When Grand Theft Auto 3 was being shown at E3 running on a PC, my interest was peaked a bit. I had played the game on the PlayStation 2 and had a pretty good time. But my lack of console savvy really kept the game from becoming a top favorite for me. So when the game arrived for the PC, I figured I would give it another go.
Basically, GTA3 on the PC is essentially the same game as on the PS2, with a few notable exceptions. If you are a PS2 whiz and went all the way through the game there, you probably are not going to care too much about buying it again on the PC. The game seems to be aimed more at people who either don’t have a PS2 and thus have never experienced how great the game is, or those like me who had trouble with the game in its original format.
For those of you who don’t know, GTA3 is a sort of combination driving and third person shooter game. You are given missions by really bad people and have to go out and do things like kill people, steal cars and the like. There is also a non-linear quality about the game. If you want to just go out and start killing people, then by all means, go ahead. The game originally won our Game of the Year contest and was also given a perfect rating. Here’s the original review.
Ok, onward to the PC version. All the things that made the PS2 version great are here. There is just something visceral and cool about getting out of your car and taking a baseball bat to a smart-talking thug at an intersection. And if the cops start to come after you, the ensuing gunplay-ridden hide and seek game is a pure rush.
On the PC, everything is a little better however, at least for me. For starters, you can drive your car with the keypad. Being an expert PC gamer, this means a lot more control when I am out driving. One feature that was promised at E3 did fail to materialize however, and that is being able to drive your car with the mouse. You can run around with your character using the mouse for direction, but once you get in your car you have to use the keys. I’ve tried for sometime to make the game allow mouse driving, but there just does not seem to be any way for this to happen. As it is, driving with the arrow keys seems more precise to me than when trying to use the PS2 controls.
The greater processing power of the PC is also evident, especially when using weapons like the sniper rifle. There is a mission where you have to use a sniper rifle to clear a path of bad guys for one of your partners in crime. On the PS2 version doing this was really difficult. Whenever I would move the joystick, the scope would fly across the screen. It was like I was trying to aim a shore battery instead of a precision rifle. But on the PC, you simply aim with the mouse, just like you would in a shooter. As such, all of the bad guys were dead long before my guy got anywhere close to them. On the PS2, it just seemed like the console could not emulate the precise movements that the sniper rifle required. It’s basically the same problem I have with the Medal of Honor series on the PS2 compared to the PC.
In addition, you can change the graphics resolution for the PC version of the game. I play in 800 by 600 mode, which gives it a good look while keeping the general console-type feel. You can set the resolution much higher if you like, but at some point you run into the point of diminishing returns and begin to sacrifice quality. It’s nice to have the options to make the game look sharper however, as long as your machine can handle the upswing.
And of course since you are playing on a PC, there are some customization features that make the game more interesting. You can change the skin of your player, and even have them be a girl if you like. The game does not come with many choices, but you can download new ones. Also, you can put your MP3s into a certain directory and use them as a radio station in your car, in addition to all the cool tunes that come with the game’s stations. Songs like Banditos by The Refreshments, or Wild Boys by Duran Duran are perfect for doing all your bad stuff in the game. And crushing people while Abba sings Dancing Queen is just too funny.
I did not give the game a perfect rating on gameplay, though at 4 and 1/2 GiN Gems, that is still pretty high. The main problem I have is that some of the console glitches did transport to the PC. One of the main ones is that cars are randomly populated in the game, and if you see a set of cars coming down the street and look away quickly, when you look back they will all be different. I’ve used this to my advantage when I want to steal a certain type of car. Just look down the street and if you don’t see it, glance away real quick and then look again till the one you want is there. It’s worked against me too like when I do see the car I want and turn to move into position, only to find out that it has disappeared or turned into another car when I look back.
The graphics too are not of the same "perfect" quality. They are very good, but if this were a native PC game, you would expect a lot more.
For me, a native PC gamer and only a recent console player, GTA3 on the PC is a godsend. I am way past the point in the game where I gave up on the PS2 in frustration and missions that I thought were nearly impossible on the PS2 are challenging but beatable on the PC. Having gone through "training" with the entire third-person Max Payne game on the PC, I am a terror when outside my car in GTA3. On the PS2 I was like a fish out of water once outside a vehicle. A big dead fish.
So not only does GTA3 on the PC bring the joys of vehicular manslaughter to an entire new group of gamers, it also gives us PC guys a second chance to become proud thugs as well.