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At Liberty City


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*This is written with the knowledge that GTA1&2 exist I played them but also written with the understanding I think those games are shit lol

The announcement of the Grand Theft Auto trilogy got me thinking about these games again, particularly GTA3. GTA3 is such a ground breaking game in almost every way. The specific thing I remembered today was first starting the game, and the game saying push triangle to hijack a car, followed by the immediate question of…any car? Then trying it and thinking wait. I can push triangle on any car?! That one action is the prime example of what that whole game was about. It was the first game that truly felt like you can just try anything on anything. It had it’s limits, but for the time it changed perspective on how open and what freedom in a video game could be. I’d never played a game before that allowed the player to apply their own ideas to a game so much before. It was one of the most ‘next gen’ experiences I ever had.


One of the things people talk about with Ocarina of Time is first stepping out on to Hyrule Field and feeling like the world was so big and you can go anywhere. Which might be the most untrue thing about that game that field is very empty. GTA3 was that though. It was my first game where not only was there that sense of oh, this whole world is up for grabs, but it delivered on it too. Whether it was as dumb as “how many cars can I get on this train track?” Or as big as “If I can get across this bridge what will happen?” to “How long can I survive against the cops”.


That type of experimentation, that type of really using the game’s own systems to push against it’s other systems. Because the game was so open there was so much to try. 

It’s funny how routine and condensed open world games have become when you think about it. Either I’m too used to the systems that GTA3 invented that I don’t have that curiosity anymore to bother trying to actually ‘play’ or games don’t do enough to provoke that curiosity (Except for you BotW, it’s why you my baby)

Even aside from the technology jump and player freedom. The look, feel and era of GTA3. Man. GTA3 is what a serious crime sim seemed like it should be when I was 13. It coincided perfectly with me just getting in to rap and gangster movies. It was playing the music I was listening too.


As I grew up the sequels became more and more cartoony and pushing the crazy more than pushing the realism. Yes GTA3 is crazy too and I knew it at the time, but it was as realistic, or as close to as a game about crime got.

Maybe I’m trying to preserve my nostalgia of the game too hard but in comparison VC (Which I’ll allow because it was basically Scarface: The game) and especially San Andreas felt like they jumped the shark. Over the top crime sim with a heavy side of satire became a cartoonish action movie trying to be South Park and push limits that had nothing to do with crime at all.

Even if the entirety of GTA3 is not this, the scene of sitting in a parked car in the rain and under a grey sky, with a Mac 10 and someone you don’t know, waiting for some other guy to leave a restaurant and get in his car you just put a bomb on. Shit is gangster. Something that so much of GTA has got away from. GTA3 is silly too, but the ratio of silly to serious crime sim was much more balanced and so much more my thing. 

It’s why my next favourite GTA game after 3 is 4. I think 4 also gets the ratio wrong and is too serious. It tries to implement too many real world systems in it. But I’ll take that over Trevor or some shit. 

I expect too much time has passed for the new remaster package to recapture anything of the feeling of playing that game at the time. Will they do the work to it, will they leave the right things alone, will the game come off too limited and small by today’s standards. Also just not being in the same place or life I was growing up in, that was probably pivotal to what made me love that game so much too. Truthfully I don’t think I even need or want it to recapture that feeling or time. But today it’s making me think about it. 

I can’t really put words to it. It was one of those game experiences that changed everything. A true landmark that changed what video games were and raised the bar. The biggest game experiences aren’t about being the biggest game it’s about enabling the player to do bigger things than they could before. Which is why being able to hijack any car was so fundamental. There were games before you could push triangle on any car and games after you could push triangle on any car. There were games before GTA3 and after GTA3.

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1 hour ago, Maf said:


I can’t really put words to it.


Don't know about that.😀


Anyway, I read your treatise, so that's something. I had a similar reaction to San Andreas (because that was the current GTA when I started gaming). After playing a few trad, linear games I just had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with all the freedom. Amazing. I still hold that game in high regard, even though I've grown increasingly cold on the GTA format. (Says the guy whose just started a third playthru of Sleeping dogs)

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I've never felt the inventiveness with these games. I guess the level of interactivity was unprecedented at the time, but actually for me the parodic stuff, music, and characters ended up carrying these games cause of how restrictive and frustrating the actual missions were. How they fail you if you deviate even slightly from a predefined path, something which became unforgivable for me with RDRII with how bad that got (and how standards shifted)


San Andreas is the exception as it's one of the best games ever. I think even Oblivion on 360 didn't match it for its scope. They threw the kitchen sink at it and some of the systems feel kinda pointless but it gave it a feeling I like to call auxiliary scope. Where the sheer volume of optional surface level shit honestly kind of enhanced the feel of the game's scale. Gave it flavour, makes it feel like they really thought of everything. The haircuts and going to the gym and not eating too much. It matters that you can go into burger shot and that eating too much will make you vomit, even tho it doesnt' actually change the gameplay that much. You can ride a bike up a mountain. Why? Why not


