DMA Design‘s Grand Theft Auto III was where the GTA series really took off. It was released in October 2001 via Rockstar Games and took the series in a whole new direction, with a third-person street view perspective, rather than the overhead view of the previous two games.
Grand Theft Auto III is considered to be a landmark open world video game and it takes place within the fictional Liberty City (loosely based on New York City), and which is populated by lots of people and vehicles – all of which can be interacted with. You can stop any vehicle (by standing in front of it) and ‘jack’ it and drive it, which is a key part of the gameplay.
In GTA3 you play an escaped convict called Claude who is sheltered by a fellow escaped convict called 8-Ball. 8-Ball introduces you to the Leone crime family and from there you embark on a series of linear missions where you have to earn their respect by completing jobs for them.
While the game is somewhat cartoony it is extremely violent and the storyline and missions are all about breaking the law. Walking into weapons allows you to pick them up and use them, and you can even perform drive-by shootings by looking out of the side of a car while driving.
Grand Theft Auto III unsurprisingly caused a lot of controversy when it was released, because of the subject matter. There’s no escaping the fact that the game glorifies violence and crime, but it does have its limits, and is just a video game (and a satirical one at that) and isn’t meant to be taken seriously. While I understand the controversy, and have my own doubts about the Grand Theft Auto series as a whole, I do enjoy playing this game. It’s a fun sandbox to play around in. Graphically, and sound-wise, it is a significant leap forward from the previous two GTA games.
Grand Theft Auto III was massively popular and was the best-selling video game of 2001, going on to sell over 14.5 million physical copies by March 2008. Grand Theft Auto III is also the second highest-rated PS2 game, and the sixth highest-rated video game of all time, on Metacritic (although it is tied with a number of others), at the time of writing.