GTA III is one of the most revolutionary games of all time and one that has had a lasting impact on the video game industry. Before GTA III, Rockstar (known as DMA Designs back then) was a small company from England trying to make headway into the video games industry.
Following the launch of Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar became a household name, and the GTA franchise was the talk of the town. Not only was it heralded as one of the most technologically sound and revolutionary games of its time with the open-world structure, but it also had a major cultural impact.
However, the game did concern parent groups, activists, and the mainstream media. GTA III was plastered across every news channel during primetime hours. While the edge of the game remains, the game itself hasn't aged all that well.
The games that followed Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas still regularly pop up in conversation and are a major part of the cultural zeitgeist. The same can't be said of GTA III.
5 reasons why GTA 3 hasn't aged as well as other games in the franchise
#5 - Sensibilities of the audience
The problem with video games, unlike other mediums like film, TV, and literature, is that with evolving technology, outdated tech becomes far more inaccessible as it ages.
While Vice City was released during the same as Grand Theft Auto III, it benefitted from audience feedback and later updated several of its problems.
Over time, fans have come to expect certain things from the GTA franchise. These expectations have led to distinctly recognized patterns and styles that the franchise is now identified with. Those patterns were still in their infancy in GTA III, and Rockstar was still figuring things out.
This makes GTA III feel like a relic and relegates it to a good starting point rather than a complete work.
#4 - Too many points of reference
The simple fact is, regardless of how great a game is at launch, a decade and a half later, it will be outdone by several games that follow it. GTA III has a massive battle to fight not only with other games but within the franchise itself.
Being released so close to GTA Vice City didn't exactly help the game's case as a young player might as well pick up a perceived "superior" game in Vice City.
The current landscape does not do older games any favors as players simply have access to too many games now with little time to play them. While subscription services like the Xbox Game Pass give older games a chance to compete with the new ones, the new games will always supersede older games.
#3 - An uninteresting protagonist
It simply cannot be stressed enough how important the protagonist of a game is in the modern era of gaming. While silent protagonists formed the foundation of gaming, the decision was forced upon developers due to the restrictions in technology.
However, GTA III had the resources and the technology to have a fully voiced protagonist, and Rockstar elected to keep him silent. The creative decision to do that made the character feel a little uninteresting, and new players will find it hard to get invested in the story or the game.
Silent protagonists are a great way for the character to act as a proxy for the player, but they are still a very big gamble. The protagonist, Claude, came off a bit wonky in the end.
What exacerbated this was that other characters in the game were fully voiced with full-fledged performances. Claude, on the other hand, just nonchalantly reacted to every action with aggressive nods and the occasional shrugs.
#2 - A lackluster set of controls
It is an adage that players' memories of a game are often far better than their actual experience of playing the game. Older players will swear that GTA III had realistic physics, smooth driving controls, decent graphics, etc.
However, booting up the game in 2021 and playing through the first few hours will leave most players puzzled. Claude seems to have the grace of a bull in a china shop, and cars are unreliable with the way they seem to gain and lose traction on a whim.
Players are often ready to forgive an older game for awkward controls, but newer players usually don't mirror the same behavior. Awkward controls are one of the biggest turn-offs for any player, and GTA III is guilty of some truly atrocious vehicle-based missions.
#1 - Tonal Nightmare
Fans can often forget that Rockstar wasn't always the creative powerhouse it is today. GTA III, in many ways, is a game torn between trying to be a serious crime drama while also trying to utilize cheap shock value to grab headlines.
The result is a fine-aged whiskey diluted with a can of Monster Energy. The game draws inspiration from classics like Goodfellas and other mob movies but fails at every level to tell a cohesive and engaging story.
GTA III will be remembered for a lot of things, but the story definitely isn't one of them. Certain parts of the game were incredibly gratifying and showed shades of Rockstar's eventual brilliance, but it needed more time to polish that.