Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Looking back at Grand Theft Auto III

Playing through Grand Theft Auto IV again has me thinking back to days in my youth, days when you used the X button to accelerate, cheat codes were entered on the fly with R1 and R2 in rapid succession with the D-pad.

Grand Theft Auto III came out in the fall of 2001. I didn't have a Playstation 2, but my friend Eric did. I remember that he got it for his birthday (or was it Christmas). It was wrapped together along with Final Fantasy X, but of course that was quickly tossed aside in favor of the more violent, action-oriented fare.

Inserting the game was like placing some sacred crystal in a booby-trapped chamber of some forgotten tomb, a la Indiana Jones. We obviously weren't of the age the Mature rating deemed appropriate, but it didn't matter. I don't think any of us had ever even driven a car, and my gun firing experience was limited to my Uncle's BB gun.

The theme played and I'll never forget how the tune lodged itself in my adolescent brain. It only ever played when we'd load the game up initially obviously, but I always thought about it while I ran around, stole cars, and generally caused chaos. It was a good time to be 13, and that opening theme only made the experience more mature with its jazz sensibilities and stylish credit sequence.

Of course everything seemed new and sensationalized. We quickly organized our experience, the three of us. Each of us would take a turn driving. Each of use would take a turn breaking into a fist fight. One of us found a bat, each would take a turn killing one of the unlucky civilians who happened to walk by. One of us found the fabled prostitutes, we each killed our own.

In a way, I felt guilty, but never said anything. It was like our ids had taken over and given this screwy playground to wreck havoc in. Could I ever do such horrid things in real life? No. But we all laughed together anyways. It was harmless and we were teenagers. What did anyone think we were going to do?

It was the small things that really made the game for me at the time: bloody foot prints after running over a victim only seconds after taking them down with the Uzi or the way people would scream and run after you opened fire in a crowded area.
We knew Grand Theft Auto III was vastly innovative as soon as we started playing it. When was the last time you played a game like that?

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