As of writing, I’m about 15 missions into Grand Theft Auto III from the Xbox version of *inhales* Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. *exhales.* Yes, it’s a mouthful of a title for this compilation, but it fits. Within this title are three remasters of Rockstar’s classic open-world adventures: GTA III, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas. Of the three, I’ve only played San Andreas, which proved to be a very good time. The compilation was only peripherally on my radar until just before its release day (November 11), and I jumped on it thinking that it had been awhile since I sunk my teeth into some good, ol’ fashioned GTA mayhem. Now that I’m headlong into GTA III, was it the right decision? Um…well…yes? Maybe.
Grand Theft Auto III follows the story of Claude, a small-time crook who ends up in prison after a robbery gone awry. Claude manages to escape during his transfer to prison, and he’s let loose in Liberty City to exact his revenge. The game wastes no time in making various missions available to Claude as he tries to get in good with the local mafia and others who need a guy like Claude to “take care of” things. As it’s an open-world game, one can also ignore the missions entirely and just run around willy-nilly, checking out all that Liberty City has to offer. (Well, eventually, as parts of the world are closed off early in the game.)
As far as gameplay goes, I expected that it might be similar to and possibly a little stiffer than what I experienced in the original GTA: San Andreas, and that it is. To help with its more frustrating moments, I’ve had to repeatedly say myself that I’m playing a game from 2001. Not only that, GTA III was one of the first 3D open-world titles of its kind, so it must have been absolutely mind-blowing to players in its heyday, despite all its quirks. These thoughts help quell the rage when the simple act of aiming isn’t so simple, or when my car hits an invisible obstacle and careens out of control. (Actually, just as in San Andreas, the slightest bump from anything still leads to grandiose spin-outs. So super fun during races!) I don’t know if Rockstar improved upon the mechanics of the original game, but if they did, well…then kudos go out to people who completed the original GTA III, because boy oh boy, I know that I’m a bad GTA driver, and that I’m terribly uncoordinated, but I only have so much patience.
Beyond the gameplay, making the most prominent headlines before the compilation’s release was news of its enhanced graphics. Well, seems the same goes after its release, only the news isn’t so good. Yes, the rain is awful. Maybe it’s worse in the other two games, but it’s pretty bad in GTA III. (The fact that it just comes and goes on a whim is odd, too, but I’ll chalk that up to it being a primitive weather system.) As well, I’m not sure what to make of the look of game’s characters. If anything, it most effort appears to have been put into Claude himself. From his face to his clothes, he looks upgraded compared to shots I’ve seen from the original game. Everyone else so far looks….less good. Colorful and well-rendered, yes, but somehow less detailed and a bit on the cartoon-y side, especially when compared to Claude. On the plus side, the environments look really nice. Liberty City bustles with activity, which, yes, is sometimes glitchy. But, trees look like trees, and grass looks like grass. Claude can’t swim, but water looks like water. And though I can’t drive, I like the cars, too. I’ve not gotten to what I imagine to be the swankier parts of Liberty City, so the cars are limited to basic sedans, vans, and Cadillac knockoffs, with the occasional muscle car. They look good and feel good.
I’m too early in GTA III to cast down any judgement on it wholly, but I am having fun with it so far. Playing into my own set of issues with the game is that I want it to play like GTA V, but I know that will never be the case. So, again, when playing, I have to send my psyche back to the early 2000s, when gaming’s landscape was rougher, less tactful, and people were just beginning to experiment with what could be. GTA III played a huge role in what would eventually happen with the series, and I look forward to seeing how Claude’s story plays out, bumps and bruises and all.
All images, including lede, were taking by author during Xbox One gameplay of Grand Theft Auto III: The Definitive Edition (© Rockstar Games, Inc.).