Review by Naved007

"Greatest Game Ever"

Unreal sense of cinematic display, from the movie-like (The Thomas Crown Affair) opening to the voluminous cut-scenes to the music and inventory system. Apparently, enough gameplayers and gamemakers have grown up to want something more in their games, and in the last four years videogames have grown. In Rockstar's fourth effort on PlayStation 2 (Midnight Club, Smuggler's Run, Oni), Grand Theft Auto III truly incorporates everything that its creators have strived for in a ''proper game'' since Take-Two created the upstart game division in 1998. In it, gamers have the chance to get dirty, to play the role of an ambitious, low-life criminal. The game is riddled with a breadth of goodies starting with the Mafioso rags-to-riches story, high-quality music, telling cut-scenes, and not ending with its giant, bristling, extraordinarily complex landscape. What makes Grand Theft Auto III so much different and so brilliant in this third iteration is that while, with its huge scale, we might find familiar gameplay elements, the whole thing, the monstrous size and scope of the game, delivers something more than just the actual value of its parts. Having taken advantage of PS2's new technology to expand and develop their vision, the makers of Grand Theft Auto III have created a complete videogame experience like few, if any, before it. Let's get one thing straight: This game is not for the weak. It's not for people who like a little poofy dragon chase or a double butt-bump for shiny coins. Nah. Grand Theft Auto III is about knocking people off, it's a game about criminals and the things they do. You can shoot gang members with simple 9s or run them over in a car (accompanied by a funny squish sound), or toss a grenade at their feet, and watch them split apart at the seams, transforming into a puddle of blood. It's visceral. And, you can do this with innocent pedestrians, too; homeless people, businessmen, shoppers, (no kids), and bag ladies. As far as videogame content goes, it's about as far from Super Mario 64 as you can get. Lastly (and then I'm off the soapbox), is this: The thing that makes this effort so different is that it's got a distinct sense of humor. Dark humor, to be sure, but humor nonetheless. The characters you meet, the random AI on the street, even the kinds of missions you get sent on, at their core, point at the insanity, irony, and the humor at the darkest aspects of life. This is not a murder simulator (come to think of it, no videogame I know of is), it's a work of entertainment, an escape from reality, and at times, it reaches beyond the standard videogame medium to the level of art.

Gameplay: 10/10 The huge world that's packed with hundreds of various missions is addicting, to put it mildly. Players start off as a nameless criminal, who in the midst of a bank robbery, is double-crossed by his girlfriend, shot, and left for dead. As the ''kid,'' ''friend,'' or whatever your latest boss decides to refer to you as, you escape from the police through a mysterious high-level hit-and-run, and begin life again with the help of your friend 8-Ball and the Italian Mafia. From there, the game leads players through an odyssey of non-linear missions for various factions of organized crime, from the Italian to the Japanese mafia and on. The 3D world of Liberty City is on a scale that's truly epic, consisting of three large urban areas, the industrial, commercial and suburban districts, each with appropriate architecture, landscapes, and aggressive, distinctive AI.
What makes Grand Theft Auto III so different than other games in the series is the volume of characters, cut-scenes, and story imbedded in nearly every mission, large or small. Players find that their missions are packed with characters who are acted out at a professional level, and who perhaps sound more far more realistic than their simplistically visual caricatures reveal. The game actually does have a beginning, middle and end, too. Players can choose missions from telephones like before, or they can be paged like before, but most often, there are central characters whose missions drive the story, and whose missions tell the story, too. Thus, players find that in amongst the throng of distracting missions and the humungous landscape that must be traversed, there is a central focus, and it's there when they're ready. For example, I spent the first three hours of playing Grand Theft Auto III choosing some primary missions, but found myself constantly being distracted by random missions, side jobs, and simply exploring. My own personal raison d'etre was just to find the impressive insane stunt jump sections and to test the cars to their limits. After I got my fill, I then went back to playing the story in a more linear fashion. Players essentially can play the game as fast and as linear as their skills allow, or as distracted and as random as they feel. It's just another way in which Grand Theft Auto III offers freedom, non-linear gameplay, and variety like never before. What's just awe-inspiring about Grand Theft Auto III is its sheer size, geographically, and utter volume, in terms of missions. There are seriously hundreds of missions. The three cities are dozens of miles in relative size, and they open up gradually as you progress and as each of the bridges is ''fixed.'' Once all bridges and subways are ''repaired,'' players can drive, ride or walk, if they want to, to every section of town. The game delivers a seemingly unlimited sense of freedom, enabling players to walk or drive across virtual miles of roads, beaches, subways, into buildings, etc. Unlike the first two games of the series, players can walk into buildings, in some cases, to balconies, apartment building rooms, or even rooftops, and they can explore, jump off and die, shoot helicopters, whatever. When playing GTA3, most of the game takes place in a vehicle, and a few on foot. It's another variable that people tend to forget when they first see GTA3. The point is not only size but also ability. Players are offered an amazingly free and easy sense of movement in the game, and the level of commands -- the input list -- is huge and dynamic. Players drive cars, and have a huge list of car-related things to do (carjack, jump out of a burning car, steer, accelerate, brake, power slide, etc.), but they get to do lots of things on foot, too. One can walk, run, sprint, jump, pilot a boat, handle 11 weapons, open doors, and carjack any one of 81 (yes, 81) vehicles in the city. It's all handled with a simple interface and an ease of use that's instant and gratifying.

