Next in my list of overdue games, I finally got to play GTA3. I was not much interested in this when it first came out because I was never a fan of the first 2. If you don’t know, GTA3 (Grand Theft Auto 3) was the number 1 selling game last year and got tons of critical praise was well as being called one of the best games in years even though it was rated “M” for violence and therefore for example not sold at WalMart which will not sell M rated games and usually accounts for like 30% of all video game sales.

The controversy though is that it’s about being a car thief and a henchman for the mob. You go around stealing cars and killing people. It’s strange, it’s fun to play the game and it can get pretty intense but when I stop playing a almost feel dirty.

Cars get wrecked pretty often so to get a new car you car jack one. Run up to a car, your character opens the door pulls the driver out, tosses him on the street and you get in and drive off. As their are rival gangs it is possible for you to try to car jack a car and have that guy beat the crap out of you or chase you down or call his buddies on you.

You can drive over to the car dealer, bust through the glass and steal a fast new sports car if you want. The last mission I played I was told to run an armored car off the road, once I did that the people in the car would run for their lives so I was supposed to grab it and drive to to some special location. The thing was it was very hard to run it off the road and after bashing it for a few minutes the cops were notified of a car chase and then cops were coming in everywhere. All the cars in the game have a limit to how much damage they can take past which they light on fire and you have 10 seconds or so to get out before they explode. My car lit on fire so I jumped out, police everywhere, the closest vehicle just happened to be a FIRE TRUCK!!! I ran over and sure enough I was able to drive off with a fire truck trying to bash the armored car, police everywhere, I flipped the truck, couldn’t get out in time and it exploded. Whoo Hoo! :-p

When you *die* you just get put at the hospital with some of you game money missing and possibly a few items. Same if the police catch you except you start at the police station.

A few things stick out that make the game so much fun.

  • It’s so open. Although you can get missions from various crime bosses (go knock this guy off, go get this armored car, go take one of his working girls to the policeman’s ball for some work), you can also just drive around town for fun. Grab a car and drive. Every type of car feels different. Vans, sudans, station wagons, trucks, old taxis, new taxies, police cars. Smash other cars, run red lights, drive down the sidewalk, through parks, crash into trashcans, people, light poles, weave through traffic, drive down the wrong side of the street. If you steal a taxi you can actually grab fares. In this case it works like the game Crazy Taxi. You have so many seconds to get your fare to their destination our you lose your them. Also you can drive crazy but if you hit too many other cars/people the fare will bail.
  • The city is pretty well done. It’s not the best graphics on the PS2 by far but it works. It feels like a city. There’s various areas, the waterfront, the warehouse district, the red light district. The city is pretty large although at this point in the game I only have access to 1/3 of it. There’s also a subway and an elevated train you can ride.
  • The atmosphere is good. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s foggy and the lights seem to effect the fog like you’d expect. Night, dusk, dawn, day all come and go. It’s not perfect. For example the stop lights light up the ground green if they are green, red if they are red etc. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed that effect in real life.
  • The MUSIC/Soundtrack. This for me is probably the most effective part of the game. When you are inside any car you can listen to the radio. There are like 9 to 10 radio channels which with its own format, DJs, commericals etc and although all the commericals are jokes the whole thing sounds exactly like big city radio. There’s the top 40 station, the rave station, the classical music station, the talk station. Each program is proably 20 minutes longer or more so as you are driving around it totally feels like it feels when you are in a real car driving around a big city. The music is all real bands or sounds like real bands (not just game music). It really works. For me, this one feature is the biggest significant difference from all other games.

I don’t know yet if it will hold my interest enough to finish. One of the last missions was hard for me. It took about 8 tries. I asked a friend that has almost played to completion how he made it through and he gave me some tips so maybe once I try them I’ll keep going.

One thing that was intense. You can find a Rampage icon. Grab the icon and you are given a machine gun with unlimited ammo. You have I think 1.5 minutes to try to kill 120 people and the gun has a scope. To be honest it was pretty fun. After a few second the cops get called in and you have to start taking them out or they’ll get you. The best way seems to be to put 20 or 30 rounds into their cars and the cars blowup taking anybody within a few feet with them. It was interesting to see how far you could make it until they take you out. Of course I suppose if you get good at the game you can not only take out 120 people but evade the cops as well. The more random acts of public violence you commit (like shooting people or running over people) the higher your thug rating goes up which means that cops will hunt you down. There are anti-thug icons around the town you can collect to lower your rating so I’m guessing after a rampage you’d need to find some of those quick. I gotta say I felt a little weird after my rampage. Why that’s a different feeling from shooting someone in Half Life or Quake I’m not sure.

