it!” or “Are you blind!?” when you hit them or are driving poorly. They yell and scream when you begin to shoot in the streets. The fact that the radio not played in certain vehicles like the police car or plane because they don’t have them in real life adds more immersion to the game and the illusion that this is all a real place with real people. Randomly it will rain or be foggy to make it seem like the city has weather. Day and night cycle around (with a real 24 hour clock to aid you) combined with the weather makes the city seem alive and moving and not just a city put on repeat mode every time you turn on the game. It is a great detail that, unlike the previous titles, every car is different in their own way. Sports cars, while fast and sleek, break easily and blow up quickly, while trucks and vans, which are slow and have poor turning, can take quite a beating from cars. All of this adds up to one cool experience in a realistic sandbox world.

Music, though taken directly from real life, is played cleverly through the system of the radio. Instead of making the game seem shoddy by taking songs from real life artists, it makes it seem MORE realistic by putting them on the radio and only played when you’re in a car or vehicle. The songs on the radio are taken directly from the time period, with the exception of the 80’s and classical music stations, both of which have songs taken directly from that era. This, again, adds to the immersion of the game.

Finally, the fact that these types of games were nearly unheard of at the time of this game’s release makes this game a great must-have for any fan of the series. Not only did it make sandbox games a standard industry practice, but it set in motion a new genre of gaming which no one had ever heard of before.

The Bad

A lot of this game’s problems come with AI and graphics. The AI, while it is smart at some parts, is very stupid at other parts. If you stand atop a high rise and fire at the crowd below, police will ram into the wall where you are standing and fire at it. They make no attempt to even aim upwards, which really makes things like rise sniping a very boring and easy task. Also, the people in the city, while seeming extremely life-like an animated, go nowhere in the city. They mindlessly wander streets, and if you follow one person, you will notice that they circle the city for hours with nowhere to go. This really takes away from some of the realism that the game has to offer.

The graphics aren’t perfect for the time. In a time where games like Final Fantasy X were coming out, this game has some lack-luster graphics. It is understandable though that the graphics were stripped down a bit to make sure the game runs without any lag at all. However, the graphics when compared to other games are satisfactory enough to deliver a realistic sandbox game while not completely concentrating on the eye candy. However a lot of good can come out of this. From the lowered graphics I have never ever experienced slowdown or lag, even when the screen is flooded with bodies, FBI cars, and people running and shooting everywhere.

A huge gaping detail they left out is the fact that you can’t interact at all with people or buildings in the city. The only building you can go into is the ammunition and guns store. People won’t talk to you if you go up to them, and nothing can be picked up except guns and other icons lying around that give you missions or hidden packages. Had this been included in the game, it would have made this game even more revolutionary for its time.

The game unfortunately has a limited amount of guns. The two sequels to this game came with three sets of guns, all of them equally interesting and fun to play with. This game had a relatively small amount of guns in its arsenal compared to some other shooters on the console which limits some of the replay value of going around just shooting anything that moves.

Another tiny annoyance that the game has is the fact that it has no easy way of returning to a contact point when you die or get busted. Unlike Vice City, where the game made a taxi show up to bring you to your last mission spot, you have to travel all the way back to the mission spot to get to try the mission again. Sometimes this an get so annoying that you will end up dying on the way there trying to find shortcuts through all of the traffic.

Another problem does not lie with the developers, but with the parents and people who play them. This game, because it displays such a realistic portrayal of violence and crime in the big city, is unsuitable for children. As a result this game carries a bad name with Christian and parenting groups. The truth is that this game is completely acceptable to play if you are not able to handle the type of violence depicted in this game. I do not think violent video games belong in the hands of children, and in order to enjoy this game you need to be mature enough to know the difference between real and fantasy. It is strongly recommended that children do not play this game.

Finally, a huge problem with the game is again not the developer’s fault, but the gamers’. The fact is that this game NEVER gets taken seriously enough to be considered a deep game where in fact that it is one of the most realistic and deep sandbox games of its time. The fact that this game allows players to do nothing but shoot up pedestrians and ride of curbs does not mean that that is the entire game. In fact, it is very far from it.

The Bottom Line

Not only did GTA 3 have a profound effect on the gaming industry, it had an effect on the gamers as well. GTA 3 is just as entertaining as it was 4 years ago. Its influences on modern games are hard to ignore in today’s video games. Too many times this game has not been taken seriously as a revolutionary title because it is known for its mindless violence and its controversy. GTA 3 is undoubtedly a revolutionary title that is worth a try, as long as you can truly appreciate it.

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