Grand Theft Auto III is the follow up to the previous top down iterations in the series. Featuring similar themes to its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto III diverged from the 2D top down perspective to a 3D third person perspective and become revered as one of the most influential games of the 6th generation of consoles and establishes a basis for one of the best selling game franchises in history.
Grand Theft Auto III went leaps and bounds beyond the previous games, leaving the top down view to become an expansive open world third person shooter, establishing new precedents for graphics in games. GTA III popularized the then-mostly-unknown concept of "sandbox" gameplay, where a player can go anywhere in the game, and is not required to follow a linear path. Also new to GTA III was an auto target system, allowing the players to overcome difficulties with aiming on the PS2. The PC version of the game, which could take advantage of a mouse, dropped the lock-on system in favour of a superior free-aiming system. The final defining implementation was the radio, something to be included in every other game in the franchise except Grand Theft Auto Advance. The soundtrack was expansive, including satirical fake advertisements between songs and distinct DJ's on each station.
Though Grand Theft Auto III was one of the games that made the PlayStation 2 a must-own system, the game was originally optioned to Microsoft as an exclusive launch game for the Xbox. However, Microsoft turned Rockstar's offer down, objecting to the content of the game and how the company and their new system would be perceived because of it, which led to the game launching exclusively on PS2. Eventually, GTA III would come out on the Xbox in the form of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy pack, bundled with sequels Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
In October 2011, Rockstar announced that Grand Theft Auto III would be released on select mobile and tablet devices in celebration of the games 10th anniversary. The game was announced to be coming to A5 enabled iOS devices and select Android phones and tablets and was released on December 15th 2011 to a favourable reception from critics.
In the beginning, the main character (who was later given the name "Claude" in GTA: San Andreas) is escaping from a bank with his girlfriend Catalina and another partner after robbing it. Just when they are about to get away, Catalina shoots the protagonist and her and the third robber make off with the cash.
Later the player, who survived the gunshot, is being transported in the back of a police truck to a prison. Suddenly, the doors fling open and the player, along with a explosives expert known as 8-Ball, are set free. Apparently, the Colombian Cartel needed a prisoner free and it just so happens that he was in the same convoy as the player and 8-Ball. 8-Ball knows a place where they can lay low, so the two drive over to the safehouse.
The protagonist puts on some new clothes so the police don't recognize him: the trademark black jacket with green pants. He then heads over to Sex Club Seven and meets Luigi Goterelli, a man connected to the Mafia (specifically the Leones) who has work available. He has the player pick up a girl named Misty from the hospital, and when he returns the player is informed about a dealer giving out drugs (a new Colombian substance called "SPANK") to Luigi's girls. Luigi, naturally, is rather upset by this and instructs the player to kill the dealer and return his car to them. Luigi, pleased that the protagonist is doing such a fine job, provides a few more jobs and has the player meet Joey Leone, who gives him more dirty work.
Claude works his way up the Leone chain of command, and starts getting missions from top Capo Toni Cipriani and eventually, Don Salvatore himself. The first of these missions involves the Don's loudmouthed wife Maria. Later with the help of 8-Ball, Claude blows up the docked ship in Portland Harbor the Colombians are using as a SPANK factory. Salvatore says he has one last mission for Claude before they can celebrate the win against the Colombians though, and asks him to take care of a car behind Luigi's that someone's been killed in. However, on the way to the mission, Claude gets word from Maria on his beeper that it is a set-up. After meeting Claude at the docks, Maria admits the Don had sold Claude out to the Colombians because she told him they were an item. Asuka Kasen, a friend of Maria who is in the Yakuza, escorts the pair across the water to Staunton Island for the first time. She then becomes Claude's newest mission-giver, first insisting that he kill his old boss Salvatore before they do anymore business.
Asuka also introduces Claude to her brother Kenji and a crooked cop, Ray Machowski, both of whom start giving Claude work. One of Ray's missions involves Claude stealing back evidence for "an important man in town." This man turns out to be Donald Love, a Liberty City media and real-estate mogul who employs Claude's help to rescue the Old Oriental Gentleman that was taken by the Cartel in the game's opening movie. After that, Love asks Claude to get a Cartel gang car and assassinate Kenji Kasen, in hopes the Yakuza will blame the Cartel and start a bloody turf war that will drive down real-estate prices. In retaliation, Asuka attacks the Cartel-controlled construction site in Staunton and takes prisoner Catalina's right hand man Miguel, who was present for the bank job that Claude got double-crossed at.