GTAIV tried the same thing but failed to make it actually fun to engage with, it got wrapped up in that same shit that makes GTA missions all boring. All stiff and restrictive like


Anyway the remasters aren't going to change things in such a massive way because they are replacing the old versions on store (because they are the same game). So they will feel like small little sandboxes. Except San Andreas, that game is actually still sort of decent but in want of some minor aiming control improvements (which the PC version already has anyway)

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I think maybe not having a PS2 at the time gives you a different perspective on this.  And also... Look, I'm not saying Driver 2 is comparable to GTA3 but it was the first 3D game where you pressed triangle to get into a car (any car (I think, at least most cars)) and that had better driving physics.


I got that eye opening level of freedom from Marrowind and while it doesn't have the action the scope of the interactivity is so much higher.  


I played it a little at a friend's house just passing the controller seeing who could last longest with full police level up but when it did come to Xbox with the trilogy pack I enjoyed it enough to finish each one but I didn't like the shooting or the driving, I thought the humour was very 50/50 even as a young idiot (19 after looking it up).  It treaded water but I found it playful enough.  I still recognise it's influence and know it's an important game but they're nowhere near my personal favourites.

I do vastly prefer GTA4.

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I do like San Andreas but it was also the game that lost me. I thought it was going to be the game I really wanted especially when it starts with a get away on a push bike while someone’s trying to drive by you. That’s exactly the game I was after. Then by mission 4 or 5 you’re robbing the army and I was like huh. Ok. It holds that boyz’n’hood stuff for a bit longer. Driving around, tagging, listening to 2Pac and Dre on the radio. Then it starts to escalate and the further it goes the less I cared.


It’s the same problem I have with GTA5. That game has a stock market, animal hunting, yoga mini games, off road racing, marathons, towing cars, riding motorbikes on top of trains. You name it, it does it. But I just don’t care about it at all. I admire it for being such an accomplishment. I’m not interested in doing any of it though.


It’s why Red Dead 2 is my favourite R* game since GTA4. There’s a version of that game where you ride reindeer over the wild west and hump Bigfoot’s in the forest but they said no. Despite sharing many systems and mechanics they made the anti-GTA5 which was a lot more enjoyable to me. 

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I never owned a ps2 and only got to play gta3 when I was at a friends to find every pigeon.* I haven’t looked at it since but I do recall at the time liking how grim it looked and vaguely remember a side story of a serial killer.**

I can’t imagine it could hold much interest today as it’s so restricted and empty I think? and I’d rather play Driv3r.


*I just checked and that was gta4. 3 was packages


**wtf I’m reading this wasn’t true?


Why am I even writing about this game, I know nothing and my childhood was a lie. 

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7 hours ago, HandsomeDead said:

And also... Look, I'm not saying Driver 2 is comparable to GTA3 but it was the first 3D game where you pressed triangle to get into a car (any car (I think, at least most cars)) and that had better driving physics.


That went through my head when I read maf's post as well. I had exactly the same feeling he did – when I was playing Driver and Driver 2. Driver 2 had its fair share of problems but being able to run around with that awfully animated, almost sprite-like Tanner and not being limited to one car per excursion, which would end of banged up and destroyed after a few minutes, was absolutely mind-blowing at the time and accomplished on a system vastly inferior to the PS2, but still in full 3D (so not like GTA 1&2).


But as an overall feeling of unprecedented freedom it certainly matches what maf describes. 

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I had to look up Driver 2 because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it but those graphics are amazing for a PS1 game. 

I don’t know what Driver game it was but my memory of playing Driver was starting a game, having to do a driving test in a garage, being stuck in it for ages and turning the game off. It didn’t quite hit the same as GTA3.

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The intro in the car park is the first one.  It is pretty infamously hard as you had to check off some driving techniques with a time limit and it wasn't the best at reading  when you did them.  It's an unfortunate introduction to a pretty cool game.  It's much more focused as a mission based driving game so it doesn't have the scope of a GTA so would never truly hit like it does.


But it was striking with the sequel when it's only real addition was being able to get out of the car before it wrecked for most missions (with some it was the objective to secure a particular car), it did make the game a bit fairer as the original wasn't an easy game and it legitimately felt like things to come and is a step in the evolution of the genre I often feel is missed, even if I do also think it was them purposefully trying to get infront of the first 3D GTA.