Another interesting thing that came up is my Japanese friends’ reactions. Mostly they have been disgusted that such a game exists and judgemental as in “that’s the kind of game only an American would like”.

Maybe it’s true, I’m not sure. The PC version of that game will come out here but not the PS2 version because parents would get upset. I pointed out that in America that game is rated “M” which is supposed to mean it’s for adults only just like all the porn and violent movies that Japan puts out. But, Japan is not really that strict about that stuff when it comes to kids seeing it. I suppose in some ways it might not be any different than what you see aimed at kids in America on MTV except that MTV is aiming at the college crowd. Young Jump is squarely aimed at teens though. I don’t quite get the logic. Plus, Japanese manga is full of massive violence, people being beheaded, cut, slashed, girls getting tortured and raped. Even in games the most popular games in Japan are still fighting games with people beating the crap out of each other and all the special grabs that end with snapping limbs or backs or necks. Anyway.

Regardless, I suggest you give it a try. Totally guilty pleasure. 😀

  • anon_mikeb
    Interesting to get your reaction on GTA3

    A guilty pleasure for me too.  I always wondered if it GTA3 was available in Japan.  Interesting to hear their impressions of it.  I wonder, though, if the game wouldn’t do well overall in Japan.  Is it possible that maybe your friends in particular are just a civilized lot who thankfully, are repelled by violence?


  • greggman
    GTA3 in Japan

    My friends work at Sega of Japan making games like House of the Dead where you blow the heads off of zombies with guns.  Or Virtua Cop where you shoot crooks.  They don’t seem to see the connection.  I guess I see one difference.  One is good (catching criminals to help make the world a safer place), One is bad (killing people, running people over, racing down streets, stealing, having turf wars with gans, selling drugs, picking up hookers and or pimping them)

    Given that these guys are all avid game players I suspect GTA3 might not do that well but you never know.  We won’t find out though since it will not be released here.

    I just remembered though, one strange thing is that one of the most popular anime series of all time in Japan is Lupin the 3rd.  Lupin is a gangster who goes around stealing stuff.  It seems like it would never run in the states because it’s aimed at kids and the main character is a criminal and it’s also totally sexist but it’s huge, it ran for 14 years, is referenced all the time, pachinko machines are based on it, it’s used for promotional tie-ins, last year 2 or 3 tribute music CDs came out about it and in fact just last year Sega made a gun game about it even though it ran from 1970 to 1984.

  • greggman
    Lupin the 3rd

    Well I checked with my friends about Lupin the 3rd.  It turns out although he’s a criminal he only steals from other criminals and he returns the money/loot to other people.  He never keeps it for himself and he never kills anybody so that explains how okay.  Of course it’s still very sexist but that’s a different issue.

  • anon_mikeb
    GTA3: segue for a cultural comparison?

    It’s interesting.  Japanese folks take GTA3 as proof that we Americans are barbarians, while some Americans consider 変体アニメ , for example, as evidence that Japanese are closet pyschopaths and/or sexual deviants.  Common sense suggests that even civilized societies accomodate fringe material.

    Even in America, though, GTA3 crosses the line a bit.  I’m still astonished — not surprised, but *astonished*, that it ever got released here.  Consider the following GTA3 scenario:

    – Steal a car

    – Pick up a hooker with it.

    – Do your business with her.

    – Steal your money back from her.

    – Kill her.

    I haven’t tried this one myself, I swear.  I’ve just seen it done.  Really. 

    But can you believe that this is even possible?  In a twisted way, this is what makes the game so great.  It’s free flowing, almost like reality.  Each person plays the game in a different way.  This aspect of the game is kind of groundbreaking, I think.

  • greggman
    GTA3: Rated “M”

    I don’t know how much the ratings are enforced.  It seems like it’s generally pretty hard for kids to buy porn or to get into an X or NC-17 rated movie.  Given that GTA3 is rated M it would be nice if it was pretty hard for kids to get ahold of it.

    My solution would be to come out with a bunch of similarly challenging games so that people would start to take the ratings seriously, at least to the extent that they do for movies.

    Unfortunately more likely the generally public would just think “all games are for kids” and try to get the games banned even if they are marked for Adults only.  Kind of like they did with comic for a while.

  • anon_mikeb
    GTA3: Freedom of expression?

    I agree.  In fact, I’m glad that the market allows you the freedom to buy a game like GTA3.  It’s just that I’m surprised it made it past the radar of Soccer Mom’s across the USA. 

    While I would officially oppose banning the game, I can certainly understand objections people might have to it.  A few weeks ago, I played it with a buddy for about three hours.  Afterwards, we went out to get a bite to eat.  And as I looked at the cars all around us in traffic, an ugly thought creeped into my mind. “Gee… I could just take that car over there.” 

