The GTA Story – Big Apples 1.0: GTA 3 And Liberty City Stories

GTA 3: THE Revolution

Aaaaah, remember playing GTA 3 (or rather GTA III, but who cares anyway) for the first time? Remember testing the awesome physics for 4 hours? Remember sitting there with friends trying out all the crazy stuff which you couldn’t do in games before (at least not in 3D)?

Grand Theft Auto 3 was a revolution! It might not have been the first 3D free-roam game (DMA’s (later to become Rockstar) Body Harvest or the competition from Driver did that before), but GTA 3’s wild mix of freedom, satirical over-the-top humour and the choice of playing a crooked gangster were just the right ingredients to define a genre. Mind you, there were also the 9 radio stations full of music, hilarious ads and Chatterbox FM with wacky topics to be discussed in detail. You could just sit in a car and listen to the radio for hours. In this regard, the GTA series remains unbeaten even today.

The setting of GTA 3 was New York. Or well, Rockstar’s vision of New York. Liberty City was divided into 3 different islands, although the last one was part of the US mainland (of course, you couldn’t use the tunnel to leave Liberty City). Mostly, the city looked like any other random city in the US – there weren’t that many landmarks (well, besides Central Park, the “Liberty City Cathedral” really standing out, and some iconic skyscrapers), especially if compared to True Crime New York or Prototype … Unfortunately, Liberty City also feels a bit dull compared to the colourful Vice City, the smog-filled Los Santos, the foggy San Fierro or Las Venturas in the middle of the desert. 12 years and probably 24856342 games set in New York later, there should be a law forbidding any developer to use the setting of New York for at least 5 years!

Speaking of New York: 9/11 had an impact on GTA 3: The game got slightly delayed and there were some cuts and changes: Police cars were changed, the Dodo was clipped so we couldn’t fly properly anymore, and one mission giver named Darkel, who wanted to bring havoc and mayhem to Liberty City by giving you rampages – or one mission which became one of El Burro’s: Drive an ice cream truck, lure people to you, and then detonate it. Sounds like 9/11 now, doesn’t it? If you want to know what Darkel looked light, look here:

But what’s left if you play GTA 3 today? To be fair, let’s not concern ourselves with graphics. Anyway, first of all, you realise the wobbly controls, the terrible aiming and the cars that break down after hitting two obstacles. If you manage to get used to it, GTA 3 still doesn’t hold up to the standards the later games of the series have shown: Most characters are rather dull (or, as the protagonist himself, rather dumb), the missions are mostly pretty basic (and you’ll curse the game for the lack of checkpoints), and the story is basically a pretty simple revenge story. But still, as soon as you meet the finest characters, such as the estranged mob boss trophy wife Maria, the rather twisted billionaire Donald Trump or the psychopathic antagonist Catalina, the game hints at the things to come.

At the end of the day – and in hindsight – GTA 3 feels more like a tech demo. Missions, characters, story and the engine are not refined yet, and while it was fun back then, it’s a bit tedious today. There’s Vice City and San Andreas, and while they have different strengths, both outgame GTA 3 by miles.

GTA Liberty City Stories: The Mob Simulator

Rockstar decided it was time for some GTA PSP love, and that’s how GTA Liberty City Stories was born. Later on, it was also ported to the PS2. Actually, Rabidgames played both versions. Sadly, the control mechanisms on the PSP were not to his liking, so let’s talk about the PS2 version of GTA Liberty City Stories (to be called LCS from now on) instead.

Mind you, LCS was released after San Andreas. Yet still, the controls felt more like GTA 3 – especially the aiming feels horrible compared to San Andreas. The setting was pretty much the same as in GTA 3, taking place a couple of years before the events of the “main game”. The city was different in some aspects, but most were explained in a rather violent fashion.

Remember that fat fuck Tony Cipriani from GTA 3? Well, you play a slightly younger and way thinner Mr Cipriani in LCS. You rise ranks in the Leone family (as usual, similarities to any movies are pure coincidence in the GTA universe), and you’ll get to meet many well-known characters from various GTA games – some of them have rather shocking secrets (yes, we look at you, Donald Love)! Be careful though, this video contains spoilers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFizKuYiZcU

There are lots of things to do in LCS, and while the characters are more fleshed out and the missions are varied, the clumsy controls and the lack of any checkpoints hold back the experience. There’s one mission in particular where you have to escape the cops … Good luck, mate. They just ram you head-on until your car explodes. Try running slow, you get hit. Try running fast, you’ll get hit. Missions like this one purely rely on dumb luck (if you’re getting hit in the first ten seconds, reload).

In many other terms, LCS was another step back: No more RPG lite aspects, just one city instead of three, no businesses, no assets, no proper gang wars. True, it was supposed to be the successor (timewise predecessor) to GTA 3, but even when it was released, something was missing. These days, this feeling has just become stronger. LCS might be one of the weakest GTA games, and that mostly because of the anachronistic features.

Rabidgames is wary: It’s hard to condemn GTA 3. After all, GTA 3, has defined gaming in the last 12 years more than any other game. But from today’s perspective, it simply has grown old, weary and tiresome. Even if it was a revolution back then, the world has kept spinning, and the formula has been refined. Or would anyone prefer International Superstar Soccer to Pro Evolution Soccer 6?

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