Grand Theft Auto III
|Grand Theft Auto III|
The cover art design for Grand Theft Auto III, which features a style that became the standard for all regions in future games.
|Series||Grand Theft Auto|
|Distribution||CD, DVD, download|
Grand Theft Auto III is a open world action-adventure video game developed by DMA Design and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 21 October 2001 for the PlayStation 2 console, on 20 May 2002 for Microsoft Windows, and on 31 October 2003 for the Xbox console. It is the fifth title in the Grand Theft Auto series, and the first main entry since 1999's Grand Theft Auto 2.
Grand Theft Auto III is played from a third-person perspective in an open world environment, allowing the player to interact with the game world at their leisure. The game is set within the fictional city of Liberty City, which is loosely based on New York City.[a] The single-player story follows Claude,[b] a bank robber who is left for dead by his girlfriend, and quickly becomes entangled in a world of gangs, crime, and corruption.
Upon its release, the game was acclaimed by many reviewers who praised its concept and gameplay, which was coupled with the use of a 3D game engine for the first time in the series. It became the best-selling video game of 2001, and has sold over 17 million copies as of 2011. The game is cited as a landmark in video games for its far-reaching influence within the industry. The success of Grand Theft Auto III was a significant factor in the series' subsequent popularity; as of 2008, five prequels set before the events of Grand Theft Auto III have been released, particularly Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories which revisits the Liberty City setting just three years prior. Grand Theft Auto III's violent and sexual content has also been the source of public concern and controversy.
Its successor, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, was released on 22 October 2002, and also received critical acclaim. In December 2011, in celebration of the game's tenth anniversary, a mobile version of Grand Theft Auto III was released for iOS and Android. The game has also been ported to various other platforms and services, such as Mac OS X and the PlayStation Network.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Development
- 4 Reception
- 5 Controversy
- 6 Ports and remakes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Grand Theft Auto III takes place in Liberty City, a city on the East Coast of America, which is loosely based on New York City. Altogether, the city and surrounding areas take up about three square miles. The version of Liberty City featured in Grand Theft Auto was also later used for Liberty City Stories, Advance and for one mission in San Andreas, and is one of three renditions of Liberty City featured throughout the series. A previous rendition of the city was featured in the original Grand Theft Auto game, and a different rendition was later used Grand Theft Auto IV (2008), its episodes The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony (both 2009), and in a top-down perspective in the handheld game Chinatown Wars (2009). Grand Theft Auto III is set around the autumn of 2001, when the game was first released; this was indicated by the Liberty Tree website, which included plot points that connect to events in the beginning of the game in its last existing monthly entry, dated 18 October 2001. The player progresses from the east (Portland) to the west (Shoreside Vale) during the game.
In October 2001 in Liberty City, an ambitious criminal and thief named Claude robs a bank with his girlfriend and accomplice, Catalina. They are shown escaping from the Liberty City Bank along with another male accomplice as well as a getaway driver, Miguel, showing in front of the bank with a Banshee sports car. A gunshot from the alleyway is heard, indicating the male accomplice has been shot. Claude turns the corner only to find Catalina pointing two pistols at him. She tells him that she is ambitious and that he is just "small time" before shooting him and leaving him for dead. Catalina then escapes with Miguel. Although Claude survives the wound, he is arrested and sentenced to 10 years in Liberty prison.
As he is transported in a prison truck over the Callahan Bridge, the Colombian Cartel ambushes Claude's police convoy for a prisoner, inadvertently freeing Claude and a fellow prisoner, 8-Ball, in the process. Suddenly, a dropped bomb on the bridge explodes, killing everyone but the duo and splitting the Callahan Bridge, isolating Portland Island from the rest of the city.
8-Ball leads Claude to a safehouse and introduces him to the Leone mafia crime family; Sex Club 7 owner Luigi Goterelli, Salvatore Leone, the Don of the family, his Capo Toni Cipriani and the Don's son Joey Leone. During work for the family, Claude finds himself fighting the Colombians, who are being led by Catalina in proliferating a new drug, "SPANK". Meanwhile, Salvatore's trophy wife Maria, begins to take a liking to Claude. Salvatore grows suspicious and leads Claude to a death trap, but Maria saves him just in time and they both flee to Staunton Island via boat.