    Have you heard about the incident in Santa Barbara a few months back where some kid indiscriminantly mowed down four pedestrians on a sidewalk with his car for no reason other than his own insanity?  I often wonder if he ever played GTA3.

    Still… the idea of banning games — I hate it.  Your comparison of the idea to the Comics Code Authority of the 50’s is very insightful.

  • anon_Matt
    Import Shop in Akihabara

    You know, there is a really nice import videogame shop in Akihabara. Im a little bit bad with directions but it’s kinda accross from the big black Tsukumo on the main street (goes from the station to Ueno). They are on the 2nd floor and have Import Xbox,Dreamcast,and PS2/PS1 gear. Decent prices with about a 20 percent markup. Currently they have a PS2 demo unit on street level showing the Rockstar Game/State of Emergency.

    Happy hunting!

  • greggman
    Import Shop

    I know the shop.  I keep meaning to write down their webpage address.  Their prices are okay but they are slow.  They still don’t have Eternal Darkness even though it’s been out 3 or 4 weeks now.  And that markup ends up being more than shipping from the states through Tronix.  If it’s just one game you are going to buy the extra $5 to $10 is probably not that much but if you are buying a system or 2 or more games it’s probably better to order.

    The really funny thing is, there is a Region 1 American DVD store in Akihabara above the Sato Musen just outside the station.  Same building as K-Books.  They mark up about 100% or double.  As it seems like the only people interested in buying American DVDs would be people that can understand English you’d think those same peole would realize they could save a ton of money just ordering from and having the stuff shipped.

  • greggman
    Import shop webpage

    I just happened to remember the page link.

    The main company is here: Messe Sanoh.

    The import shop is here: Chaos Shop

  • anon_Sandman
    GTA 3 question

    I am living here in Tokyo and I am interested in purchasing the Japanese GTA 3. Before I decide to buy the game, I would like to know if my intermediate Japanese skills are sufficient to understand and enjoy this game. Has the contents of the game been translated completely into Japanese? Can someone who doesn’t read Japanese play the Japanese version without any problems? Thanks

  • anon_rayonic
    Sopranos? Godfather?

    I find it somewhat hypocritical when people watch gangster movies, but then condemn gangster video games.

    That said, I’m really looking forward to see how GTA3 fares in a foreign market. Hopefully they’ll translate it faithfully, and not twist around the plot to make the main character some “undercover cop.” That’d be lame.

  • anon_Paulito
    something no one’s mentioned

    is that you aren’t ever *required* by the game to kill any cops, or innocent civilians. You can complete the game, 100% it even, without ever even shooting a cop or killing a civvie. You still kill criminals, but there are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many games out there that teach us that killing criminals is ok, and you don’t really hear people bitching about that part of the game. They don’t even try to play it ‘morally’ and yet they’re up in arms because you *can* do these things. Well, you can go out and do them in real life, too, but you’re not *supposed* to. Sure, I wouldn’t think the game was much fun if i couldn’t mow pedestrians down, but that’s my play style. GTA3 gives you the option, and all these people that want to ban GTA3 seem to think that ‘possible to do’ somehow means ‘forced to do’, which is just silly. Also, there has been violence represented in popular culture since caveman days. I’ve seen the cave paintings….hunting, killing…’s very violent. Violence is a part of the human condition. It’s built into us just like kindness is. If we have a way to express our violent tendencies without hurting any *real* people, why shouldn’t we? People that can’t tell the difference between GTA3 and real life are already a danger to society before they ever pick up the game.

  • I agree with you but just to play devil’s advocate 🙂

    You might be able to play without killing innocent people but the game is not the real world in that there are only a few things you can acutally do in the game.  You can walk around, drive, shoot things, punch things, break things, kill people, steal cars.  In the real world there are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many more things to do.  I can go to the movies, to the libraries, I can read a book, I can go to arcade, I can play another game, I can visit my friends, I can go out to eat, the list goes on and on and on.  In the game, with limited options (because so far we still have to make games with limited options), you are pretty much led to kill people because that’s one of the few things you can do in the game.  Also, in the real world you would not be set free in 5 seconds with just some money taken away from you after you killed someone, on purpose or accident.

  • Stacey

    This game is so good  but the graphics need a little work but they made up for that with vice city and san andreas this game has some very good songs on it  like push it to the limit and rush rush and yeyo. I love the city seanerys and the cars and all sorts of stuff well iam done for now

  • ryi[\\


  • sadg\\

    qysh me istallu gta3