Grand Theft Auto 3

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Grand Theft Auto 3
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Grand Theft Auto 3 box art

Developer(s) Rockstar North (PS2, PC); Rockstar Vienna (Xbox)
Publisher(s) Rockstar Games
Release date(s)
Genre Action
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature (M)
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, PC, Xbox

Grand Theft Auto 3, or GTA 3, is a video game developed by DMA Design, published by Rockstar Games in October 2001 for the PlayStation 2 video game console, May 2002 for Windows-based PCs, and in November 2003 for the Xbox video game console. It is the third in the Grand Theft Auto series.


Setting and Gameplay

The player controls a character in Liberty City, a fictitious East Coast city (often said to be very loosely based on New York City), who is never named (though he is referred to variously as "Fido", "The Kid", or "Mr. Black", and "Claude" in a brief cameo in the series' later game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; he is also theorized to be "Claude Speed" from Grand Theft Auto 2), who is double-crossed by his partner/girlfriend, Catalina, during a bank robbery and sent to jail. While he is being transferred, an attack on the police convoy sets him free.

He then takes on work as a local thug and rises in power as he works for multiple rival crime gangs. The principal activity in the game is carjacking: the player may walk up to the side of a passing car and press a single button to yank the driver out of the car, get in, and start driving. Each car has its own particular performance characteristics; for instance, a "Mafia Sentinel" car is much faster and able to corner much better than a minivan. However, attempting to car-jack a Mafia vehicle often results in pursuit by the former occupant (who is invariably armed). These risk-reward balances give the game more subtlety than the nature of the in-game actions would suggest.

The Liberty City Police Department, or LCPD, is the city's largely ineffective police agency. They are underfunded, a situation that has made body armor rare, except for their higher paid SWAT unit and forcing many officers, even Internal Affairs into doing business with organized crime groups, such as the Mafia and Yakuza, to make a living in this dark city.

Walking around
Walking around

The player has a degree of freedom in his actions that was groundbreaking in 2001 and today arguably has only been surpassed by the game's sequels. He is able to go on missions (shaking down a local business for "protection money", clearing the streets of drug dealers, or assassinating leaders of rival gangs, for example) in order to advance in the ranks of his current gang. Alternately, he may choose to drive around the city, stealing cars, running over pedestrians, and avoiding (or opposing) the police. If the player acquires a taxi cab, he can pick up designated non-player characters as fares and drop them off at different parts of the city for a cash payment; carjacking an ambulance lets the player pick up injured NPCs and drive them to the hospital for a cash reward. Police and Fire Brigade missions are similarly available.

Thanks to the strikingly open-ended game design, it is quite possible—and common—for players to ignore the main missions and play the side missions, or simply cruise around enjoying Liberty City's sights. The game is remarkable for its depiction of what seems to be a very large city with things happening all the time in different neighborhoods. Passing vehicles and pedestrians are not just cosmetic "flavor" for the environment, but are actually part of game play: cars can be stolen and smashed; citizens can be beaten up, robbed, run over, or shot; law enforcement and members of rival gangs can be engaged and will respond with weapons of their own. The game is also noted for the emergent behavior of its non-player characters; pedestrians sometimes get into fights, and car accidents between non-player vehicles may occur on their own, without any player interference to trigger these events.

Stealing a car on Grand Theft Auto 3 (PC Version)
Stealing a car on Grand Theft Auto 3 (PC Version)

One of the game's subtler inclusions was a series of radio stations:

  • Head Radio
  • Double Cleff FM
  • K-Jah
  • Rise FM
  • Lips 106
  • Game Radio FM
  • MSX FM
  • Flashback 95.6
  • Chatterbox

Main article: Grand Theft Auto 3 soundtrack

Missing image
Driving a taxi

In GTA3, much of the music was specially written for the game (as well as many songs originating from the first two GTAs), however the Xbox and PC ports allowed the player to use their own MP3s, and later games included actual, licenced music. One of the stations was a full-length talk show, and many of the callers were actually characters from the story missions, often demonstrating the same views and eccentricities that had become apparent to the player during the missions.

All the stations featured commercials at intervals. The commercials often referred to their official websites, such as ( All of these sites actually existed, they were set up to tie in with the game; however, although looking very much like genuine online stores, all links to purchase or order the products actually led to ( The radio ads also gave out their official phone numbers which were also (apparently) registered by Rockstar; however in this case curious gamers only found an answer phone at the other end.

The PC version of the game has been criticized for performance problems, especially in light of the much smoother performance of the next game in the GTA series, Vice City. This was undoubtedly a technical problem; the game engine rendered everything within the draw distance, even things hidden behind buildings or trees, whereas Vice City only rendered what could actually be seen. The PC version had higher resolution textures and a custom option for MP3s.