Claude then begins working for the city's Yakuza and its leader Asuka Kasen, Maria's close friend who has Claude kill Salvatore and get his revenge. This cuts off all of Claude's ties with the Leone family and they are now against him. Claude's work leads him to allying himself with other criminal sources, such as corrupt police detective Ray Machowski, who is investigating SPANK and is an enemy of the Cartel. Claude later saves him from Internal Affairs and the CIA by helping him flee the city and Machowski escapes to Vice City.
Claude also meets charismatic media mogul Donald Love, who maintains a huge media front, but to hide his secret cannibalism and necrophilia. In an effort to start a war between the Yakuza and Cartel, Claude and Love organize the death of Asuka's brother Kenji Kasen and frame the Cartel. Later, Love asks Claude to rescue a man who was kidnapped by the Cartel in the prison truck that Claude was in.
While on an errand, Claude finally confronts Catalina face to face, but she eludes death and leaves Miguel to his fate, showing her cruel, violent and opportunistic side. Miguel is confronted by Asuka, who abducts him believing him to have knowledge of her brother's death. Miguel begs Claude to save him but Claude, remembering his role in the betrayal, leaves him. Shortly after this, Donald disappears from Liberty City under unknown circumstances.
On the side, Claude works for smaller street gangs, like the Diablos and their leader El Burro, Southside Hoods, the Yardies and serial killer/factory owner Marty Chonks. The Yardies leader, the ambitious King Courtney, is responsible for Claude's falling out with the Diablos and betrays Claude himself after allying himself with the Cartel. This leaves the Southside Hoods to be one of the few allies Claude has.
With the war with the Cartel intensifying, Asuka and Maria learn of Claude's history with Catalina and get him to fight many Cartel operations head on. Eventually, his exploits attract the attention of Catalina. This results in Maria's abduction by the Cartel and the death of both Asuka and Miguel, killed by Catalina herself. The Colombian Cartel later demand that Claude is to hand in $500,000 in exchange for Maria's release. This gives Claude the opportunity to face Catalina once more.
When Claude makes it to the Cartel's mansion with the money, he confronts Catalina who attempts to have Claude killed on the spot. Although he has his weapons taken away, Claude overpowers his would-be executioners and fights his way to the City's Dam where Maria and Catalina are. In the resulting final firefight, Catalina attempts to flee in a helicopter and makes a final attempt on Claude's life. Claude then kills off the remaining Cartel members holding Maria. He then finds a discarded rocket launcher and shoots down the helicopter, which explodes and effectively kills Catalina. As the game ends, Claude and Maria leave the dam and Maria starts talking to Claude, before starting to complain about the state the kidnapping has left her in, such as the state of her clothes and nails, to the frustration of Claude. In the background, a news report can be heard about the firefight.
After the screen fades to black, a mysterious gunshot is heard, and Maria's voice is suddenly silenced, leaving it unknown if he killed her.
In addition to the exploits of Claude, the storyline, while not as integral to the game as its successors, depicts Claude's development of several non-player individuals and bosses, through cut scenes before the start of each mission, as the player progresses through the game. Most of the characters encountered revolve around corruption, crime and a fictional drug called "SPANK," which is a growing menace in the city.
With the success of Grand Theft Auto III and its sequels, several of these characters or their relatives reappear in future titles in the series with major or minor roles, and their personal background expanded, particularly Leone family Don Salvatore Leone along with his "girl" Maria; media mogul Donald Love; Phil, the One-Armed Bandit; 8-Ball; Catalina and Toni Cipriani.
The voice cast for the game's characters features several established celebrities. Notable voice actors include: Frank Vincent, Michael Madsen, Michael Rapaport, Joe Pantoliano, Debi Mazar, Kyle MacLachlan, Robert Loggia, Lazlow Jones and late rapper Guru.
