Grand Theft Auto 3 changed video games forever

When it launched in the fall of 2001, Grand Theft Auto 3 single-handedly redefined an entire industry. Rockstar North’s tabloid crime epic wasn’t just a hit game that has sold millions of copies, it also invented a language for open-world gaming that resonates even in the sharpest examples. recent of the genre. It was a technical marvel that pushed the boundaries, with a simulated, physics-driven city unmatched in scale and fidelity. It offered gamers an exhilarating level of freedom, hitherto unheard of, that almost instantly made linear and scripted games look old-fashioned. If Grand Theft Auto 3 had never existed, video games as we know them today would be very different. Here are just a few of the ways this story of a silent ex-convict rising through the criminal ranks changed video games forever.

At the most basic level, the way Grand Theft Auto 3 took you from walking to driving a car has really been a game-changer. This freedom of movement in a 3D world was a revelation in the early 2000s, and set the standard for hundreds of open world games to come, from Arkham Knight to Cyberpunk 2077. The first 3D games like Hunter from Activision and Bethesda Deep Cut The Terminator, both released in 1991, featured explorable worlds with drivable cars. But the implementation was primitive compared to GTA 3. You couldn’t get in and out of them seamlessly, and there was no complexity in their conduct. Rockstar’s game, on the other hand, featured a huge array of cars, vans, and trucks, each with their own unique handling and physics. immediately start driving.

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Grand Theft Auto 3 has also raised the bar for game worlds as simulated locations, rather than just static cardboard backgrounds. These are rudimentary things by modern standards, but details like talkative pedestrians wandering the streets, drivers obeying traffic lights, real-time day / night cycle, random downpours that made the road wet and brilliant, and people reacting to the chaos you’ve caused (usually screaming and running away) made Liberty City feel alive in a way no other open-world game has succeeded before. The game was also supported by a robust physics engine, which made the place playfully destructive. Rolling a grenade through a busy intersection and watching the ensuing fountain of cars explode and burn was a guilty thrill. All of this combined to make Liberty City a real, functional place – and a world that actually reacted to your presence, often in surprising or funny ways.

The feeling of freedom in the game also had a big influence. The idea of ​​moving around freely in an open world, following icons on a map, and picking up missions as you like from different characters is now a standard part of the language of video games, so much so that it’s easy to learn. ‘forget that Rockstar basically made it up in GTA 3. Suddenly, linear video games seemed incredibly old-fashioned. After getting a taste of that freedom, gamers and critics alike actively opposed games that didn’t offer a similar level of agency. I was a critic at the time, and I remember the word “linear” becoming one of the worst things you could say about a game. It prompted publishers to fund their own open world games. , and the era of the “GTA clone” was born. Some of them quickly fell into oblivion (The Mercenaries Deserved Better), while others (notably the Saints Row series) still exist today.

Grand Theft Auto 3

GTA 3 also came at a time when people desperately wanted video games to be legitimized as a medium equal to film or television. Games are pretty well respected these days, but back in the early 2000s, they were still seen as the exclusive preserve of nerds and social misfits. The game has had more impact in newspapers, with controversial tabloid journalists declaring it a threat to society. But the grown-up tone, controversial content, and cast by respected Hollywood actors gave it a credibility that video games previously lacked. Talented character actors such as Robert Loggia, Frank Vincent, Kyle MacLachlan, Debi Mazar, and Michael Madsen brought the game’s cast to life and were a huge step up from the mostly amateur dubbing found in video games at the time. Established actors making appearances in video games aren’t anything special now, but it was huge in 2001.

Grand Theft Auto 3 was a critical and commercial success, and its worldwide popularity ultimately led to Grand Theft Auto 5 becoming the best-selling entertainment in human history. That alone is an impressive legacy, but it’s the influence it has had on the evolution of the medium itself that will hopefully occupy more pages in the game’s history books. re-released next month as part of GTA: The Trilogy, with updated visuals, improved controls, and other modern upgrades. It will be interesting to see how he holds up all these years later. While it doesn’t turn out to be as fun as it used to be, it’s still an important historical artifact and a model for a whole genre.

Next: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Remains Rockstar’s Most Ambitious Game


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