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GTA 3 is a pivotal moment in gaming for me & is probably one of the biggest leaps that has and will ever happen in gaming as far as I’m concerned. I couldnt believe the freedom, it looked great & at the time to me it felt like games were growing up here. This felt to me like the first true adult/mature game to rival films. Feels stupid to say now but at the time that’s how it felt. 
Also the most fun I’ve had in a game with cheats. Spawning Tanks and destroying everything & the Dodo plane was a endless challenge in trying to master. 

I basically agree with Mafs post 100%. 

The only real negative about GTA 3 is that it made me wish all games were open world, which has come true these days. How stupid I was for wishing for that, if only I’d have known. 


I also believe 3 is the best one, obviously won’t hold up but none of the others have matched it for me. Maybe Ballad if Gay Tony.
VC felt too flat, both figuratively and literally - the city basically had no hills.   I just wasn’t into 80’s stuff at the time either. I did like how it was a retelling of Scarface though, love that film. 
SA just had too much in for my liking. It was too overwhelming & I really couldn’t be arsed with all the meters for my character- the working out, eating etc. Luckily didn’t have to engage with it much. 

GTA IV I loved the physics engine and the city. But wasn’t as enamoured with the characters, side friend stuff and story. Plus it pulled back from SA too far and removed too much of the fun stuff. Something The Ballad of Gay Tony solved to a extent though. 

GTA V is like SA for me. Just too much going on again. Love Trevor though. 

Don’t get me wrong they’re all 8-9/10’s but 3 was the highlight for me. 

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I echo most of what Maf has said really, GTA 3 is an incredible accomplishment and a masterpiece for me. It changed the whole gaming landscape for the foreseeable future and set gaming on a different trajectory, making other developers realise a whole 3D open-world game was possible.


I was only about 12 when GTA 3 came out. I'd played GTA 1, GTA London (GOURANGA!!) and GTA 2 on PS1 and/or PC so I thought I knew what to expect going in but then this cutscene started playing and I was like WTF? As GTA was very much top-down and not very cinematic up to this point. Then you take control of a car with the camera very much behind it rather than the top-down perspective and my mind blew even more. The whole structure of being allowed to go pretty much wherever you wanted (within the first island at first), pick up these missions from quest-givers at certain locations rather than be locked into the story like in other games was just crazy. Just watching this huge city go past you as you drove about seeing everything animate in real time was just so damn crazy at the time. I remember finding it bastard hard though and I could never finish it, I think I unlocked all the islands but got stuck somewhere near the end. It was only years later towards the end of the PS2s lifecycle when I was a little older that I went back to it and finally finished it off. 


As a result the hype I had for Vice City and San Andreas was through the roof. I remember buying OPM and PSM2 looking at screenshots of Vice City and having my mind blown at how different it looked from GTA3, so colourful, so vibrant and such a different vibe. The actual game itself I was disappointed with compared to 3 though, the soundtrack was phenomenal but the city not as engaging. I remember getting to the bit where you own the mansion and the story missions end, thinking I finished it and everything else was like a New Game+ type of deal so not bothering with it. It was only at school a few weeks later I realised there was other missions in there and that the faction missions continued the story on, but I never bothered. Also, I've never seen Scarface so all the references to that went over my head unfortunately. 


San Andreas was a return to form though. I remember to this day making my old man go to Woolworths on the way to school so I could pick it up, getting it in my hands and knowing I'd be able to play it after I got home, I was so bloody excited. From what I remember about the game it had such a cool vibe to it with the 90s rap music, south central LA Boys N The Hood vibe. It was absolutely gigantic as well, I remember just exploring seeing how far I could get before the game cut me off and getting to the dirt track area to the North of the Vinewood Hills before the game tried to reel me back in. I think in the end there was just too much to do for my now 15 year old self, I remember trying to do a lot of the gang turf stuff and just kind of getting burnt out on that and how long the story was also that bloody train mission!!. That huge game world was still a highlight though with how varied all the different cities were, being able to properly fly planes, the ability to ride push bikes etc. was a real step up on the formula and a much bigger leap than Vice City. As a side note, it's kinda crazy to me how many folks here didn't have a PS2. 


GTA IV was absolute shite for me though, just needlessly dull and devoid of fun, Niko's cousin was the most annoying thing ever, I constantly wanted to murder him. I remember being so damned hyped for it, seeing at the ads with LCD Soundsystem and being able to play it on my favourite console (360) at the time were all big pluses. It also coincided with my parents going away on holiday so I had a bunch of mates round and we all took it in turns to play it, passing the controller on when one of us died. Even when GTA is shite it's still an 'event' everyone talks about. 


GTA V was a massive return to form for me and brought back the fun factor, it's the only GTA I've 100%d too. In latter years it has perhaps gone a bit too far in that direction but speaking as someone who played it when it first came out in 2013 and hasn't touched it since, I bloody loved it. Trevor is a fucking legend too.


I'll likely be 40 before GTA VI comes out 😢

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