Grand Theft Auto III inherits and modifies much of the gameplay mechanics from its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2, combining elements of a third-person shooter and a driving game in a new 3D game engine. The idea of using a 3D game engine in such a genre was however not new: the first game to combine elements of action, shooting, and driving various vehicles in a sandbox-style 3D world was Hunter, released in 1991 for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST home computers. The first developed by DMA Design was Body Harvest (1998), for the Nintendo 64. Publicly debuted in 1995 at Nintendo's SpaceWorld video game trade show, Body Harvest was revolutionary for its time, but despite above average reviews, the game sold poorly. Grand Theft Auto III takes the gameplay elements of Body Harvest and combines them with the open-ended game design of the Grand Theft Auto series to create a level of freedom and detail that was unprecedented in 2001.
On foot, the player's character has the additional ability to sprint (but is incapable of climbing or swimming), as well as use weapons and perform basic hand to hand combat; he is also capable of driving a variety of vehicles, (with the addition of watercraft and a fixed-wing aircraft).
Criminal offenses, such as carjacking, murder and theft will result in increasing levels of resistance from the authorities. If the player's "wanted" level reaches certain levels, the police, FBI, and army will respond accordingly. When the player character collapses from his injuries or is arrested, he will re-spawn at a local hospital or police station respectively, at the expense of losing all weapons and armor and an amount of money for medical expenses or bribes. While this is similar to previous Grand Theft Auto games, the player character is essentially offered unlimited "lives," as opposed to the limited number of lives in the original Grand Theft Auto and its sequel. This allows the player character to "die" as many times as she/he pleases, and render it impossible to indefinitely lose in the game.
A major feature in Grand Theft Auto III's predecessors that allowed the player to obtain cash by committing petty crimes has been downplayed in the game, encompassing only car ramming, vehicle destruction and pedestrian killing. The amount of money in the player's possession is no longer a requirement to unlock new areas in Grand Theft Auto III. There are only two exceptions to this, which require the player to have a certain amount of money. Instead, the completion of missions and unfolding of the game's storyline are now responsible for this role. Additionally, the player is allowed to return to all unlocked areas of the city. However, as new areas open up, access to other, previously available areas becomes more dangerous or difficult to explore, due to hostilities from enemy gangs.
The interface of the game has been significantly overhauled. The player-centered compass is replaced by a separate mini-map that also displays a map of the city and key locations (safe houses and contact points) or targets. Armour and health levels are now indicated in numbers, and a 24-hour clock is added. Gang behavior is no longer dictated by "respect" meters used in Grand Theft Auto 2; instead, the player character's progress through the story affects his view in the "eyes" of gang members. As the player completes missions for different gangs, rival gang members will come to recognize the character and subsequently shoot on sight.
Whereas multiplayer modes from previous Grand Theft Auto titles allowed players to connect through a computer network and play the game with others, Grand Theft Auto III was the first game in the series to ship with only a single-player game mode. As a result, third-party modifications were developed that re-extended the game with the absent network functionality through manipulation of the game's memory. One of these modifications became known as Multi Theft Auto and was developed alongside this title and future Grand Theft Auto successors.
Missions, non-linearity and narration
A common trait Grand Theft Auto III shares with the rest of the series is the considerably non-linear gameplay within the open world environment of Liberty City. Missions that are offered to the player primarily fall into two categories: storyline-based and side missions. While the game's linear set of storyline-based missions are required to advance the plot and unlock certain areas of the map, the player can choose to complete them at his or her own leisure. Additionally, many of them are not mandatory. Alternatively, it is possible to ignore the main missions and only play side missions. If the player acquires a taxi cab, they can pick up designated non-player characters as fares and drop them off at different parts of the city for cash; obtaining an ambulance allows the player to pick up injured non-player characters and drive them to the hospital for cash. Fire fighting and vigilante police missions are also available. However, if the player wishes, he or she may avoid all missions and instead choose to explore the city, stealing cars, running over pedestrians, and avoiding or opposing the police.