Graphics: 9/10 When it comes to the visuals, Grand Theft Auto III blends several kinds of elements to create a whole fleet of stylized looks. The game features a particular style of artwork, basically hand-drawn caricatures of the various starring figures in the game. The artwork is performed with heavy outlines, and depicts real kinds of people, ones that are heavy, balding, square-jawed and square-headed (in some cases), and all of them convey a kind of urban chic, heavy, experienced fatigue, or even sadness. The artwork shows up in the cutscenes and during loading times, and it's interesting, but personally it's not my cup of tea. But what works in a sort of weird way is the mixture of this gritty, corrupt cast of characters that move about in a 3D world, flanked by the artwork at every corner. Add the nicely lip-synched cut-scenes using in-game models, that blink and move about with relatively realistic human movements, and you've got an unusual and formidable combination. The guts of the game are delivered through a streaming process that's very difficult to achieve; just ask anyone of the few developers who have used it. Using a combination of streaming techniques and the help of RenderWare, DMA has created a game that offers an incredible display of effects and techniques, and yes, a phenomenally huge game that's simply awesome to look at. There is a day/night system that provides a constantly shifting flow of events. You'll see an incredible moon that takes up what seems like half the sky the first time night comes by. During that time, you'll also notice that different people come out and inhabit the streets -- and act differently, too. The game is packed with weather effects as well. There is a heavy fog that clouds the city at times, while at other times, it's as if the sky is pouring with rain. The smoke and fire effects are good, too, with most of it revolving around the cars themselves. Lens flares, tons of moving objects, and a flood of good textures fill in the gaps. The actual characters look very good, in their own weird, slightly grotesque (as in the literary meaning of the word) fashion. The clothing textures on the central character are great and feature everything from pocket flaps to zippers, while the faces highlight facial sideburns, facial lines, moving eyelids and other unique facial features.

Sound: 10/10 Incredible music production values, with a littany of great voice-actors, bands, musicians and DJs that put it on a shelf of its own. Every aspect of the sound in GTA3 is unbelievably and meticulously delivered. The sound is certainly one of the game's strongest points. The list of bands, songs and people who were involved in creating the sound in this game is unbelievably large. As with the previous games in this series, every car you jack has a radio in it tuned to a different station. Old ladies in their sedans might be listening to a classical station, while younger dudes might be listening to a reggae, house or oldies station. There nine different stations to listen to and players can quickly and easily flip through them by pressing L1. The selection of stations is awesome, with more than three and half hours of CD quality music, and the sound quality is superb, to say the least. The stations include Head Radio (commercial pop), Lips (commercial pop), Double Clef (real classical music), Game Radio (hip-hop), Chatterbox (talk radio), K-Jah (reggae and dub), MSX (drum-and bass), Rise FM (trance), and Flashback (retro '80s pop).

Closing Comments: This game is so awesome it should be a buy. I don't care what you say this game is the game of the year.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/08/02, Updated 09/08/02


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