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 February 20, 2001



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Grand Theft Auto 3 has a surprisingly large three-part city to explore.

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Inside the tunnels, the car sounds, screeches, radio music, all reverberate throughout the tunnel in realtime.

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The same tunnel, only seen wireframe. Each car in the game has 17 different destruction points that work independently of one another.

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The once safe city has transformed into a noir-like pit of hoodlums and gangsters. Beware kiddies...

Grand Theft Auto 3: The Living City

The heart behind DMA's upcoming opus is the living city itself. IGNPS2 takes a deep look its core.

February 20, 2001

Looking at Grand Theft Auto 3 for the first time last week, I realized that the next four to five years in games are simply going to be amazing, and the cool thing is that very soon, as in this year, PS2 games are going to lead us. If DMA can transform a game like Grand Theft Auto from the deflated 2D series into this kind of promising code, than the next couple years are going to be golden.

Indeed, Grand Theft Auto is the start of something big. The AI characters interact smartly with one another, the cars (and other "vehicles") are varied and react to different weather patterns, the missions are abundant, and the three-part city, a living, breathing organism, is massive. In fact, one could say the city is the heart of the game. In our second-of-five features on Grand Theft Auto 3, we examine the city, its affects on the gameplay, and how DMA is revitalizing Grand Theft Auto in the process.

This city we speak of, Liberty City to be precise, is monstrous is size, at least in game terms. Spanning 4x4 square kilometers (or 5.76 square miles), the city is split into three parts, and is connected, much like Manhattan, to its other parts via bridges and tunnels. Players start in the industrial part of the city, and then move on to downtown and then finally into the suburbs. Each sector not only offers new quests, but also different building designs, new kinds of civilian AI, and an entirely new landscape to learn and master.

What all the cities have in common are the autonomous, "thinking" parts that make them active all the time. As the sun rises and sets, the people, and the cars they drive, change. For instance, each 1/2-hour in the game that you play equals 24 hours. In other words, 1/2 hour is one whole day and night. The sun casts a constantly moving light source upon the city, casting realtime shadows on everything, and constantly moves from the East to the West, until you can actually see the sun set and the darkness set in.

And while the city is constantly changing from day to night, the weather fluidly changes, too. It will rain in night or day, or it may clear up. The game is filled with weather patterns, including pretty much everything but snow. In Liberty City, it rains, shines, gets hazy, grows cloudy, and when the rain comes, the sky may hurl lighting and roar with thunder, too.

In the morning, a different set of people appears on the streets. Early in the morning you've got your A-type personalities, the business folk, who bustle about in their cars, walking around trying to make it to work on time. They speak with one another and comment on the day's events. They react to your actions, as well. Shoot someone in broad daylight and they're likely to call the cops on you. Shoot them dead, of course, and they won't say a thing, but then, you may have alerted other pedestrians in the area, and they too might call the cops.

At night, when the lights go down, the business folks go home and eat their happy food and watch their drab sitcoms, safe from the "other side" of the city. They know when to hide. It's at night that these other folks come out: the pimps, the hookers, and the thugs. These folks run the city at night, and you must be on watch to stay alive because they are equal opportunity killers.

Traveling from one part of the city is easy enough, but not all parts are open at once. The game is structured to unlock, or open up the second and third sectors after a certain set of missions are completed. That way, you have something to look forward to, right? The fashion in which DMA has worked the opening of the different sectors in to the game is quite ingenious. For instance, while in the industrial sector, players will eventually come to a broken bridge, which clearly leads to...something. Once you have played deep into the industrial area, the will be directed to complete a burly task. They won't know by completing the task that they have opened up the bridge, but instead, the radio in your car will blurt out that the bridge, which was once in repair, is now fixed, and can be freely crossed. Nice.

The city itself isn't just filled with pedestrians and cars. It functions like most cities do. It's got public transportation! Liberty City has L trains and subways, which pedestrians, thugs, and you can travel on. In some cases, you'll be called upon to take public transportation, too, to complete a certain task. The trains travel through most parts of the city and move about on a regular basis.

Another thing that's interesting from a driving perspective is that Liberty City isn't just a flat set of streets. Instead, it's curvy and bumpy, and has little areas with hills that act as jumps in it. Players won't just have to stay on the roads either. The city is designed for you to travel just about anywhere. In the levels I played, I drove onto the beach and into ocean, for instance. I drive outside the city and hit the hills, and jumped about them. I also noticed that the highway sections have curved slopes on both sides and enabled me to perform little aerials, as if I was on a skateboard, back and forth. It was quite cool.

All in all, Liberty City is quite astounding. Look forward tomorrow to more on Grand Theft Auto 3, when we look at the game's artificial intelligence (AI), all exclusively on IGNPS2.

--Douglass C. Perry

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