Grand Theft Auto 3 is the second sequel to 1996's media-shocking game themed by drugs, prostitution and other wholesome family activities. Rockstar Games (then DMA Design) realised at the time of GTA2 that their core market was actually the Playstation Generation, so GTA3 was designed for the Playstation 2, then ported to the PC. Of course, as many players already know, the port was somewhat lazy - the game struggles to run properly on ANY specification, and is a prime example why the portability of Middleware applications (in this case Criterion's Renderware) is bad. In a similar PS2-style, the save process requires you to go to a garage (there are three in the game), rather than bothering to code a PC-style quicksave.
That said, if you can get the game to work properly (i.e. you have an nVidia graphics card and run Windows ME), you're in for a treat. The main departure from the old GTA games is the disappearance of the overhead camera, and its replacement with a fully fledged 3D engine. Once you switch off the sluggish "trails" effect, you've actually got a very nice-looking game with lots of pedestrians and traffic to help give the city feel. The city is divided into three sections, and load times are negligible within each - you'll notice a few seconds' delay when driving between sections of the city, but other than this it's pretty damn impressive.
I also want to give a special mention to the music in the game. Whenever you get into a car, you get access to the car's radio. There are a number of radio stations playing different types of music, including Chatterbox 109, an irreverent chat station with about an hour of hilarious "callers". The final station will jukebox the contents of the GTA3\MP3 folder (be they mp3s or shortcuts). Unfortunately, it won't play any playlist files, and there's no way to skip between tracks. However, it's a nice feature (and about the only addition to the PC version).
The game itself has a highly successful blend of gangs vying for power in the city, with you as the loyalty-free mercenary-for-hire completing a huge range of missions to appease the crime bosses. These can be anything from an illegal street race to rooftop sniper assassination. Some missions are somewhat harder than others, and if you so wish you can just ignore them & go off to roam - for example, do Crazy Taxi-style ferrying for extra cash. I really enjoyed this game.
I gave GTA2 a whole two minutes before getting bored and giving it back to the friend I'd borrowed it from. However, GTA3 pleasantly surprised me. Whilst the PC port is somewhat lazily accomplished, the game itself is really great fun. Graphically pleasing, aurally great, and will last you quite a while, I'm very pleased to award this game the high rating it deserves. Just be sure to remember that it's a console game - it won't run at 100 FPS on a top-end system, it actually bottoms out at 30 and due to the lazy engine will frequently dip below ten. A prime example of a game superseding its engine.
Gaming Hexus rating: 9/10