GTA 3 was a groundbreaking hit within the video game industry, primarily due to the size and scope of its far-reaching features.
Prior to the release of the game, Rockstar hadn't set the world on fire yet. The original GTA games age rather poorly, given the top-down perspective and outdated graphics even for its time. Thanks to major technological advancements, however, 23 core developers were able to design a bigger and better experience.
GTA 3 was the transition between 2D and 3D games for the Rockstar series. Although it was highly controversial for sexual and violent depictions of crime, it was truly a landmark title. Rockstar is worth billions thanks to a dedicated fanbase, and it all started with the 2001 release of GTA 3.
5 ways GTA 3 revolutionized the video game industry
#5 - A new market was made clear
While GTA 3 was not the first open-world game with action and adventure, it was a critical and commercial accomplishment unlike anything before. It was the best-selling game of 2001, and second-best a year later (only right behind its sequel, Vice City). To say it was a success is an understatement.
Ever since Rockstar redefined the open-world concept, they have paved the way for other entries in the sandbox subgenre. One common thread between these games is mission structure and open-ended gameplay. Most of them failed to replicate the positive reception of the GTA series, such as True Crime and Driver.
However, the likes of Saints Row were able to make a name for themselves as director competitors, albeit not as successful. Even the Simpsons and Lego franchises had great showings with their titles, using the GTA formula to create open-world environments.
#4 - Soundtrack and voice acting
The sound department is an integral part of the GTA experience, which this game delivers. With in-game voice acting and over three hours of radio soundtracks, GTA 3 offers high production values not commonly seen in video games at the time. It really does make Liberty City feel organic.
There are several different radio stations throughout the game, each with real DJs and specific music genres. Although the tracks are short, Rockstar will continue this approach in future installments by adding more content. Music is one of the most important aspects of the GTA series for a reason.
#3 - Responsive driving mechanics
While there are slight control issues for GTA 3, reviewers did praise the driving aspects of the game. The button layout for driving is perfectly laid out, so even beginner players can master the controls. GTA 3 offers a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from slow garbage trucks to fast convertibles.
Players also have the ability to perform a drive-by in their vehicle. Since it provides good durability from enemy gunfire, it's a reliable method to take out targets. Players can also make their getaway quickly. However, they need to be mindful not to damage the car too much, or else it will explode.
A defining moment for GTA players is high-speed chases with law enforcement. None of this would be possible without a solid grasp on driving mechanics. Rockstar did their homework with responsive controls.
#2 - Open-world environment
Long before open-world games were the industry norm, GTA 3 set itself apart with Liberty City. Divided into three separate islands, Liberty City is a post-industrial landscape of criminals and cops. Thanks to easy-to-understand driving controls, players had no trouble looking around the areas.
Technological limitations meant most 3D-based games were limited to a linear mission structure. GTA 3 used premium-grade hardware for its time. Players were given absolute freedom to explore their environment. Certain missions are entirely optional, while the completion of major ones unlocks new locations.
#1 - 3D graphics
GTA 3 is for PlayStation what Super Mario 64 is for Nintendo - a transformative shift to 3D technology. Several games spectacularly failed in this regard, mainly due to the difficulties of developing open-world settings. Rockstar did perform a test run with the Nintendo 64 game Body Harvest, a primitive version of GTA 3.
Liberty City is a highly ambitious project. It was a fully 3D world with interactive NPC's, high-texture buildings, and wide-ranging space to move around. GTA 3 took full advantage of the system capabilities. With extra data on the PlayStation 2 hardware, it allows fluid animations for the characters.
While the graphics aren't held up by today's standards, they are an impressive reminder of Rockstar's ambitions. Despite it being the first 3D game in the entire series, GTA 3 was a significant improvement over previous titles.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.