Whereas its predecessors merely featured a short cut scene upon completion of missions in each city, Grand Theft Auto III significantly expanded this feature, triggering cut scenes after the player enters a contact point or during certain missions. The cut scenes serve multiple purposes: as a visual narration of the storyline, as formal directions for a mission, and as a visual assessment of a scene and objective. During gameplay, mission updates and messages are relayed through text-based instructions given in the form of on-screen subtitles, or on a few occasions, the player character's pager, similar to the original Grand Theft Auto game. Grand Theft Auto III also includes one-time tutorial directives to familiarize the player with the game's controls and features.
The selection of weapons provided in the game consists of firearms, explosives, and two forms of mêlée attacks (hand to hand combat and a baseball bat). The weapons themselves are largely similar to the selection of weapons from the original Grand Theft Auto and its sequel, such as the M1911, the Micro Uzi, an AK-47 and an M16A1, the rocket launcher, and the flamethrower, which are based on similar weapons from the original Grand Theft Auto, and the shotgun and thrown weapons (Molotov cocktails and hand grenades) from Grand Theft Auto 2. The porting of Grand Theft Auto III into a three dimensional environment also allows access to a first-person view, making the inclusion of the sniper rifle and first-person aiming of the M16A1 and rocket launcher possible. In addition, it becomes possible in the game to perform drive-by shooting using the Micro Uzi, while the inclusion of magazine-based weapons introduces the need to reload weapons after a magazine has been depleted. Additionally, wielding certain weapons restricts movement. Weapons may be purchased from local firearms dealers and businesses; retrieved for free from certain dead gang members, mission-specific characters, and law enforcers; or picked up in certain spots in the city.
All versions of the game allow the player to auto-aim using a gamepad with the push of a button, holding human targets at gun point using most firearms, with the exception of first-person aiming for the sniper rifle, M16 and rocket launcher, which are aimed using the analog stick or mouse as the player presses the same auto aim button. The Microsoft Windows version includes the additional ability to look around and aim freely with a mouse while on foot; these control differences are seen in the console and Microsoft Windows ports of Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Radio stations and other media
The game's radio stations feature music specially written for the game (as well as various songs originating from the original Grand Theft Auto and its sequel), but also includes licensed music, some of which were excerpts of several actual music albums; this combination differs from those of the game's predecessors, which featured entirely original soundtracks. One of the stations is a full-length talk show, and many of the callers are actually characters from the story missions, often demonstrating the same views and eccentricities that become apparent to the player during the missions. Another station, "Flashback FM", features music from the film Scarface, which had heavy influence on the game's sequel, Vice City.
Additionally, an online format of the fictional Liberty Tree newspaper, dedicated to events that took place within and outside Liberty City between February 2001 and October 2001, was made available months ahead of the release of the game. The website, working in tandem with the official map-based website and sub-pages, also served to provide a back-story to Grand Theft Auto III, while evoking a sense that the reported events had actually taken place in real time, releasing monthly issues in its nine months of activity. The site also includes articles on criminal activities in the city and city development (i.e. delayed tunnel completion and the growth of Love Media in the city), and various advertising to fictional products. Pre-released screenshots of gameplay, the city's environment and characters were used as photographs for certain news articles.
Various commercials are featured on both the radio stations and the Liberty Tree website. Certain ads often referred to their advertisers' official websites, such as petsovernight.com. All of these sites actually existed; they were set up to tie in with the game. However, although looking very much like genuine online stores of the era, all links to purchase or order the products actually led to rockstargames.com.
Grand Theft Auto III's new RenderWare game engine created by another British games company Criterion Games was a significant departure from its predecessors, most notably because it uses a forward-viewing perspective as the default view, similar to a majority of third-person shooters and driving games, and has much-improved street-level graphics. The game also offers several additional camera modes, including a cinematic view, and the top-down perspective prevalent in Grand Theft Auto III's predecessors (this last was omitted in following titles, making Grand Theft Auto III the last major console title in the series to include the top-down view). In console versions, the game runs in the display resolution dictated by the console, while the Microsoft Windows version permits resolutions of up to 1600 by 1200 pixels.
