When you trace the roots of the 3rd person sandbox revolution to its inception you eventually arrive at Grand Theft Auto 3. To call this game a “landmark” almost doesn’t do it justice. In fact, this title basically opened the floodgates in a thousand different directions, simultaneously upping the ante of what was considered possible while also igniting the imaginations of gamers and developers the world over. Having a large city to roam around in and basically do whatever you like is STILL a very appealing thing, obviously (as clearly evidenced by the overwhelming success of GTA V) and we have this game to thank for that.
DMA design created a really magnetic and somewhat bleak world here, filled with seemingly endless depths of criminal activity and boundless possibilities. The concept of the absolutely wild and uncontrollable police chase got its wings here, with countless gamers having a blast while attempting to see how far they could take things before increasingly tougher forces were called to action. The fact that this is indeed was a bona-fide 3D experience is also worth mentioning, because at the time of its release such a completely realized world utilizing these kinds of graphics simply didn’t exist anywhere else.
Perhaps the most notable feature of GTA III was the mashing together of great driving mechanics with that of an action 3rd person shooter. Gamers had been hoping to encounter something that might be able to eloquently combine these two facets in some unifying way, and in truth, doing so within the context of an open world was basically a stroke of luck and genius. Being able to seamlessly transition between running around on foot and moving around inside of cars meant that there was twice as much fun to be had. Likewise, because the game introduced a pretty large map to explore, the dichotomy between these two modes was apparent and made the driving aspect wholly separate and altogether necessary. As if that weren’t enough, having a flyable craft in the game was also pretty incredible, which only further enhanced its overall mystique and appeal.
Completing missions is the name of the game, obviously, but rather than bog players down with obsessive linearity the developers left things nice and open, thus allowing you the freedom to actually explore and check things out. Needless to say, this inclusion was perhaps just as, or perhaps even more groundbreaking than the fact that it introduced open world, 3D gameplay. Taking everything into account, it all blended together to form a mélange of missions, a symphony of situations that made the gamer feel like a real badass villain/hero. Speaking of which, it’s tough to say exactly where the protagonist, Claude, ranks on the scale here. It’s obvious that he’s a criminal but given that the entire city is filled with so much decay and corruption, it’s hard to make a decisive moral judgment. Perhaps this is yet another aspect of GTA III that ultimately propelled it to stardom?
One of the most memorable things about this third installment was/is the use of radio stations and specific playlists when inside of vehicles and the ability to switch between them. Rather than just phoning it in and slapping in some run of the mill commercialized gunk the devs took the time to include some truly hilarious and altogether original content. Ask anyone that’s ever taken a shine to GTA III and they’ll tell you – the on-air commercials are pretty dang funny (and purposefully crude). The way they brought the city to life, making it really seem to ebb and flow is also particularly impressive. Arguably, the A.I. also marked a vast improvement when compared with various other 3D offerings of the era. This extra bit of interaction just put things over the top, bringing the whole thing to life like never before.
If you’ve never played this game before and consider yourself a fan of the 3rd person sandbox genre you really owe it to yourself to check it out. While it might be a bit blocky when stacked up against more modern games, rest assured, this is where this specific style of gameplay got its start. All things considered, the graphics are still pretty impressive, even though it was released in 2001. The impact of the 9/11 terror attacks also influenced the game’s progress, in case you didn’t know, forcing its devs to make various changes. Likewise, as it continued to grow in popularity and its visibility increased to the general public it came under pretty heavy fire from critics and antagonizing anti-gaming groups. It was also banned outright in some places, which only further added to its allure, one might say. Grand Theft Auto III basically opened the door to a whole new dimension in modern video gaming history.