Posted on March 22, 2013
My Top 100: #6 – Grand Theft Auto III
Here’s another series that really made the transition into 3D nicely.
I remember playing the first Grand Theft Auto game on a PC in Technology class. Not only did you learn a bit about computers, but it also had various modules that explored building engines, wood sculptures, rockets, among other things. For some of them (like the Lego robot-building one), a computer was required for you to issue commands. I’d always sign up for these modules with my friend Tyler, who was quite the computer-savvy individual.
Before too long, Tyler had an NES emulator running on the PC’s in the classroom. We’d have to minimize it whenever the teacher came around, but it was pretty fun to play NES games once we had finished the module’s exercises. GTA was also one of the games he installed. It was cool too, I guess, but there was always too much going on at once, and the camera perspective made driving controls a little wonky. I wasn’t really a fan, and I ignored the handful of PC sequels it got.
By the time the PS2 rolled around, everyone was talking about Metal Gear Solid 2. I still have all those EGM and Official PlayStation Magazine issues from the Summer of ’01, and previews for Grand Theft Auto III didn’t take up more than a page in either one. The concept of a free-roaming environment sounded pretty cool, but it got a bit lost in the hype surrounding MGS2 and the new Nintendo and Microsoft consoles.
It was released to immense critical acclaim in October of 2001… I guess? Maybe?
I was still busy playing Gran Turismo 3 in those moments I wasn’t studying like a mad man, so I wasn’t really aware of any hype at the time. The next month saw the release of the GameCube and Xbox, so I was completely oblivious to the apparent awesomeness of GTA3 until early December or so. My friend Wil mentioned that he’d been playing it non-stop, so I figured I’d at least rent it to see what all the apparent fuss was about.
So, I rent it… and I like it…
Gone was the awkward camera angle from the previous games, replaced with the over-the-shoulder view commonly seen in most third person shooters. That was a big deal, because that was the only hurdle in the first few games that I couldn’t overcome. It was awful, but this new third-Claude-perspective worked great!
While doing the missions was definitely quite fun, I had a blast just driving around, looking to see what I could or couldn’t do, where I could or couldn’t go, and what ramps I could turn into slow-motion super jumps. Hidden Packages, Rampages, random weapons, armor, police bribes… I found a ton of stuff that I could eventually come back to if I needed it, and the completionist in me absolutely loved looking around for little secrets.
And then, to top it all off, getting the Callahan Bridge back open gave me that same kind of feeling I had gotten after defeating Bowser for the first time in Super Mario 64.
“YOU MEAN THERE’S MORE???!??!? HOOOOLY FRIG. Amazing.”
There was more lurking around every corner on the second island, and even more stuff to find on the third. The game’s missions were also getting more and more intense, and had you taking on a variety of different weapons and vehicles.
The simple fact that you had freedom to do what you wanted, when you wanted to, was pretty damn amazing. I’ve played it more than any other GTA game to date, and despite the fact that you can do much, much more in later games, this is by far my favourite.
There’s two things I think of whenever I play GTA3.
When I first rented the game, I was somewhat skeptical that I’d like it. I brought it home, popped it in, and watched the intro… but something looked weird.
The characters were being driven around in the back of a Police van, and camera shots of the cars zooming by looked a bit… off. It was obviously raining, but why was the pavement all shiny? It looked black, and was shimmering blue on the surface. I didn’t think too much of it, since I wasn’t sure what the game was really supposed to look like.
Eventually, the cutscene ended, and I was in control of the character. Unfortunately, the pavement still looked very strange, like I was driving on a night sky, or something. It actually looked like the rain was coming “up” to the underside of the seemingly translucent pavement. It was friggin’ weird. Something was definitely wrong, for sure.
I took the disc out, and there didn’t seem to be any damage to it. I popped it back in, and the same thing happened. Damn… my experience with this game wasn’t getting off on the right foot, at all. I had to make the trip all the way back into town, and try to explain to the dude at Blockbuster what was happening.
“Uhhh yeah, the pavement looks all black, blue, and shiny, and it’s like, raining upside down, or something?”
He gave me a weird look, but had no problem in swapping my copy out for another one. My only hope was that it wasn’t something on my PS2 that was screwed up, and not reading the disc properly.
I got home, and all was good this time around. I ended up playing the hell out of that game that weekend, and got it for Christmas not that long afterwards.
My other memory pertains to a rather grumpy day I was having in late ’02.
I had just started my new job working retail, and I wasn’t used to long periods of time on my feet. I mean, I wasn’t far removed from playing 8-9 hours of street hockey almost every day, but standing in one spot behind a cash register all day was proving to be incredibly hard on my knees and back. I also had a bad head cold at the time, and I was an all-around grump-face whenever I had to work the 8:30am to 10:30pm shift.
The morning after one of those long days, I had big plans; go to the podiatrist (the foot doctor people, I think that’s what they’re called) to get my knee and back pain checked out, go to my family doctor to get prescribed something for my head cold, and then a chill-out jam session with my friend Tom later in the day. He had borrowed my copy of GTA3, so I had to get that back from him, as well.
The podiatrist looked at my feet and asked “have you ever used arch-supports?” I hadn’t, just because our family doctor had taken one look at my foot imprints as a little one and said “he has flat feet!”
Well, I didn’t have flat feet, and the “flat” imprint was caused by my ankles rolling inward, putting my knees out of alignment, which ended up hurting my back, as well.
Frig. That explained why doing simple stuff like ice skating hurt me so much as a kid.
Anyway, right then and there, he took a mold of my feet to do up my arch supports, which would no doubt help make me more comfortable behind the cash register. I remember the plaster being cold and gooey, and I was quite glad when I was finally able to clean up and put my socks back on.
So, from there, I went to the doctor’s office. It was busy, so I sat and waited for my turn… and waited… and waited… finally, an hour after the scheduled time of my appointment, I went to see the receptionist.
“Oh, you’re here! You didn’t pop in to say you were here, so I just assumed you weren’t. I’ll tell Tom you’re ready to see him whenever he’s ready.”
An hour wasted. *sigh* Whatever. I got a prescription for meds, and headed over to Tom’s.
We jammed for a bit, and it was fun. When I grabbed the GTA3 box, the instruction manual looked like a big slice of bacon. He had spilled something on it, and it was sticky and barely even pliable… I was mad, but from what I can recall, I kept it all in. Tom was pretty apologetic, and he genuinely felt horrible for ruining a simple little instruction booklet.
I was extra grumpy, and I really hope I remember that right, and that I didn’t flip out on Tom. I don’t think I did… in any case, I ended up trading the PS2 version, messed up manual and all, for the Xbox version when it eventually came out. So it’s all good now, anyway.
Just one more reason for me to have trust issues when lending games to friends…… sorry guys, I’ve been jaded a few too many times.