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Written by  :  Dwango (300)
Written on  :  Aug 31, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

5 out of 7 people found this review helpful

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Bringing Crime and Action Game-Play to a Whole New Level: No Levels!

The Good

GTA3 brings a strong and irreverent sense of humor, making fun of the stereotypes people have of gangs and city life. Each neighborhood lampoons neighborhoods straight out of various gang movies such as the Godfather, Colors, and Do the Right Thing. The people walking along the street throw out humorous epithets. And the cut scenes can be a riot, standing the stereotypes on their head.

And the Radio… this is the best produced game sound ever. It fits perfectly in the game, sounding just like real radio, yet with an ironic twist. Even today, I listen to my radio in the car and realize how right on the comedy was. Statements such as “Music you were tired of when they were hot” and “Calling out to any sane people in Liberty City” still sound familiar and leave a smile on your face. And the music is well done, with the correct variety for each station and none sounding out of place. This game device is one that definitely will be emulated, but never reproduced.

One of the strongest points of GTA3 is the big and alive world of Liberty City. The world draws you in with its gritty cityscapes, adding to the campy feel. The constant Chinese decoration of Chinatown, the upscale feel of Staunton island complete with modern gyms, and the obvious uphill rich living over the hood in Shoreside Vale, all examples of the stylized world you are exploring.

What really brings the game world to life is the background characters. Each neighborhood carefully has placed the crowds with the stereotypical people of the neighborhoods. And they act realistically with some gang members grabbing purses, hookers and pimps having fights, and humorous little comments from each group. It feels like they have their own lives. And it really works when your character, the carjacker, get jacked by a bystander. Now you are a victim of your own kind of crime!

The game-play depend on mixes of two kinds of game-play, driving or third person shooter. But, they really have some creative ways of making the game-play interesting. Some of the games are in the main missions, which advance the story. They have missions such as get to a place in a certain time, guard a van going to an appointed place, snipe some bad guys so a friend won’t die. More like these can come from the phones, which will be pointed to by your “pager.” They mix up the types of missions, and they can be somewhat challenging, but never too difficult.

Then, the city has tons of hidden missions. You can collect packages hidden around the city to improve the weapons you get at the home. Police, taxi, fire trucks, and ambulances each have their own missions you can complete. There are Rampage icons that give you a brief amount of time to kill a certain number of gangsters or destroy a certain number of gangster vehicles. There are the creative “Toyz” missions where you drive an RC car, which will destroy gangster vehicles, and the more you destroy, the higher the score. Really, this is a lot of game-play, enticing you to explore the city and see the detailed areas.

On top of this is the freedom you have to do what you want, creating your own challenges. You can cause your own mayhem. You can rob people or chase down muggers. You can find unique jumps and try various vehicles to see how they jump. You can take the subway across the city or explore the tunnels once they are open. You can steal a boat and float around the city. You can steal a Dodo plane and learn how to fly it (difficult, but fun). You can go on your own rampage and see how dangerous the cops can really be, especially as your wanted level goes up. GTA3 really sets the standard on freedom in an action game and every activity has its own rewards.

If you have the pc edition, you have some nice treats. You can add your own music to the radio and have it as an extra station. I found Shaggy was a good addition to my stations. Also, you can get different skins for you character make a more customized look from the Elvis impersonator you seem to be playing. Finally, the graphics are much improved from its PS2 brother, with cars looking sweet and city blocks having much more detail, though character models are still unimpressive, as I will describe.

The Bad

Even though the game-play is pretty varied, it can be somewhat repetitive as they are mostly variations on the same themes. I went about halfway through the game before I needed to take a break from it. The complete-est in me wanted to get all the mini-missions before moving to the main missions, and that became drudgery before too long. Its better to take advantage of the varied missions and not redo the same ones over too often.

The illusion of the vast city can be easily ruined by the way the game handles it various pieces. Turn one direction and then back again will change the type of people and cars at a certain radius from the player. This is useful when you need new people to shoot at when reaching a mission quota, but rather weird to see. When the game needs to add people to the mix, they can be caught dropping from the air (kind of funny when you see it). Cars you collect and leave as blockades will just suddenly disappear if the world has too many cars. This can be inconvenient when you need to the set up roadblocks or create cover if you’ve got a five star wanted rating.

And despite these tricks to save on processing speed, the graphics still must suffer to make the game work. Character models are extremely blocky, especially the Lego hands everyone has. Many of the characters are so ugly; it’s hard to match them to the nice hand drawn characters in the map.

Another issue is the way missions can be cheated easily. On one mission I need to avoid the police by being chased around and keeping alive. I found I could run into a garage to hide until the timer expired, not the desired point of the mission. And this can be found in many missions where all you need is luck to win. Some races or chases were made obscenely easy when cars would destroy them selves by falling off cliffs or get trapped in ally’s you could navigate but they can’t.

Now, the next big problem is the story. It’s a simple get revenge on the former lover story that has some promise. But much of the time what you are doing does not make much sense. You just get told do this or that and don’t see why you are doing it. Then you start helping out new bosses with no real reason of how or if they are furthering your goals. It does not help that the main character is silent, so his motives are always his own. And it ends suddenly, feeling like they ran out of time and had to end it.

And this is my final gripe. The final area, Shoreside Vale is poorly used. They made a complex place to navigate that seems ripe to create new challenges for the game-play, and then they never really use it. Sure, you get to go there for a few missions, but part of a go all over the city mission. If it weren’t for the rampages and the police missions, there would be no reason to go to Shoreside Vale.

The Bottom Line

GTA3 is a genre breaking action game that really creates a gritty yet over-the-top world to leisurely explore or rigidly complete all tasks. Now, I am somewhat biased, in I discovered GTA when it first came out and loved its game-play and non-conformist view of gaming. Really, they took the game-play from 2d to 3d, but it works so much better.

With a massive amount of things to do, the game keeps you interested. It then sells itself with a live feeling world, full of people and cars that act like you’d see in a real city. And on top of this it goes so over the top that you realize every action is a parody of real life, so you can go about this world with a smile at the wit.

Certainly, it is not perfect, as the game styles are used again and again, the illusion of the world lowers the graphics level and uses cheap tricks to populate it, and there are certain levels if the story missions can. But GTA3 succeeds despite its limitations, and its sense of humor successfully covers for these limitations.

What GTA3 achieves is something RPGs were already doing. It brings to the action table the ideas of moving beyond levels and exploring a world, with action at the core. It proves that action game-play can work within a much larger frame of reference than levels.