A bound and tortured Miguel offers up information that helps Asuka and Claude take down the Colombian's SPANK business. The game's penultimate mission has Claude rushing to the airport to collect a new SPANK shipment getting dropped off at Francis International Airport. When Claude returns to the construction site, he finds Asuka and Miguel have been killed and a ransom note left by Catalina stipulates that Claude must bring $500,000 to a mansion in Shoreside Vale in order to rescue Maria. When the exchange goes down, Catalina predictably screws over Claude again, and makes off in a helicopter. Claude fights off scores of Cartel gunmen and follows the chopper all the way to Cochrane Dam, where he shoots it out of the air with an RPG, finally getting his revenge. Maria's fate is ultimately in question, as Claude was able to rescue her, but (presumably) killed her shortly thereafter due to her incessant yammering. We hear a gun fire and Maria stop talking after the camera pans off them walking off into the sunset.
The main character in GTA III is nameless within the context of the game itself. However, many speculated that the character was named Claude Speed, who is the protagonist of the previous GTA game. Game files on the GTA III disc reportedly list "Claude" as a text string. Rockstar went on to place the GTA III protagonist into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where his silence becomes something of a gag. A lone phone call in GTA:SA identifies the protagonist as Claude, but this still isn't concrete proof that the man is, indeed, Claude Speed.
GTA III's rendition of Liberty City (which was also used in Advance and Liberty City Stories) is comprised of three boroughs connected by bridges and tunnels. At first, the player will only have one island to play around with, and must complete missions in the story to unlock the rest of the city. Liberty City is largely based on New York City, but also incorporates aspects of other US cities as well.
Portland (no relation to the city in Oregon) is the first island accessible to Claude. It is an industrial borough primarily based on areas of Queens and Brooklyn. It features a large shipping yard (similar to Baltimore), the Red Light District, an analog for Little Italy, and a small strip of beach based on Coney Island. Portland is home to the Chinese Triads, the Leone Crime Family, and the Diablos, all three of which may become hostile towards Claude, causing them to shoot him on sight (even in a vehicle).
The opening of the game causes the bridge to Staunton to be shut down until the mission "Last Requests."
Staunton takes its name from "Staten," although it is actually based on Manhattan. It is a dense commercial district with large skyscrapers downtown, more modest buildings in the central, and apartment buildings in the north. Residents here are a lot more wealthy than in Portland and fast sports cars are fairly common. Landmarks include Belleville Park (based on Central Park), Liberty Campus, Kenji's Casino, Liberty Memorial Colosseum, and the Love Media building. Gang-wise, the borough is controlled by the Yakuza, Yardies, and Colombian Cartel.
Shoreside Vale is the final area unlocked by the player, upon completion of the Donald Love mission "A Drop in the Ocean." Primarily based on Staten Island and New Jersey, Shoreside Vale features many wealthy and middle class suburban homes, some housing projects, and a small commercial and industrial district (Pike Creek) based on Elizabeth, NJ. There's also an airport and a massive dam. Shoreside is attached to the mainland, unlike the other two islands, and is infamous for its hilly terrain making navigation tricky. Shoreside Vale is home to the Colombian Cartel and the Southside Hoods, the latter of which is split into two warring subdivisions: the Red Jacks and the Purple Nines.
Aside from the core narrative component, there are a number of side missions that can be completed. Taking part in illegal street racing and delivering stolen cars to order are just two of the available activities the player can take part in outside of the main storyline. The rest include:
In Grand Theft Auto III, the player can steal various service vehicles, and perform missions associated with them, these vehicles include; police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and taxis. Completing a certain level on these vehicles has various benefits for the player (like the packages rewards, these rewards spawn permanently).
While the previous GTA games had garnered average-at-best reviews, GTA III was immediately recognized by critics at the time as a landmark release. Gamespot's own Jeff Gerstmann described that the game's shift from 2D to 3D made it "a lot iller" and gave the game a 9.6/10. The game got perfect scores from 1UP.com, AllGame, GamePro, and Game Pen, amongst others, and won an array of end-of-year awards. Gamespot named GTA III its Game of the Year, the best PS2 game of the year, the best action game of the year, and the most innovative game of the year. Gamespy also awarded it Game of the Year, along with best PS2 game, best use of radio, most offensive, and tied for first for best AI. IGN bestowed it best PS2 game, and best action game, and it was also named "Game of the Year" by Eurogamer and the GDC Awards. To date, it holds a 97 on Metacritc, making it the sixth highest-rated game on the site. Game Informer placed the game fourth on their list of the Top 200 Games of All Time (the next-highest GTA game was IV ranked at 46).