The in-game environment is displayed through extensive use of level of detail (LOD), allowing areas directly surrounding the player to display objects in higher polygon counts (including vehicles, buildings and terrain) or minor props (e.g. street furniture), while areas far from the player are displayed with fewer polygons and less detail. As such, LODs aid Grand Theft Auto III in displaying a large environment with a further draw distance, while ensuring that the game's performance remains optimum. When traveling within the city, the game constantly swaps models of varied detail as the player moves from one area to another. However, when the player travels to another island, the game is required to load detailed models of the entire destination island, while also loading low-detail models for the island the player is leaving, requiring substantially more processing time; in the process, the game displays a "Welcome to..." screen for a short amount of time, before play resumes.
Like the environment, vehicles and pedestrians are depicted by full three-dimensional models, compared to flat top-down sprites used in previous games. Both vehicles and pedestrians are constructed from individual polygons with a central "core" (the engine, chassis and body of vehicles, and the torso of pedestrians). The damage system of vehicles represents the minor vehicle parts (doors, frontal quarter panels, bumpers and wheels) as undamaged, damaged or missing, based on collisions detected on the vehicle; the core of each vehicle remains visually unchanged despite heavy damage. As pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto III are made out of separate polygon parts (limbs, a head and a torso), it is possible to detach the limbs or head of a pedestrian (by using heavy firearms or explosives).
As the game runs a simulated 24-hour cycle, including changing weather, the game engine is also required to simulate day and night periods, as well as weather effects. This is done by adjusting surrounding visual effects and details in accordance to the weather and time of day. Other minor details are also present, like a rainbow and shiny streets after rain, and the sun moving from the northeast in the morning to the northwest in the evening.
Cuts, changes, and the 9/11 effect
Prior to the 2001 release of the final game, several modifications were made to Grand Theft Auto III. The changes were apparent as several promotional materials had previously displayed features that would be absent in the final version of the game. While cuts and changes are frequent during game development, the changes in Grand Theft Auto III were of note as they were made around the time when the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred; this led some gamers to speculate that at least some of the changes were motivated by the attacks. Few changes were made and when they were conducted, Sam Houser, the president of Rockstar Games (based in Manhattan, New York City), was quoted 19 September 2001 saying that a review would be carried out for Grand Theft Auto III, in addition to confirming the delay of the game's release by three weeks (the original, rough release date was suggested by Houser to be on 2 October 2001):
...our biggest games, including Grand Theft Auto [III], have been delayed slightly. This decision is based on two factors, firstly it has been a little difficult to get work done in downtown Manhattan in the last week since basic communications infrastructure has been intermittent at best, and secondly we felt that a full content review of all our titles was absolutely necessary for us in light of the horrifying event we all witnessed in NYC last week. As for Grand Theft Auto [III], since the game is so huge the review is no short process. So far we have come across certain small contextual references that we were no longer comfortable with, as well as a couple of very rare game play instances that no longer felt appropriate to us. We apologize to you and all the people waiting for this game to ship for the delays that have now ensued, but I'm sure you can understand our reasoning.
Among the changes made shortly after 9/11 was the police cars' paint scheme. The old color scheme of blue with white stripes (seen in previews and the manual map) specifically resembled that of the NYPD. The new color scheme of the LCPD is modeled in a generic black-and-white design that is common amongst several police departments in the United States such as the LAPD and SFPD. Pre-release screenshots in the game's official website depicting police cars had also undergone modifications, around a week after 11 September. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto IV saw paint schemes bearing likenesses to those of the NYPD's (past and present) returning, several years after Grand Theft Auto III was released.
Another cut is that of Darkel, an in-game character, for the final version of the game. Mentioned in several early video game publications and websites, Darkel was to be a revolutionary urchin who vowed to bring down the city's economy. One mission involved stealing an ice cream van, using it to attract pedestrians, then blowing it up (this mission would eventually be given by El Burro instead in the final version of game to kill a group of gang members). Darkel was also originally expected to give out Rampage-like missions, and even had his voice recorded for this part. Rockstar later decided that they would like to go back to the original system of giving out rampages as featured in Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2. Although Darkel and his missions were removed, the character remains listed in the manual's credits, as well as having a character texture retained in the game's data files. Another reminder of Darkel's existence is an abandoned tunnel in the city, associated with the character in the official website, and includes four homeless people in a group wielding Molotov cocktails. Both the tunnel and the four homeless people are retained in the final version of the game.
