Summary: Was the porting of GTA3 to the PC a sound one? Does the PC version offer something new to those who've already played (too much of) the PS2 version (you damned sociopaths)? Find out in our review!
Publisher: Rockstar Games
GTA3 official home page: http://www.rockstargames.com/grandtheftauto3/
Mischief. Mayhem. Hookers.
The Grand Theft Auto series features everything that would make a video game censor gag on their Metamucil. Rewards for random acts of violence, tons of vehicular homicide, cop killing, profanity, theft, racial stereotypes (why do Asians always have to be members of ďTriadsĒ?), guns, prostitution Ė the list doesnít end. The only way this game could get any more offensive is if the hero was a kitten-eating Al-Qaida member who liked to burn Bibles for fun.
So how do you spin hookers, drivebys, and killing cops into a cohesive game? Grand Theft Auto has done it twice before, letís see if they can do it again.
Who needs a story?
Grand Theft Auto 3 is definitely a game that doesnít need a story. Thereís no epic quest and the ďheroĒ is no Homer. In fact, our hero (you) will do anything for anybody if the money is there. Steal cars, run drug money, off your boss Ė whatever it takes to make a buck. There is a thin story where you weave in and out of gang wars and corrupt cops, but thatís not what the game is about. GTA3 is about wreaking havoc; everything else is secondary.
GTAís biggest asset is its sense of humor. Rockstar obviously had to take the violence lightly. Most of it goes over the top, like when you blow someoneís head off their neck gushes blood ten feet into the air. How funny is that? Everything from the names of cars to the billboards has some sort of joke attached to them. If you look closely Iím sure thereís some sort of joke in the trees.
450 MHz CPU
64MB of RAM
500 MB Hard Disk space
16MB Video card
1 GHz+ CPU
512MB of RAM
GeForce3 or better
Weíre gonna party like itís 1999
For a PC game, GTA3 looks outdated. This is a general problem with games that are ported from consoles Ė most of the time the developers donít bother with taking advantage of what PCs offer. For starters, the models lack detail, directly stemming from a low polygon count. The people models remind me of Half-Life or other games that came out around í98-Ď99. They have very blocky limbs and faces, and you see a lot of gaps between parts. In the same vein, GTA3 doesnít take advantage of a PCís ability to have higher quality textures. Everything looks grainy and low-resolution, even from a distance. The bigger objects like billboards and sides of buildings make this very obvious.
It doesnít stop there however, there are lots of little things left over from the PS2 engine that makes GTA3 feel like a console game rather than a PC game. Thereís a silly motion blur that tricks your brain to think there are more frames per second than there really are. If you make all the edges blurry, itís harder to tell when the frame rate drops and skips a frame or two. I can tell they did this for the PS2 version because in a fast driving game like this, where a lot of polys are moving very quickly, you donít want to see frames dropping. Itís a slick trick, but for a hard core PC gamer itís just annoying. Remember a few years ago when the graphics card manufacturers were boasting their new motion-blur technologies? It was a hot topic, but itís since faded away because everyone realized that motion blur sucks. No one wants to be shooting at someoneís motion trail.
Liberty City really impressed me by making sure that no two street corners are alike. You can walk up and down every street in the game and never see the same building twice. Everything from the storefronts to the office buildings is unique, giving the city lots of character. Each borough has its own style, from swanky upper class mansions to chinatown grocery stores to industrial factories. It makes you want to explore every inch of the city just to see what youíll find (one of the major gameplay elements). This also helps you get around the city by allowing you to memorize landmarks and relative placements. When it comes time to duck into a paint shop to lose the pigs you know exactly where you need to go.
Youíre listening to Liberty City RadioÖ
Listening to the radio stations is reason enough to play GTA3. Theyíre absolutely hilarious. The radio spoofs everything, from the genres of music to the lame DJís that fill the airways. The music is pretty good, even while it pokes fun at itself. The DJís (especially Lazlo) crack me up with never-ending jokes and smart ass remarks. Chatterbox alone will have you in stitches long enough to forget to swerve around that old lady in the middle or the road (or not). The commercials make you wish these guys would make a comedy CD full of them.
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.
Viva la difference!
I had the chance to sit down and play the Playstation2 version of GTA3 the other day (thanks Alex). Iím not really a console gamer anymore (I donít own a PS2, XBox, or Gamecube), but Iím no slacker when it comes to a joypad. This page isnít about which version is better, just about the differences between the two.
The graphics on the PC version arenít that much better than the PS2 version. While you can run at higher resolutions, GTA3 doesnít take advantage of better textures and graphical quality thatís available on the PC. Playing the PS2 version on a TV, with low resolution and an interlaced screen, I expected the PC version to look much better. Like I said earlier, for a PC game the GTA3 engine looks out of date.
Fighting is easier on the PC. It may be because Iím a longtime PC gamer, but aiming with a mouse is infinitely better than aiming with an analog stick. For example, there are several side quests that involve precise shooting Ė sniping from a distance or decapitating with a machinegun. In the PS2 version these tasks can be quite difficult since itís hard to aim precisely with the analog stick. On the PC theyíre some of the easiest quests since mouse aiming is second nature.
The camera is also better in the PC version Ė a direct result of the mouse/keyboard interface. Since the keyboard allows you to strafe and walk backwards, the camera sticks to where you aim with the mouse. If someone is shooting you from behind, you can quickly whip around the mouse and see your assailant. In the PS2 version, the camera only turns if you run left or right (and the first person camera, but itís to cumbersome to use in a heated battle). So if someone is behind you the only way to see them is to run around in a circle and wait for the camera to catch up.
Iíd say that most of the differences in the PC and PS2 versions come from the keyboard/mouse interface. If you bought a mimic DualShock controller for your PC the game would play exactly the same. The graphics will be better, but everything else is just like the PS2 version. So if you already own the PS2 version and wonder if you should get the PC version, my answer is: donít bother. Itís the same game. Rockstar only ported GTA3 to the PC, they didnít do much else. If youíre a hardcore GTA3 fan, as well as a hardcore PC gamer, you may get a kick out of playing your favorite game with a superior keyboard/mouse controller. If you have to play both versions just to see how they differ, then youíre either a game reviewer like me or you have way too much time on your hands.
SIDEBAR: The PS2 version takes forever to load. From the boot screen to the splash screen to loading saved games, everything takes forever. The PC version only takes a second or two to load anything. Is the PC version better? Unfortunately the CD audio needs to load from your CD drive, which inevitably pauses the gameplay while it spins up. However, you can use your own MP3s to play in the car radios in the PC version.
Everything your mommy told you not to do: Where else can you pick up hookers, run people over, and run from the cops?
Graphics arenít up to PC standards: Besides the 32-bit color, the graphics feel like a console game. Definitely not up to todayís PC standards.
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