Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top 52: Grand Theft Auto III (#49)

This week's Top 52 features a game that caused many parents and politicans to freak out: Grand Theft Auto III. This game may have affected the growth of the rating system in video games but, it also offered (and popularized) a new way to present a game with a very open environment. Eventually, we may look at GTA III as one of the most influential video games of all time.

Title: Grand Theft Auto III
Consoles: PS2, PC, Xbox
Release Date: 10/22/01 (US)
Genres: Action
My Ranking: #49

The majority of great games I played before Grand Theft Auto III had a fantastic main quest. Either the story was fun, the music was engrossing or the multiplayer just rocked. However, the allure of GTA III was not at all because of its main storyline. I fell in love with this game because I was able to do almost anything I wanted in Liberty City, and for me, this game was the first of its kind.

By now, most of you know what kind of game Grand Theft Auto is. Within this series of games, you take control of some character who gets involved with the mafia, drug dealers, car thieves, etc. You go through a series of missions that have you shooting down rival gangs, stealing cars and doing other shady, but awesome tasks. For some players, doing these missions was the main enjoyment of the game but I won’t delve into this aspect of the gameplay, as my enjoyment lied elsewhere.

How many games can you just input a couple of buttons and have a tank just fall from the sky? This is why I loved Grand Theft Auto III. I don’t normally “cheat” in the games I played, but with GTA III, you almost had no choice not to. With just some seemingly random button pressing I could have a complete set of weapons, full health and armor, and of course, a tank. I could then ravage Liberty City as I please, running over police vehicles and using the tank’s gunner to blow up people that attempt to run away.

There was no point to this act. By killing hundreds of people and plenty of police officers, my police rating would rise up to max, which would prompt police helicopters, FBI agents and US tanks all coming after me. Eventually I would die, or input the code to instantly remove my police rating all together. Either way I ended up getting my daily dose of blowing stuff up and getting away with it.

If this were the only aspect of gameplay, the game would probably sell very well but be repetitive. However, the game simply just doesn’t stop there. While the story wasn't exactly riveting in Grand Theft Auto III, I enjoyed working for the different mob bosses and drug dealers, as the missions really challenged you to be a sharp shooter or a precise driver.

I cannot even fathom how difficult to game must have been to make. Rockstar made a completely full 3D environment with different gameplay engines that all worked fairly well. They had to use a fighting engine, a shooting engine and a driving engine all with a lush environment and tons of reactive characters throughout the city. There were gangs that would try and kill you if you crossed them too many times; there were policemen that would chase you if you ran over a pedestrian and there were just random drivers everywhere. To put it simply, this game created a very full environment for which you could explore in and, as a player, you could choose to play the main game, or ignore it altogether.

Grand Theft Auto did make it very easy to ignore the main storyline too with some neat pseudo side-quests like the jumping ramps. Ramps were strategically placed over big gaps and on top of buildings and you could just take any vehicle, drive over that ramp and see how far you would go and how cool you look during it. The game would even go into slow-motion so you can savor that beautiful crash into a building or on top of another person’s head. Then after you killed that person and watched your car blow up, you could take the money they dropped, grab another car and do it all over again.

Rockstar really did an excellent job of making sure that no part of this game was boring despite the openness of the setting. If you were just driving for one place to another, the player could listen to various radio stations that feature different types of music ranging from rock, rap, or even jazz. Heck, there was even an off-beat talk show station called Chatterbox which would feature some hilarious, laugh-out-loud conversations with some really dumb people. Here’s one great example when a host is talking to a nudist.

There was simply so much to do in Grand Theft Auto. The sheer amount of weapons added so much variety to the game and they never got old as a result. Rocket launchers, mini-uzis, Molotov cocktails and a baseball bat all had their own allure, causing me to enjoy alternate methods of destruction. There were also an intense amount of cars to choose from and steal, and stealing them was easy. Stop in front of car, press triangle to kick out the driver and take it. You like that sports car? Push the driver out and hop in it, it’s yours!

When Grand Theft Auto III came out, there was no other game like it, as least for me. There was a decent main story, a variety of gameplay options and a completely open world that really let the user decide what he or she wanted to do with their time. Nothing was forced yet everything was enjoyable. GTA III was really a new experience at the time it came out, and this game justifies why the GTA series is immensely popular today.

My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2, PC, Xbox)
#48 --- Revealed on 08/05


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