The Dodo airplane, the only flyable aircraft in the game, was also a point of discussion; the wings of the vehicle were significantly short, while an uncontrollable full-winged version has been seen flying around the city. However, the plane had a short wingspan, as evidenced from a preview in Game Informer (Issue #95), which indicated that the plane was to be used in a (now abandoned) mission to loft the plane high enough in its brief flight and reach new areas of the city. The Dodo is considerably difficult to control, usually resulting in short flights (although it is possible to fly the plane continuously around Liberty City when properly trained).
Other changes included stopping the selection of certain character models when using cheat codes, removing the aforementioned ability to blow limbs off non-player characters in only the PlayStation 2 version of Grand Theft Auto III (though this can enabled with a cheat code), and the removal of elderly pedestrians with walkers, school children as pedestrians (from GameSpot UK's beta preview ) and a school bus (seen in eight screenshots).
When asked about how much was changed from the original version, Rockstar stated that it's "about 1% different," and that they only removed one mission that referenced terrorists and changed a few other "cosmetic details" - such as car details, some pedestrian comments and radio dialogue. They stated that the biggest change was the cover art, which was changed into what would become the "signature style" for all Grand Theft Auto game covers. They stated that the original cover art (which was released as the cover of the game in Europe) felt "too raw" for them after 9/11. They also denied any of the rumors with school children being in the game.
Expanding on the cover change during an interview with Edge, Sam Houser said that the new North American artwork had been created in an evening and that they instantly preferred it to the originally planned cover.
Upon its release, Grand Theft Auto III received widespread critical acclaim. While minor problems and comments pertaining to graphics, performance and controls were noted, Grand Theft Auto III was touted as revolutionary by several game review websites and publications. According to Game Rankings, the game won several awards, such as GameSpot's Console Game of the Year, Game of the Year from GameSpy and Cheat Code Central, and Best Action Game of 2001 by IGN. The game's average review score of 97% on Metacritic ties it with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 for the highest ranked game in PlayStation 2 history. It was also inducted into GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time list.
Eurogamer stated "A luscious, sprawling epic of a game and one of the most complete experiences I have ever encountered. If this is what I've waited a year to see on my PS2, then I would have waited ten. Magnificent". Official PlayStation Magazine called the game "The most innovative, outlandish, brilliant video game I've ever seen". Allgame commented "From the eight professional-style radio stations to the variety of mission objectives and hidden goodies, GTA III is packed with high production values and oozing with addictive gameplay". Game Informer noted "The environments of Liberty City are stunning in scope and detail, dwarfing anything I've ever seen, and your choices are endless." While GameSpy cited "A fantastically designed and fun game that's one of the most absorbing, entertaining titles released in a while. It gets better and better with every single day, as you continue discovering new little features here and there." Of the iOS port, Mark Brown of Pocket Gamer noted that it was "a largely successful port of an iconic game, and it's still massive amounts of fun to evade police, pull off jumps and complete missions".
Grand Theft Auto III unexpectedly emerged as a smash hit and became the #1 selling video game of 2001 in the United States. Later discounted as part of Sony's "Greatest Hits" program, it continued to sell well and went on to become the second best-selling video game of 2002, behind only its sequel, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Grand Theft Auto III was bundled with Vice City for the Xbox Double Pack, which saw strong sales in December 2003, even though Grand Theft Auto III was two years old. The Double Pack's success for Xbox was due to several factors; the critical acclaim and controversial game content for the games, the graphical improvements specifically for the Xbox, and having two games in one, which led to GameSpy giving it their Best Value Award.
As of 26 September 2007, Grand Theft Auto III has sold 12 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. As of 26 March 2008, Grand Theft Auto III has sold 14.5 million units according to Take-Two Interactive. As of 2011 Grand Theft Auto III sold over 17.33 million units.
