On its 10th anniversary, it's only right that we should pay homage to one of the most groundbreaking games in video game history.
It was late 2001. I remember it well; I was still working at EB (yes, kiddies, there was a time when GameStop wasn't the only game retailer around), and we were nearing the one-year anniversary of the PS2. We knew several unbelievable games had already arrived that year, but we had no idea that much later, 2001 would be viewed as one of the greatest years ever.
Twisted Metal: Black , Red Faction , Onimusha , Silent Hill 2 , Devil May Cry , Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec , ICO , Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy , Max Payne , Baldurs Gate II , Halo , Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II , Phantasy Star Online , Black & White , Conker's Bad Fur Day , Paper Mario …the list just went on and on and on. And then the end of the year came and gave us Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty , Final Fantasy X , and Grand Theft Auto III .
In those days, the Internet wasn't ablaze with a million articles and pieces of media; there was coverage, of course, but nowhere near the extent of what we see now. So maybe that's why when I heard about GTAIII, I didn't really care. Despite my recent branching out into many different genres, I was still an RPG fan at heart. And of course, I remembered the first few GTA titles; the top-down driving games that I didn't like in the least. The first two games earned 7s from critics and while some gamers really enjoyed the experiences, neither exactly had a big impact. I knew GTAIII was going 3D but then again, so was everything in those days.
I mean, big deal. I had caught a few screenshots in a magazine that made me look twice, but that's about it. When it hit store shelves, it started to sell…and sell…and sell. My coworkers would come in grinning like loons and jabbering about GTAIII and how it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, at this time, we still didn't know that Final Fantasy X would make it out in 2001; initially, it was slated for a January release. But that was the first time in memory that Squaresoft had actually pushed up a game; it ended up coming out in the last week of December. I didn't know that would happen, though, and everyone who came in the store kept talking about GTAIII… They just wouldn't shut up.
So I got it. FFX seemed further away than it ended up being and for some reason, I wasn't into Metal Gear Solid at the time (that all changed with MGS3, by the way). Within an hour, I was wandering around this massive city…not doing anything, just wandering around like a tourist, goggle-eyed. I hadn't even done anything beyond the first mission, but I knew I was looking at the next step in gaming. The world wasn't just huge; it was detailed. People walked on the sidewalks, cars drove down the street, there were different buildings and businesses and landmarks. I was gleeful. It was the only way to describe it. And then later, I realized other parts of this huge map would open. Good God.
It was a heady experience, to say the least. The freedom was intoxicating. Never before had I played a game where I could quite literally do anything I wanted to do. No, I couldn't walk into buildings but that was a minor drawback in my eyes because the city was just so huge. If I wanted to go over there and just punch someone in the head, I could. If I wanted to go in the opposite direction and get in a car, I could. Then there was the freedom associated with the missions. Example:
There was a mission where you had to nail this guy who's in a car, driving in a bit of a convoy. You have to get him before he reaches his destination; a mansion on the hill by the water. I first tried sniping him through the window of his car as he drove past, but that proved problematic. Then I got an idea: I sped on ahead of the convoy and got to the mansion way ahead of time. I jacked every car in the area and stacked them in the driveway. On either side of the driveway was this tall hedge that nothing could get through. So when they arrived and tried to push their way through the pile of cars, I just tossed a single grenade and ran. Gigantic chain reaction of explosions and then- "Mission Accomplished."
And thus began my love affair with GTA, and I'm hardly the only one. So thank you, Rockstar, and congratulations to GTAIII on its 10th birthday. Many happy returns. 🙂
Related Game(s): Grand Theft Auto III