Grand Theft Auto III (PC) Review

By Athanasios 03.10.2021

Review for Grand Theft Auto III on PC

Every gamer over thirty (and even forty) clearly remembers how the original PlayStation was sort of like the go-to platform for experiencing brand new things. One of the many classics that belong in that family of innovative titles was Grand Theft Auto; DMA's (also known as Rockstar North) top-down crime sim, where three cities were your playground, with you being free to do all sorts of crazy stuff, mainly behind the wheel. After a sequel that almost no one cared about Grand Theft Auto III arrived, which was pretty much the same deal, but in full three-dimensional graphics, blowing the minds of many a gamer back in the day. Is it a good game, though? Is it a timeless classic that can still be enjoyed after two whole decades? Or is it one more sandbox where the enormous freedom it provides is its only redeeming factor?

The game begins, and one intro cut-scene later its silent protagonist is set loose on what is basically a miniature New York. From now on he can try his luck with some small-time crimes for the local Mafia, do side-quests for other crooks, become a - crazy - taxi driver (excellent for learning a new area), ride an ambulance, firefight some fires, steal a police car and capture (aka blow up) criminals, or just roam the enormous city, and find items hidden in its various corners, discover mini-games that have you kill X number of Y in Z seconds, or try to raise the 'Wanted' level as high as possible, while cops, FBI agents, and even the freaking national guard tries to bring you down. It's hard to describe how crazy the freedom of Grand Theft Auto III was, especially nowadays, where even an open-world Tetris game wouldn't be a surprise.

Screenshot for Grand Theft Auto III on PC

Liberty City is large. It's not a gargantuan, Skyrim-like land, but it's certainly not a small town either. It's also great fun to open up a new area after completing enough main missions, with each region having its own look and overall structure. This place has it all: red light districts and Chinatowns, small "hoods" and busy downtowns, harbours and airports, mountainous suburbs and industrial areas, and so on and forth. Most of all, it feels like a real place and has plenty of character. Sure, the NPCs are a bunch of simplistic AIs walking or driving around, and this sandbox isn't as dynamic as one would expect, but the audio-visuals manage to immerse you in it all despite their wrinkles; make you a part of this cartoony version of an American metropolis. Oh, yeah. This doesn't take itself very seriously.

For all this talk from rabid parents and "journalists" about how bad of an influence Grand Theft Auto is, all three instalments of the so-called 3D Trilogy aren't really as dark as one would expect from something where theft and murder are extremely common occurrences. Yes, you can run over people, which is a deed that gets enhanced by a nice, squishy sound effect… but it's just a - more - violent version of an old-school WB cartoon, with all NPCs being an exaggerated version of all kinds of stereotypes. The same can be said about the various crime lords you'll work for. From the ruthless Yakuza and the scheming Mafia, to pervert businessmen, and drug cartels, every single character here is meant to make you laugh at their behinds, not feel threatened or anything like that.

Screenshot for Grand Theft Auto III on PC

The best example of how this leans more towards comedy, are the radio stations, with king among them 'Chatterbox,' where a hilarious DJ is talking with all sorts of weirdos from Liberty City. From the "Latin" pimp-turned-marriage counsellor and the local weakling of a Kung Fu master/diet advisor, to the numerous ads that sell gargantuan SUVs and moronic reality shows (for morons), the purpose here is for players to laugh; and laugh they will, while stations like this provide a pretty fierce satire of - mainly - American culture. As for the rest of the stations, they provide the music, which is suitably diverse and… generic, in order to feel real, if that makes sense. Even better? One can also add a couple of MP3s to listen to! Word of advice: add out-of-place, corny, and funny tunes.

When it comes to the gameplay, though, it's the part where all of GTA III's flaws can be found. The main concept is fine and all. The protagonist grabs whatever tasks he can find around, which involve anything, from assassinations and robberies, to escorts or runaway missions, theoretically without much in the way of your freedom. Too bad that the missions themselves are either boring chores where nothing ever happens while you ride from A to B, or quests that have so strict limitations that it's almost impossible to have fun with them. Timed missions, for instance, provide a surprisingly small amount of time to do what needs to be done, killing one's willingness to take risks, leading to lots of tries where you need to play it overly safe, and at the expense of the fun factor.

Screenshot for Grand Theft Auto III on PC

…Which leads to the way the boys in blue tend to behave. As mentioned before, there's a 'Wanted' meter. Killing a few people, stealing a car in from of a police officer, or sliiiiiightly touching a police car will give you one 'Star,' leading to a few cops chasing you around as if bored of their work. Do enough crimes to raise it to two Stars, however, and things start to get wild, with these zealots trying to stop you by hitting you as hard as they can, and even falling to their deaths - frequently! Don't ask about what happens after three, four, or five Stars. If you expect a skill-based kind of game you are in for an unfair treat, as enemies unload a rain of bullets on the protagonist in less than two seconds. If you want to have fun here, you need to be willing to enjoy the chaos that will ensue from a chase.

At the end of the day, the only thing that keeps this enjoyable (how much is up to one's personal taste), is the freedom on offer. If you only focus on missions, you'll be disappointed, as many of them are badly designed, so most will end up completing them, just to complete them, with almost all of them managing to aggravate in one way or another - usually by requiring long trips from one corner of the city to another, and with failure hiding around the corner, with your skill having little to do with whether you'll survive or not. Long story short, play some missions to move on with the "story," but mostly try to have fun by going nuts, and trying all sorts of things. Don't think too much, and don't try to "win" the game. Just create some chaos, and enjoy the fumes. Oh, and please do enable some cheats while at it.

Screenshot for Grand Theft Auto III on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Grand Theft Auto III is definitely one of the pioneers of the sandbox-centred gameplay… but! But while back in the day that was enough for most people, with the feeling of freedom its version of New York City provided being something almost magical, the passage of time has made it easier to notice its many flaws. The forgettable story; the irritating missions; the somewhat empty world; the clunky mechanics; and, finally the many, many balance issues. With the right mindset this can be tons of fun… but not everyone is able to have fun through chaos alone.


DMA Design







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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