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Game Profile
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on November 02, 2005

Specials: Curl up with some Hot Coffee and get educated, GTA style.


Five years ago, if you told anyone that Grand Theft Auto would revolutionize gaming and become one of the most influential franchises in the world, hardly anyone would believe you. After all, GTA was a flawed, but ambitious, overhead 2D title that was more glorified thug action than anything, and was destined to be just another mediocre controversy magnet. The games had a solid following but to call it an elite name in gaming would be a falsehood. However, anyone with a mind to the future could see the reality in GTA ? the franchise was simply ahead of its time, built on hardware that couldn't handle the true vision of DMA Design, known now as Rockstar North. And that's exactly what happened ? Grand Theft Auto III not only made the GTA series truly relevant, it also changed many rules of gaming...and single-handedly gave Sony unprecedented dominance of the game industry.

Come take a trip through time, and see how a franchise went from a cult hit to a cultural phenomenon, and set the tone for an entire generation, and made sandbox gameplay the buzzword of the early 21st century. It's a long, bumpy ride, but at the end, Grand Theft Auto stands tall as the game that changed everything.

In The Beginning, There Was...
On February 28th, 1998, gaming changed forever....though it took more than 3 years before anyone noticed. On that date, Grand Theft Auto shipped for PC, and thus began a path to immortality. Not long after that, the game showed up on the PlayStation as well, under the publishing arm of the now-defunct ASC Games. Developed by DMA Design, who were best known for the Lemmings franchise at the time, GTA aimed to be innovative and unique, thanks to a massive series of cities that were open-ended, full of areas to explore and discover. However, even though 3D technology was coming into its own, GTA's massive world was simply too large to render in that dimension, even on PC, which was coming into its own in terms of 3D graphics. As a result, DMA was forced to go old-school, and presented the game in an overhead, 2D perspective. For some, this was great, but for others, it was hindered by this, and didn't do a fine job of demonstrating DMA's vision of a living, breathing city.

However, though the game was limited by its technology, GTA demonstrated a unique gaming experience. While game violence was still a hot topic, GTA embraced this perspective, letting you carjack innocents, kill indiscriminately, and follow a storyline heavily based on organized crime and other sorts of no-gooders. Each of GTA's three cities were monstrous, and all had a vast amount of discoveries waiting for the exploring types. Fans of the current titles will quickly recognize the cities used in the game ? Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. In addition, GTA is the lone game in the series to get a true expansion pack, in the London 1969 disc, for both PS1 and PC. The London expansion was nothing special, but for fans of the game, it was just another big city to explore, in a whole different era ? a trademark that has stuck with GTA games ever since. As Rockstar is well versed in history, the publisher has set up this cult hit as a 100% free download on their official website, letting those who jumped on the GTA wagon late experience the growing pains of Grand Theft Auto.

Respect Is Everything...
GTA was a cult hit, but it was more known for its controversy rather than its gameplay. GTA2 was an improvement, but at the same time, it didn't far too far from the tree, as they say. Taking place in the future rather than the present or past. GTA2 was more about respect, as your main goal was to earn the adoration of numerous gangs on your way to the top of the city. The game progressed the same ? you went to the bosses of the respective gangs, did missions for them, and thus your respect increased. It was a different way of doing things compared to the original, even though the game played exactly the same.

Which was pretty much its detriment; the overhead perspective remained despite advancements in 3D technology on PC, almost as if DMA didn't want to make the move. As the series was primarily a PC series at the time, it was a surprise to not see them take advantage of the brewing 3D card wars. As a result, the game felt even moreso than the original. The game shipped for the PC and PS1 like normal, but there was even a Dreamcast version released in 2000, though it took little advantage of the 3D technology in the system, if any at all, making the game look even more outdated on such a powerful piece of hardware. Obviously it had its fans since the game sold well, but the game needed to be changed if it was to reach its ambition. Today, GTA2 lives on in one notable way ? the catchy, goofy theme song made its way to Grand Theft Auto III, as homage to the early days.

Everything Changes...
With the release of next-generation consoles with far more powerful 3D capabilities, the potential for Grand Theft Auto could finally be realized. Thus, with Grand Theft Auto III, DMA Design was able to craft a version of the game that wasn't forced into a top-down perspective, and better demonstrate the ideas they had in mind with the first game. Released in October 2001 after a minor delay to clean up 9/11 sensitive bits (such as the infamous Darkel), GTAIII didn't have a whole lot of fanfare (especially considering the PS2 had a game like Metal Gear Solid 2 taking up all the hype from PS2 owners), until that long-lost tactic called word of mouth began to spread around message boards and game shops across the US and UK, and suddenly, GTAIII was the hottest thing in gaming. Shortages were reported, reviews were high, and gamers felt the freedom of a living, breathing city like few games have ever delivered.

As your unnamed character, GTAIII let you do anything you wish, within the parameters of the game ? and those were quite wide parameters. Feel like just driving around, listening to one of the dozen or so radio stations full of weird commercials, bizarre disc jockeys, and of course, music? GTAIII lets you. Want to just explore the city of Liberty on foot, be it for hidden packages or simply to take in the atmosphere? Go ahead. Feel like...err...borrowing a taxi and shuttle Liberty City citizens to and from their destinations? You can do that too. And that's not even mentioning the entertaining but satirical Mafioso-themed storyline full of memorable missions, which you can do at your own leisure, and in many different ways. At the time, Liberty City was the closest thing console gamers had to living in a virtual city, and many were locked into the game for months, exploring and finding new things to do every time. This game single-handedly changed this business, giving birth to the gaming clich? known as 'sandbox' gaming ? where you can fool around at your leisure and do as much or as little as you see fit.

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