Grand Theft Auto III: Your Thoughts for the Book on this Popular and Controversial Title

Bill Loguidice's picture

The next chapter I'll be tackling is the one on Grand Theft Auto III, which of course encompasses the games before and the games after it, as well as the various "sandbox" precursors and numerous modern day clones and knock-offs. I'm certainly no expert in the GTA mythos, so any help or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Right now I only own Vice City Stories for the Sony PSP, though I may have to rectify that with a rental to get up to full speed. Thanks for the help, guys!

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davyK
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Got GTAIII:Vice City

Got GTAIII:Vice City recently for PS2. I can see the attraction for some and I totally appreciate the technical side of it. It is nice to drive around with the radio on too - very atmospheric. For a while. Then it's a dull as ditchwater. Go here , go there, punch this, hit that. Spent maybe 2 hours playing it and while it amused me, I have no compulsion to return to it. Maybe I should spend mor time on it but if I'm not grabbed after that, I never will be. I fail to see what all the fuss was about. This style of game is not for me I suppose.

Bill Loguidice
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GTA
davyK wrote:

Got GTAIII:Vice City recently for PS2. I can see the attraction for some and I totally appreciate the technical side of it. It is nice to drive around with the radio on too - very atmospheric. For a while. Then it's a dull as ditchwater. Go here , go there, punch this, hit that. Spent maybe 2 hours playing it and while it amused me, I have no compulsion to return to it. Maybe I should spend mor time on it but if I'm not grabbed after that, I never will be. I fail to see what all the fuss was about. This style of game is not for me I suppose.

This is no excuse for a series that is considered one of the greatest and sells the way it sells, but supposedly the latest one IV, is supposed to be the best yet. I would tend to think that the tremendous visual upgrade would account for some of that. I'm probably more inclined to your thinking Davy, but won't put the final stamp on my opinion until I get to spend time with IV. If IV doesn't hook me, then none of the games will. Of the Trilogy I just got, I'm probably most curious about "San Andreas" simply because of the ability to manipulate your character's appearance through your in-game activities (fat, skinny, muscular, etc.). Admittedly, I'll be skeptical of IV's abilities to hook me if "San Andreas" falls flat for me, though.



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Rowdy Rob
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GTA games are mission-based!
Bill Loguidice wrote:

This is no excuse for a series that is considered one of the greatest and sells the way it sells, but supposedly the latest one IV, is supposed to be the best yet.

"GTA:San Andreas'" is in many ways a much better game than "Vice City," but it starts out much less approachable. You WON"T get "San Andreas" at first, because the build-up takes a while. GTA:VC, in comparison, is much brighter and more approachable.

"San Andreas" starts off with a bicycling mission... it isn't very fun. The feel of GTA:SA is much grittier and more realistic than the "Miami Vice" influenced GTA:VC, and at first this put me off. As I got into the game, though, the plot unfolded, I became more comfortable with the controls, and the missions and plot became more intriguing.

I noticed that you seem to be enamored with the "sandbox" approach of these games, but I think it's a mistake to think that the primary appeal of the GTA games is the "sandbox" concept. The sandbox adds to the appeal, of course, but I think the PRIMARY appeal of the games is in the missions, developing plot, and characters. After all, if GTA:IV was merely a new, improved sandbox, I doubt that it would have had the biggest game launch in history, outperforming movie box-office!

GTA:VC was more approachable to me because of the "1980's" setting, with bright colors and 80's music on the in-game radio. GTA:SA has a "1990's" setting, and has a more subdued color palette, and the radio stations are rife with 90's rap and rock. Hey, I liked 90's rap (believe it or not, even the "gangsta" stuff), but 90's rock leaves me cold, so other than the funny DJ's on these stations, there's little appeal to me (except for the "talk radio" stations and commercials).

Another thing about GTA:SA that adds to the mission-based gameplay: at least 2/3rds of the world/map is inaccessible without completing the first dozen-or-so missions! GTA:SA forces you to complete the missions before progressing in the game and seeing the whole world (like pretty much any other large-scale game).

I suspect that you're not going to "get" GTA:SA without spending a lot of hours playing it (I didn't). I had the game in my collection for about a year myself before I finally started really playing it, and then I got into it (for a while). In fact, I'd have probably played it more if my computer didn't slow to a crawl after installing a "Creative X-Fi" sound card, making GTA (or pretty much any 3D game) unplayable until I pull the card out and reinstall Windows (which I will do eventually if I stop spending all my free time posting messages).

Summary: GTA:VC and GTA:SA are more than sandbox games, they are shockingly amoral (or anti-moral) mission-based games. The physics, active city, and largely non-linear gameplay are icing on the cake, but the heart of these games is in the plot and missions.

