With Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar proves that not all developers are concerned with toning down the violence in their games. This sequel is even more bloody, violent, and sadistic than its popular predecessors, offering up an enormous 3-D city in which nearly any criminal act is possible. Players are free to steal cars, beat up the local population for their money (or weapons), make time with prostitutes, or simply roam to their heart's content. Those seeking more structure can embark on dozens of plot-driven missions or steal cars that let them play minigames. Nab a cop car and go on vigilante missions. Grab a cab and play a deadly version of Crazy Taxi. Take a fire truck and earn money putting out fires. The game just never gets boring.
As in real life, there are consequences for your criminality. As your random acts of mayhem mount up, the police start hounding you, eventually calling in SWAT trucks, the FBI, and even the army if you continue down the path of destruction. Shaking these pursuers is easily the most fun part of the game, especially when a bunch of friends are packed in the room to witness your narrow escapes.
Grand Theft Auto III is fine-tuned to near perfection in every category. All the vehicles, from slick sports cars to lumbering dump trucks, handle exactly as you'd expect and smash apart realistically when abused. The three islands in the game are rendered in terrific detail considering their size, and are packed with traffic, pedestrians, and hidden jumps. The audio is equally amazing. Pedestrians talk, cops scream at you, and you can tune in nine different radio stations whenever you are in a car. It all adds up to a monumental achievement: the rare console game for adults that manages to get everything right. --T. Byrl Baker
Note: This review refers to the PlayStation2 version of this game.