Although the Grand Theft Auto series had been an underground hit prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto III, it was this game that first brought the series mainstream success and widespread accolades. The success of the game resulted in two console and Microsoft Windows sequels (Vice City, San Andreas), both of which were able to build upon Grand Theft Auto III's success, as well as three additional titles for handheld consoles (Grand Theft Auto Advance, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories). The next generation in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV, released on 29 April 2008, also achieved a critical and commercial success. The first installment in the fifth generation of the series, Grand Theft Auto V, was released on 17 September 2013.
In 2007, GamePro called Grand Theft Auto III the most important video game of all-time, explaining that the "game's open-ended gameplay elements have revolutionized the way all video games are made". Similarly, IGN ranked the game among the Top 10 Most Influential Games.
Video game critics and players have used the term "Grand Theft Auto clone" to describe the slew of video games released which attempted to emulate the sandbox gameplay of Grand Theft Auto III.
In 2009, Game Informer placed Grand Theft Auto III 4th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it "changed the gaming landscape forever with its immersive open world sandbox". GamesRadar named it 'the most important game of the decade'. In November 2012, Time named it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time. "Grand Theft Auto III: RAGE Classic" was a fan made release for Grand Theft Auto IV which was released in 16 December 2012. It received 3,250 downloads as of 11 May 2013 with a rating of 8.09/10.
Grand Theft Auto III was and remains very controversial because of its violent and sexual content. Frequently cited in the press is the opportunity for players to carjack a vehicle, pick up a prostitute, have (implied) sex with her, and then have the ability to kill her and steal her money.
It was due to the notoriety of Grand Theft Auto III that the Wal-Mart chain of retail stores announced that, for games rated Mature ("M") by the ESRB, its staff would begin checking the identification of purchasers who appeared to be under 17.
GameSpy, which named Grand Theft Auto as "Game of the Year" in 2001, also gave it the title of "Most Offensive Game of the Year". GameSpy noted the difference between Grand Theft Auto III and other ESRB Mature rated games, saying "Counter-Strike is merely Cowboys and Indians writ large. When you get right down to it, deathmatches are just elaborate games of Tag. GTA 3 is a Thug Simulator...GTA 3 is absolutely reprehensible. This is a game that rewards you for causing mayhem. This is a game that is about causing mayhem. It's a game that rewards you for killing innocent people by the dozen."
After its initial release in Australia, the game was banned for a period and a censored version of the game was to be released in its place. A key reason why this course of action was taken was that Rockstar did not submit Grand Theft Auto III to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), the body that, among other things, rates video games according to their content in Australia. Then lacking a suitable R18+ rating (the highest rating being MA15+), the game was "Refused Classification" and banned for sale because they felt that the game was unsuitable for minors. The PC version though was reported to be uncut with an MA15+.
While the Australian version of the prequel Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was censored by Rockstar (it was later rerated uncut retaining its MA15+), the next sequel Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was not, despite featuring more "mature" content (although, later, San Andreas was once given a Refused Classification rating amid the "Hot Coffee" controversy but retained its MA15+ once edited worldwide).
On 20 October 2003, the families of Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede, two young people shot by teens William and Josh Buckner (who in statements to investigators claimed their actions were inspired by Grand Theft Auto III) filed a US$246 million lawsuit against publishers Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive Software, retailer Wal-Mart, and PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment America. Rockstar and its parent company, Take-Two, filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, stating in U.S. District Court on 29 October 2003 that the "ideas and concepts as well as the 'purported psychological effects' on the Buckners are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause." The lawyer of the victims, Jack Thompson, denied that and is attempting to move the lawsuit into a state court and under Tennessee's consumer protection act.
Ports and remakes
Six months following the initial PlayStation 2 release of Grand Theft Auto III, versions for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox were made available. Grand Theft Auto III is notable for being the first game in the series to be released on a video game console before a PC version was available. Following Grand Theft Auto III, all PlayStation 2 games in the series generally followed Grand Theft Auto III release pattern, in which the Microsoft Windows port is released within seven to eight months after the PlayStation 2 versions' release.