The Xbox version was initially supposed to be released in spring 2002 but it was shelved when Sony signed an agreement with Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar Games' parent company), making the GTA series a PlayStation 2 exclusive until November 2004. However, the agreement was amended in 2003 and the GTA Double Pack containing both GTA3 and GTA Vice City was released for Xbox in December 2003. The Xbox version has improved audio, polygon models, and reflections over the PC and PS2 versions.

Market Performance and Critical Acclaim

Upon release, GTA 3 unexpectedly emerged as a smash hit at its initial US$49.95 price and became the #1 selling video game of 2001 in the United States. Later discounted to $19.95 as part of Sony's "Greatest Hits" program, it continued to sell well and went on to become the second best-selling video game of 2002 (behind only the next game in the series, 2002's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). This was a remarkable achievement in an industry where most games experience strong drops in sales despite price drops, as gamers have a strong tendency to purchase only the "next new thing". GTA 3 continued to sell well as part of the Xbox GTA Double Pack (GTA 3 and GTA Vice City), even though GTA 3 was two years old when the Double Pack hit shelves in December 2003. The Double Pack's success for Xbox was due to several factors, the critical acclaim (not just for the GTA series but also for the Xbox improvements) and controversial game content, two games in one, graphical improvements, and lastly the Double Pack debuted at half the price of a regular Xbox game.

The game was touted as revolutionary by several game review websites and publications, and received such rewards as Game of the Year from Gamespot, Gamespy, and Cheat Code Central, and Best Action Game of 2001 by IGN, receiving an average of about 95% from the review websites and publications. [1] (, [2] (


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The player flees from police pursuit

GTA 3 is controversial because of its graphic content, and it generated moral panic upon its release. For examples of video game violence, many TV news channels often show a play session of GTA 3 where the main character is gunning down pedestrians and blowing up police cars. The player is rewarded with cash for various illegal and immoral actions: one allegation, frequently cited in the press, was that in the game, players had to carjack a car, pick up a prostitute, have (implied) sex with the prostitute, and then kill her and steal her money. This action, while permitted ("sex" restores the player's health, up to 125% of its normal maximum), is never actually required and like all in-game crimes incurs the wrath of the police. Non-mission crimes such as this also lower the player's criminal ranking in the statistics screen.

After inially being released there, the game was later banned in Australia—the only country to do so—and a censored version of the game was released in its place. A key reason why this course of action was taken was that Rockstar did not submit GTA3 to the Office of Film and Literature Classification, the body that, among other things, rates videogames according to their content in Australia. Lacking a suitable R18+ rating (the highest rating being MA15+), the game was 'Refused Classification' and banned for sale because it was felt that the game was unsuitable for an audience older than 15, but younger than 18. Australia still does not have a R rating for videogames, but it does for movies. Interestingly, whilst the sequel Vice City was censored, the next sequel San Andreas was not (despite featuring more 'mature' content), leading many to conclude that the only reason the game was banned in the first place was that the OFLC was angry at Rockstar for not submitting the game for review.

Among other things, the censored version removed the ability to pick up hookers; however it was later found that standard gore was still available if unlocked by entering what in other countries' versions was a "more gore" cheat code, and the uncensored version was also playable by changing the computer's time zone to that of the USA.

Various critics hypothesized that if children were to play the game, they might acquire sociopathic attitudes toward others. Several minors arrested for car theft in the United States claimed their motivation was derived from playing the game.

It was because of GTA 3 that the Wal-Mart chain of retail stores announced that, for games rated "M" by the ESRB, its stores would begin checking the identification of purchasers who appeared to be under 18.

On October 20, 2003, the families of Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede, two young people shot by teens William and Josh Buckner (who in statements to investigators claimed their actions were inspired by Grand Theft Auto 3) filed a USD$246 million lawsuit against publishers Rockstar Games and Take Two Interactive Software, retailer Wal-Mart, and PlayStation 2 manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment America. Rockstar and its parent company, Take Two, filed for dismissal of the lawsuit, stating in U.S. District Court on 29 October 2003 that the "ideas and concepts as well as the 'purported psychological effects' on the Buckners are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause." The lawyer of the victims, Jack Thompson, denied that and is trying to get the lawsuit moved into a state court and actioned under Tennessee's consumer protection act. The lawsuit is still pending as of the end of 2004.

External links

Previous game in series: Next game in series:
Grand Theft Auto 2 Grand Theft Auto series Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
de:GTA 3

fr:Grand Theft Auto III pl:Grand Theft Auto III sv:Grand Theft Auto III


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