Critics at the time highlighted the game's innovative structure, atmospheric sound design, expert voice-work and writing, dark and satirical sense of humor, and memorable soundtrack as stand-out features. Others highlighted the PS2 version's weapon targeting system as one of the game's few downsides. This complaint would be ameliorated somewhat when the game was ported to PC the following year, which also came with graphical improvements and the ability for the player to listen to a custom playlist on the radio.
Despite the controversy about the game (detailed below) and stiff competition from immensely popular games such as Halo: Combat Evolved, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metal Gear Solid 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, and Final Fantasy X, Grand Theft Auto III was the best-selling game of 2001. Today, it has sold over 17 million units, making it one of the best-selling video games of all time. It sold 7.9 million on the PS2 alone, making it the system's fifth best-seller.
While the praise rolled in from the games media, the mainstream press had trouble wrapping its head around such a violent game. The game has been used as a scapegoat by a number of politicians; who aimed to ban the game entirely, or at least put restrictions on its sale. Violent video games such as this formed an easy target for society's problems, and the high prevalence of underage players only exacerbated this notion. This game also sparked the publicized relationship between the Grand Theft Auto franchise and Jack Thompson, whom repeatedly tried to have the game banned, and frequently represented people who were filing charges against the game. Wal-Marts treated the game like alcohol and would card anyone who looked to be under 17. Outlets such as the National Institute on Media and Family, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times decried the game's violence, and was initially denied release outright in Australia because of the ability to hire and subsequently kill prostitutes (after which the player is able to recollect the money they just spent).
Given the nature of the game, and the fact that it takes place in an analogue for New York City, sensitivity about the September 11th attacks had to be taken into consideration before release. However, with only 41 days seperating 9/11 and the game's 10/22 release date, there was only so much that could be done. In an official Rockstar Q&A for the 10th Anniversary of the game, Rockstar clarified that game was only:
About 1% different. We removed only one mission that referenced terrorists and changed a few other cosmetic details – car details, a couple of ped comments, lines of radio dialogue etc – the game came out a very short time later. The biggest change was the US packaging which remixed the previous packaging into what became our signature style – because the previous packaging [which was released as the cover of the game in Europe] was, we felt, too raw after 9/11. All of the more extreme rumours are amusing but impossible to have been achieved in such a short period of time.
A mission-giver named Darkel, a homeless terrorist who lived in a tunnel near 8-Ball's bomb shop in Portland, was one of the larger cuts thought to be tied to the attacks, however Rockstar says he was cut some time before because he did not fit the tone of the game. Darkel's character texture remained in the game files and his voice actor gets credit in the manual. In his stead, there is a small group of tramps living in the same tunnel who have Molotov cocktails (however, they are not hostile, and will do nothing if the player runs one of them over).
Two missions in particular, one where Claude was told to blow up a schoolbus full of children, and another where Claude was told to fly a plane into the Love Media building, are fabled to have once been in the game, but Rockstar denies they ever existed. Many thought the reason the Dodo's wings are clipped was due to 9/11, but in the Q&A Rockstar says they never planned on allowing the player to fly and were surprised when people found a way to take-off with a clipped-wing plane. Early gameplay trailers showed Claude running from bright blue LCPD cars, which were changed to black given the similarity to the real NYPD police cruisers.
DJ: Morgan Merryweather
Genre: Classical, Opera
Genre: 1980's Pop music
DJ: Stretch Armstrong, Lord Sear
Genre: Underground hip hop, Midwest hip hop, East Coast hip hop
DJ: Michael Hunt
Genre: Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary
DJ: Horace "The Pacifist" Walsh
Genre: Pop music
DJ: MC Codebreaker, Timecode
Genre: Drum and Bass, Jungle
DJ: Andre "The Accelerator"
Genre: Anthem Trance aka Uplifting Trance
DJ: Lazlow Jones
Genre: Talk radio
Unlike the other stations, Chatterbox does not play music. Instead, Lazlow takes calls from listeners who voice their opinions on various matters. The show also features two interviews with guests.
*Rise FM and MSX FM are the only two stations without any commercial breaks.
GTA III was noted for its star-studded voice cast, including many gangster movie mainstays.
In addition, there are two credits given to actors who voice characters that were later cut from the game:
In October 2011, Rockstar announced for celebration of the first 10 years since release, that they would be releasing a 10th Anniversary edition of the game for compatible iOS and Android devices. As well as Claude action figure, complete with changeable clothing.
The 10th anniversary edition is the original release of GTA III onto compatible Apple iOS and Android devices. It will be released on December 15, 2011 on both devices.
Compatible devices include:
The limited edition Claude action figure was released in November 2011 and only 1,500 were made. The figure includes two outfits and several weapons.