The Microsoft Windows version of the game, released on 21 May 2002, supports higher screen resolutions and draw distance, has more detailed textures, a customizable player skin, and a custom option for MP3 playback in cars. The Windows port of Grand Theft Auto III has been criticized for performance problems, especially in light of the much smoother performance of Vice City. This was due to technical issues; the game engine rendered everything within the draw distance, even things hidden behind buildings or trees, whereas Vice City only rendered what could actually be seen.
The Xbox version was initially supposed to be released in spring 2002 but it was shelved when Sony signed an agreement with Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar Games' parent company), making the Grand Theft Auto series a PlayStation 2 exclusive until November 2004. However, the agreement was amended in 2003 and the Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack containing both Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City was released for PS2 and Xbox in December 2003. The Xbox version of the Double Pack has improved audio, polygon models, and reflections over the Microsoft Windows and PS2 versions of the game. The Double Pack was not released for Microsoft Windows. In November 2005, Grand Theft Auto III was re-released again for the Xbox and PS2, this time bundled with Vice City and San Andreas in a trilogy compilation, dubbed Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy. There were no new changes, though the set retained Double Pack's graphical improvements for Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City. A Nintendo GameCube port of the game was also planned to be released alongside the Xbox version, but was cancelled for unknown reasons. The Xbox version also supports the playback of one's personal music library.
Following the success of the game, five Grand Theft Auto prequels set before events of Grand Theft Auto III were been released. The rendition of Liberty City as seen in Grand Theft Auto III is revisited in the Introduction and one mission for the subsequently-released prequel San Andreas. Grand Theft Auto Advance was initially intended as a Game Boy Advance port of Grand Theft Auto III, but has since introduced a new storyline set in Liberty City, roughly one year before the events in Grand Theft Auto III. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was released for the PlayStation Portable in 2005 and later ported to the PlayStation 2. The game, which is set three years before the events of Grand Theft Auto III, in 1998, is also set in the same rendition of Liberty City. Liberty City Stories is the last Grand Theft Auto title to feature Liberty City in its Grand Theft Auto III form, as Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (2009) are entirely set in a completely redesigned Liberty City.
A Macintosh version, made with Cider, was released on 12 November 2010. On 19 August 2011 the game was released in the Mac App Store. On 17 February 2012, Grand Theft Auto III was removed from the Mac App Store. It was put back on 6 March, though no reason was made for the three-week omission.
The PC version of Grand Theft Auto III was ported by War Drum Studios and released for several Apple iOS devices, Android phones and Android Tablets on 15 December 2011 for its 10th anniversary. The port was announced in October 2011, and Rockstar originally announced that the game would support for Samsung Galaxy S II at launch, however, due to "technical differences with the Galaxy S2 that make the development process a special case [but] still working on it", an update to support the Galaxy S II, Droid Bionic and Galaxy Nexus was released four days later. The mobile port is essentially the PC version of the game, along with enhanced textures and models, as well as touchscreen controls (the game is still playable using a keyboard, and the cheat codes also work). It has also been reported that third-party modifications, such as custom car models and textures originally designed for the PC port, also work on the mobile versions. When asked on the chances of iOS ports of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Rockstar told Digital Trends that it would be a "technical challenge", but said it was "very possible". Rockstar later released iOS and Android ports of Vice City on 6 December 2012 to commemorate Vice City's 10th anniversary.
In June 2012, the American ratings board ESRB re-rated Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City. Both titles were listed with PlayStation 3 as platform and Sony Computer Entertainment America as publisher. No separate listings existed for Xbox 360 releases. Grand Theft Auto III was scheduled to be released on 31 July 2012 for PlayStation 3, however, it was later confirmed that the release would be delayed due to an issue with music licensing. On 25 September 2012, the game was officially released for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network in North America.
- Games in the Grand Theft Auto series are grouped into distinct fictional universes, which share interconnected plots and characters. The "3D universe" consists of Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City (2002), Advance (2004), San Andreas (2004), Liberty City Stories (2005), and Vice City Stories (2006). The Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto III is different from the rendition in Grand Theft Auto IV (2008).
- Despite being officially nameless in Grand Theft Auto III, the player character's name is later revealed to be Claude in a brief cameo in the series' later game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). Players have also discovered that the name Claude exists internally within the text files of Grand Theft Auto III.
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