In the run up to one of the most anticipated games of the year – Red Dead Redemption 2, I have decided to start a Rockstar Retrospective series. Looking back on all the quality titles which have come from this development studio. One game stands out, it’s a game that I owned on it’s original platform – the PS2 and one I recently purchased for the current Sony system of the PS4. Thirteen years ago Grand Theft Auto III exploded onto the scene and with it a slew of memories were created. From crowding around the living room of my student apartment and passing the controller around to friends. To almost failing exams because I was immersed in the beautiful details of the city where my digital character raised hell.
As can be inferred from it’s title, Grand Theft Auto III is the third in a series of games which sparked controversy wherever it went. It’s predecessors were focused on a cartoon style top down perspective. Indeed that perspective is still an option when you cycle through the in-game cameras. Almost all of the game mechanics have survived through the various iterations of the series as well. Instead of removing the tried and tested formula which made this series so popular. Rockstar wisely chose to expand and evolve the experience. This brought an increase in the sheer potential of fun in a freshly realised and realistic playground.
Taking place in the urban sprawl of Liberty City, it’s a game that took immersion seriously. From the high rise skyscraper of Staunton to the residential boroughs of Shoreside Vale. The city feels truly alive and filled with not only pedestrians going about their daily routines but also a cast of interesting characters who send you out on various missions. You play as Claude, a mute but determined criminal who is obsessed with revenge. After being shot and left for dead by his own girlfriend after a bank robbery he’s understandably pissed off. You begin the game by instantly making ties with the local Italian Mafia and begin to run errands to build up cash and learn the location of the treacherous Catalina.
Gameplay consists of driving around and shooting guns. This doesn’t sound extremely exciting but on release, this title was seen as fresh and innovative. These two common axions of gaming were infused with creativity and thoughtful design. This open world sandbox which Rockstar had crafted had no equal at the time and still a delight to visit today. The masterfully curated radio stations, incredible voice acting and hidden secrets dotted around the map helped to make the title feel unique. In recent times, virtually every open world title has some debt to pay to Grand Theft Auto III, it’s footprint is everywhere.
What Rockstar achieved with Grand Theft Auto III was truly remarkable. It was such a thrill to have an open world sandbox title where you could leave your car and walk around. This was something attempted by the Driver 2 game but was poorly executed. GTA III is genuinely humorous and packed with interesting intricacies. I achieved so much enjoyment in it’s environment even when not going on missions. For me it was a pure rampage simulator. Causing havoc and destruction and then going on the run from the cops and the army. Ducking down side alleys and pulling people out of their cars as I desperately looked for a ‘Pay N Spray’ shop to hide from the police.
I see this title as a toybox or a virtual recreation of the little mats you used to get to drive your cars around when you were a kid. It’s a game which will always live on in my heart because of it’s innovation and it’s attempt to gift gamers with a form of freedom and choice in it’s design.
You can still pick up this title on the Playstation Store and if like me you love to feel the heady wave of nostalgia, this is worth a purchase.