You all know Grand Theft Auto III
by now. Rockstar's high-impact hooligan simulator has been in the media since well before its release on the PS2, mainly because of its mature content and themes. This isn't your typical "collect the coins and save the princess" types of game -- this is gaming with attitude.
Grand Theft Auto III puts you in the high-tops of an ambitious young thug looking to make his fortune any way he can in Liberty City, a dark urban locale teaming with hoods, hookers, and gangland warriors. Working for various underworld bosses around town, you'll be sent on assignments ranging from simple errands like carting someone from point A to point B to running money for the mob or taking out rival gang leaders, all the while looking over your shoulder, especially when Johnny law is on your tail ready to drag you down to the station to relieve you of some of that hard-earned cash.
But that doesn't mean you always have to do what the Don (or whoever your particular boss is that day) says. Simply exploring the city itself is fun and rewarding, and there's never a time when you're at a loss for something to do. That's one of the defining elements of the game...the open-ended gameplay. It's fun just to break off on your own and diverge off of the main plotline and go cruisin' around the city. It's actually even beneficial, because you'll find hidden packages and side quests that you would have never found if you had just played through the mission-driven portion of the game. The scale of the game is just mammoth, and you really feel like you're in a living, breathing environment when you're driving around the streets of Liberty City.
Although the PC version is pretty much a carbon copy of the PS2 game, there are a few enhancements thrown in, like the ability to toss in your own mp3s and playing them in-game on one of the radio stations. You can also expect hi-res graphics out of the PC version (up to 1600x1200 in 32-bit), a new character skin complete with tight jeans and a mustache for that 70s porn-star look, and the ability to dismember the residents of Liberty City with a well-placed shot. After playing the dismemberment-less PS2 version, imagine my surprise the first time I shot a passerby in the leg only to see fly off and leave the poor guy hoping on one leg.
However, the most welcome addition is the new control system in the PC version. Those of you who played the PS2 version know it was a pain in the ass to aim your guns once you were out of the car. Now you can use the keyboard and mouse, which gives you much greater accuracy than with the thumbstick. I do prefer to drive with the analog stick rather than the keyboard, but you can't beat the mouse for precision aiming. The use of the mouse also lets you explore the city like never before as you can look around the environment as you're running around the city. I literally saw signs and buildings I had never noticed before in the PS2 version, which only further immerses you into the living city feel of the game.
But alas, as good as the game is, it's not without its flaws; however, these blemishes are few and far between. About the only drawbacks to the game are the lack of any multiplayer modes and some performance issues. While the minimum specs for the game are a 450MHz machine with a 16MB video card and the recommended specs are a 700MHz processor with a 32MB card, I would suggest running on at least a 800MHz machine with aforementioned 32MB card. Even though the game is scalable, you will most likely run into some stuttering and choppiness, which is most apparent when you hi-jack a car and the radio station music has to load up. I played on systems ranging from an 800MHz to 1.6GHz, and even on the 1.6GHz I experienced some choppiness at resolutions higher than 1024x768. I also ran into a problem running the game on Windows XP with a GeForce3, but a fix is outlined in the readme file.
While we won't be posting our full review with scores and the like until after E3 is over and we have time to play the game a bit more, I can go ahead and tell you that so far I've been really happy with GTA 3 for the PC, even after finishing the PS2 version. The game is simply huge, and just gets better and better as players dig deeper into it. While the game has a few minor problems -- like the high system requirements and the lack of multiplayer -- the intense open-ended gameplay, believable Artificial Intelligence, pumpin' soundtrack, and total immersion in the cityscape make GTA 3 a delight to play. Since it's just like the PS2 version it's probably not worth it to get the PC translation if you already own its console brethren (unless you really hate the aiming system on the PS2 or you just have to have your own songs playing on the radio), but if you haven't played it and you have a fast enough system, I highly recommend GTA 3 at this point. But if you're still skeptical and want our final verdict, look for our full review of the game in a week or so.
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