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Bill Loguidice
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Great stuff

Interesting thoughts, Rob. To me, the sandbox aspect is critically important to their success, but certainly with a nuanced twist (it has to do with realism, despite the violence and parody). I think you'll be satisfied with the approach in the book, but certainly your interpretation is just as valid as mine, if not more (and a lot of the fun of us having these discussions).



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Matt Barton
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violence
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Interesting thoughts, Rob. To me, the sandbox aspect is critically important to their success, but certainly with a nuanced twist (it has to do with realism, despite the violence and parody). I think you'll be satisfied with the approach in the book, but certainly your interpretation is just as valid as mine, if not more (and a lot of the fun of us having these discussions).

I've been listening to lectures about Freud and Jung again, and naturally keep thinking that the "shocking violence" and "immoral" nature of these games is a way of sublimating instinctual aggressive urges. I still think games like this make society safer rather than more dangerous; better to let people murder and pillage in a videogame rather than in real life! (I still hold that Columbine and other incidents are mentally ill/demented people to begin with rather than normal people who got carried away with videogames).

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Bill Loguidice
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Violence Debate
Matt Barton wrote:

I've been listening to lectures about Freud and Jung again, and naturally keep thinking that the "shocking violence" and "immoral" nature of these games is a way of sublimating instinctual aggressive urges. I still think games like this make society safer rather than more dangerous; better to let people murder and pillage in a videogame rather than in real life! (I still hold that Columbine and other incidents are mentally ill/demented people to begin with rather than normal people who got carried away with videogames).

I agree with that. Videogames are just the bogey man of this generation. Previously it was books, movies, music, clothing, etc. It's human nature to want to explain away something horrible in the simplest way possible, but, frankly, some people are just "broken" or "off" in the first place and need help. Perhaps a videogame or song or something is a trigger or gives them an idea of how to do something, but at the core, there has to be that demented element in the first place. Even if something is a trigger, if it didn't exist, something else would have been. At least that's my opinion.

I can use myself as a hopefully a good example of how I can easily separate fantasy from reality. From a very young age (at least around 5) I was exposed to violent cartoons, R movies, etc., and despite being 35 now and having continued to be exposed to every type of violence and sex possible (media-wise), including every type of videogame, I've hardly become desensitized to any of it. If I see something horrible in person or watch something on the news or see a documentary or even think about anything particularly gruesome that's actually real, I become immediately and undeniably repulsed. I don't get that same reaction when something is artificial, no matter how realistic the movie or videogame.



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Mark Vergeer
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Psychology of violence

Violence is a part of human nature, like it or not a part of life, just as many other not-so-nice-things out there in society. Parents need to teach their kids about this in order for the kids to be able to deal with that responsibly. People need to realize that they are raising adults, individuals that need to be able to cope with various not-so-nice-things in life. Keeping those things away from your kids and indulge / providing no consistent boundaries or spoiling them rotten is what makes kids not being able to cope with adversities and they gain no knowledge about these things.
Exposing your kid to violence needs to be done in an age appropriate way though.

The whole concept of right and wrong and the development of a solid sense of morals/right & wrong takes place before puberty and needs to be guided and experienced. Ever wonder why those kid-soldiers in Africa are able to commit such atrocious acts of violence? It's because their concepts of right and wrong were still in the process of being formed. Adults around them, training them for war situations, provided them with their sense of right and wrong - which of course was totally twisted.
A socially neglected kid, with a set of house-keys, a tv and a video game as a parent is at risk. So is the kid whose parents provide everything materialistically but forget about the development of affect and emotion. ....it's not the video games but the lack/absence of vital (parts of) parenting. There's tons of psychological literature on this. People solely blaming video games for high-school shootings are very short-sighted and over simplify the problem. GTA doesn't cause violence in society.

in order words:
Learning how to cope with frustration, learning how to postpone, learning how to endure unpleasantness to some extend, learning about boundries and modelling behaviour from a solid role model is vital for a good psychological development. Parents of all times have problems teaching and exposing their kids those things as they often look back on their own childhoods and sometimes opt to purposely do things differently. Some indulge out of guilt. In a way there is a kind of sine-wave moving across the generations when it comes to parenting, some call it the 'generational gap'. If a child doesn't learn about the above mentioned things, has a limited or no sense of boundries, has no abilities to postpone and is not able to handle frustration properly then it is at risk of developing agitative moods and impulsive tendencies - this is what causes violence in kids, regardless if video games are present or not.

Geez, I am dead tired. Another 24-hr shift.



