A nice place to visitÖ
At its heart, Grand Theft Auto 3 is a driving game (hence the ďAutoĒ in its name). You carjack people or steal parked cars to get your wheels, and then proceed to drive like youíre in a BMW commercial. Itís really fun doing everything you wish you could do in real life Ė running over that old person taking an hour to cross the street, blowing through red lights at 100mph, swerving in and out of slow traffic, hopping up to the sidewalk, and running from cops when they want to pull you over. You can also drive a lot of different types of cars like big Humvee wannabe jeeps, suped-up sports cars, ambulances, SUVs, and even a tank.
The driving is done very well. Each car has its own driving characteristics Ė sports cars handle well at high speeds, but canít take a lot of damage. SUVs roll a lot. Cop cars are faster than youíd think. The physics in the game are pretty good too. The sports cars with rear-wheel breaks can handle skids better than four-wheel brakes since you can still steer with the front wheels while the real wheels skid. When you hit something in a car the car reacts somewhat realistically. If youíre going 100 mph and you hit the rear of the car, the car will fly into an uncontrollable spin. Of course itís not completely realistic; I canít imagine a car surviving a 200 foot drop off a cliff, but in GTA3 thatís no problem.
The key factor in GTA3ís gameplay is the gameís unpredictability. Pedestrians, cars, and cops spawn randomly. You can load a saved game 20 times, drive down the same street 20 times, and never see the same cars, cops, and pedestrians twice. So you can imagine when youíre on a mission or wreaking havoc itís always different, making hard missions even tougher than they are. For example, if you need to jack a car and race across the city youíre just as likely to end up driving a minivan as you are a sports car (although the type of cars that spawn is dependent on which borough youíre in). Sometimes the random spawning can go in your favor (a sports car pulls up right when your car bites the dust), sometimes not (pissing off cops is always a pain) Ė itís all up to luck. I like this because itís a test of your ability to react on the fly, rather than perfecting a sequence of events (how many of you can still remember all the power-ups and monsters in the first level of Super Mario Brothers?).
One of the best activities in GTA3 is going on a homicidal rampage. Load up on weapons and ammo, hop in a car and start killing as many people as you can. When your car is going to blow up, hop out, kill some more people, and run away before the cops catch you. Obviously your wanted level will increase as you kill more civilians and cops, but thatís what makes this fun. You can start off easy with only a few cops after you, but when the FBI, SWAT, and National Guard come you need to be at the top of your game to avoid being busted or killed. Thereís nothing quite like launching a rocket into a pile of police cars.
GTA3 is full of side quests. Vigilante missions ask you to drive a civil vehicle and kill criminals, drive people to the hospital, or put out fires. Rampages give you a weapon with unlimited ammo and dozens of gang members to see if you can kill a certain amount in a time limit. There are 100 hidden packages scattered across the entire city, the more you get the more free items spawn at your safe house. There are ramps around the city that let you do insane jumps in cars for cash. Basically, thereís a huge supply of diversions to keep you occupied in Liberty City.
This is also a game where the goals in the game take a back seat to playing in the gameworld. You earn money when you complete missions and side quests which you can spend on weapons, but youíre never short on cash. Money is more like a running point total a la Space Invaders rather than a resource you need to use to get through the game. This game is really about random violence and driving fast cars, no more, no less.