Originally created 12/24/01

'Grand Theft Auto' far from politically correct

It would be hard to find a game series less politically correct than "Grand Theft Auto."

You play as a goon in a bustling metropolis called Liberty City, hiring out your considerable knee-breaking skills to the city's various ganglords.

To further your nefarious ends, you collect a supply of powerful weapons, you carjack passing vehicles for transportation and you take over taxis and ambulances to raise spending money.

You can just walk up to somebody on the street and mug them for some cash. Be careful, though, because some of your victims might not like being hit, and will hit you back.

You can also just drive around, running people over, shooting up buildings or passing cars or ramming into things until your car is trashed. Then, just leave it in the street - or parked on top of your latest victim - and hijack another one. Just about everything in Liberty City is breakable or subject to exploding or catching fire.

"GTA3," developed by DMA Design and published by Rockstar, is a tad gruesome, it's true. But if you look past the violence in this PlayStation 2 title, you'll find an excellent game with some hilarious possibilities and gameplay that will keep you glued to the controller for hours on end.

It isn't the first time a game has been placed in a busy city, but it's likely you've never played in such vast areas with so much freedom, so much to do and so many people with whom to interact.

There are 4 million people in Liberty City, and it often seems like you have to deal with all of them at one time or another.

Linear, it's not.

Nice touches include a dozen or so radio stations you can tune in. There's a little radar screen that shows your position and your next stop. Say you've been hired to collect some money, or pick up the boss' girlfriend. You're the white dot on the screen, your destination is in pink. Keep the pink dot at the top of the screen and you're headed the right way.

The radar is important, because the areas available to explore are so big, so busy, that you run a real danger of getting seriously lost. That's bad, especially when the mission you're on has a time limit.

And there are loads of missions to clear, dozens of them, along with 100 hidden packages to track down, and jumps to play with.

Graphics get an A-. "GTA3" is a wonderful game to watch develop, with excellent detail and a smooth integration of people and places. It gets a slight downgrade for some minor pop-up.

Sound gets an enthusiastic A. Sound effects, the wonderful radio stations and the excellent voice acting, make for a great game to listen to.

Control gets an A-. The minor downgrade can be blamed on an oddly reluctant targeting method. Everything else works smoothly.

"GTA3" gets an A.

"Grand Theft Auto 3" will never be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and you'll have to lock it up so the kiddies don't find it. That said, it's a great game for adults, with almost unlimited freedom to let your dark side rule.

"Grand Theft Auto 3" is rated M, for ages 17 and above.


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