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andrew
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Bill, I meant "NES" not "DS". Slight of hand.

The games themselves always, always start slowly. I never judge them on these sections but, try and bare with it until you get to the much more fun missions later (although there are usually several "controller throwing" levels which have immensely stupid difficulty or controls). This is because every game assumes you don't know how to play, so there are dozens of tutorials, for every damn aspect of the game (it only gets worse in San Andreas!)

If you're into more information on Vice City and San Andreas, these are some short bits on the changes/features of each:

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Yes, Miami-Vice influenced, but much more besides that happened in the 80's - Scarface, rock bands, bikers and pornographic films all appear too! This game is very laid back - and the lead character Tommy (they now did a speaking protagonist, yay) is basically out to take the city. This game's flows the best of all the games, in my opinion, and the tutorials are more barable. If however you can't stand the setting, you won't be able to stand much of the game.

For the time, it vastly improved the experience - it added a better set of graphics (brighter ones for starters), flying vehicles (helicopters, planes), and a multitude more vehicles. Also contained interior buildings for the first time (such as a Mall). There is also the ability to buy properties (and "complete" them to gain income from them by completing their set of missions).

The radio stations were kicked up a notch with a ton of licensed music (the trend started here), and some good "Chatterbox" stuff. The police got more intense - there is a Miami-Vice copycat car at 3 stars, and also tire blowers/police boats used by the Police. I think they also improved the AI a more significant amount for chases/traffic.

The story ebs and flows with a lot, and I mean a lot of parody humour (if you know the films/TV references, you'll get a lot of it). There is a much better story then GTA3, which was bare bones as it got, with an actual aim for the protagonists and some good interaction in cutscenes and missions. There are much better/inventive/enjoyable missions then GTA3, and in general much more polished ones then GTA:SA too - although some were really difficult - usually timed missions.

The level was smaller in total, but I think more enjoyable to drive around. The sunny atmosphere, well laid out roads and generally more natural flow helped a lot. Half the island is locked until about a third of the way through the game.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Goes for the early-90's "State" of San Andreas (more like a huge island really). Kicks up the size a notch, with 3 cities of about the same size as Vice City (so, not as big as Liberty City each), with additional space between them for countryside - a previous earthquake stops progress to each city (give or take). Bigger isn't always better - it takes ages to get anywhere (public transport/jumping to save points is non existent). Some missions really benefit from the space however.

Starts laboriously slow. A truckload of tutorials goes above what Vice City and GTA3 had. Gang Warfare was poorly implemented with "losing territory" a constant bother, and didn't even matter for the most part. The amount of things to complete also shot up - gang spray tagging, things to randomly find, and stunts to perform. 100% completion is really, really hard without a guide.

Main additions for the character was RPG things - getting fit meant button mashing for a while after every rest, until stats were maxed out (for running, strength and so on). Eating wasn't really required since sleeping had the same effect. Massive amounts of character customisation - which also applied to cutscenes really well. You could, although I don't know anyone who bothered, customise cars with extra gubbins. You can also swim for the first time, meaning you no longer died by touching water!

There were more "Minigame" things added, and some of the missions were frankly rubbish or too much based on luck. There were also an entirely mandatory tutorial for how to fly a plane about 2/3rds of the way through the game. This was crap. CRAP. However, despite rehashing every possible mission in the first two games, there were some good gems in there.

Optional missions/quests didn't mean much but were generally enjoyable. You could buy properties in some cases like Vice City, which generally unlocked these optional missions.

Radio was "improved" by having random intros/outros to songs by the DJ's and randomisation of the songs (although this also randomised the "Chatterbox" stuff which got annoying if you kept hearing the same one). Radio news changed as the story progressed, which was a nice touch. Not quite the soundtrack of Vice City though.

----

To be honest, the games are hard to get into - the tutorials are bloody boring and long. Generally it picks up after them though. One thing I noticed about all the GTA games, you never ever play a female protagonist, and most of the protagonists seem the same - not "Evil" crime perpetrators, but instead just "defending" themselves or taking jobs for money under orders. It's not exactly cookie cutter, but it's as good as it gets for motivation and "why", since the games are all entirely linear story wise.

Hope that information helps, but sticking with a GTA can be hard at the beginning, and if the story and activities don't impress then it's very hard to stick with the story :)

Andrew

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Bill Loguidice
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Grand Theft Auto 4 Intellivision



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Matt Barton
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This video was great. I

This video was great. I loved the part at the end about how the Intellivison was obviously better than the Atari version. :)

I like their other vids, too. Check out the text adventure one (NSFW!!!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COp_-GbOQzE

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