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Grand Theft Auto III Review: 20 Years Later

2001 was the start of one of the most notorious years in the gaming world and the GTA series…it was the debut of Grand Theft Auto III (GTA 3) as it played a role into helping evolve the whole GTA Series into what Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) is today. Now 20 years later after the game’s release, we’re going back to explore GTA 3 and review what it was like to play it back in the days on the PS2 to playing it as part of the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy on the PC.

The Mystery behind the Mute Criminal…

claude grand theft auto 3

The notorious detail of Grand Theft Auto 3 was the mystery behind the unknown mute criminal everybody plays as in the game.

At this time in 2001, nobody knew the name of the mute criminal, where he was from, or any other background information behind the main character in GTA 3.

Questions loomed behind the logic of having a man that doesn’t speak or even make arguments with anyone he worked with in…Was the man scripted to be someone without a “tongue” to speak or was it Rockstar’s logic and mind to not put a voice actor in the role of the mute criminal to begin with.

The answers about the main character’s name in GTA 3 didn’t come until the “silent protagonist” made an appearance in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (another GTA series we’ll review at a later time) released in 2004.

Known only by the name “Claude,” he is considered the most unique character out of any other GTA main characters (unless anyone also factors in the uniqueness of mute GTA online characters in GTA 5) since he doesn’t argue with any of the people he works with in GTA 3 and remains “neutral” with anyone…which means he doesn’t mind eliminating anyone when requested to do so and whether his targets are good to him or not. Claude is simply everyone’s errand boy!

Claude’s likely philosophy in Grand Theft Auto 3 has always been…I only care about myself while become a “silent killer.”

Surviving in Liberty

liberty city gta3

From being betrayed and left to take the fall for a bank robbery, Claude must start from square one to surviving in the state of Liberty City.

For Claude, finding work around Liberty City is no problem for a “small-time” crook like himself when the Leone Crime Family call to start a gang war with the Triads on their turf to working behind the scenes as a so-called “made man” in destroying the Columbian Cartels plans of pushing their “SPANK” drug on the streets to crippling the main drug lab in Liberty.

In addition to dismantling the Columbian Cartel’s plans around Liberty City, Claude acts as both the middle-man and a “bagman” bouncing between other gangs in Liberty City while become one of the catalyst to spark other gang wars and shifting influences in the city to help particular gangs skyrocket to the top…Claude doesn’t care about helping anyone but himself.

While making money is one goal for Claude, the other main goal is hunting down Catalina (leader of the Columbian Cartel and Claude’s ex-girlfriend) to exact revenge for being stabbed in the back

Hold the Phone…Phone Missions

phone missions grand theft auto 3

Besides completing all 51 campaign missions in Grand Theft Auto III, there are 17 phone missions scattered around Portland, Staunton Island, and Shoreside Vale that Claude can complete for extra cash.

Despite all of the phone missions being “odd-jobs,” some of the phone missions are taking jabs at rival gangs while working temporarily with the leaders of the Yardies, Diablos, and Red Jacks (part of the Southside Hoods gang).

4 of the phone missions are not from a gang; but, from an individual by the name of “Marty Chonks” who carries out personal vendetta tasks for Claude to help retrieve individuals Marty knows that are on his “hit list.” The rest is history.

Marty’s phone missions are the only side missions not marked on the mini-map and does not have a blue illumination marker like the campaign missions and other phone missions in the game; but, it is easy to find his missions in the game…just listen to the phone ringing next to Joey’s garage.

Grand Theft Auto 3 Gameplay

grand theft auto III gameplay

Grand Theft Auto III was the first game in the Grand Theft Auto Series to feature third-person gameplay replacing the classical top-bottom point of view from GTA 1 and GTA 2 video games.

Throughout the campaign as Claude does work for one gang that either damages their influence in the city or otherwise find Claude cutting ties with them then the gangs that Claude was working for may turn hostile to shoot at Claude on site when he enters their district/turf.

Exploring around the open world of Liberty City, there are 3 boroughs to explore which are Portland (available from the beginning of the game), Staunton Island (opens up during the mission “Last Requests”), and Shoreside Vale (opens up during the mission “Grand Theft Aero”).

Grand Theft Auto 3 Side Missions

Besides hitting up all the phone and main campaign missions, a major requirement to achieve 100% completion of Grand Theft Auto III is by completing all taxi, vigilante (police), firefighter, and ambulance missions.

Become a Liberty City Cabbie

The taxi side mission requirements require the player to complete 100 fares (can be done in more than one sitting instead of all at once) without damaging your cab too much (otherwise the customers will jump out) which does not necessarily give a good money reward; but, does reward the “Borgnine” cab to put into the garage at any of Claude’s safe houses.

Ambulance Chasing Liberty’s Citizens

The requirement for the ambulance side missions is that the player should complete level 12 to get the “Infinite Sprint” reward and get the health/adrenaline pickup rewards delivered to Claude’s safe houses.

This would be beneficial to get the health pickup from the safe house instead of going to a hospital or finding the pickups in the “standalone” locations.

The ambulance missions MUST be done in one sitting…otherwise you’ll have to start over from level 1.

Stopping Liberty’s Vigilantes

For playing the part of “impersonating a police officer” as part of the vigilante missions in GTA 3, a total of 60 criminals is required to be eliminated overall with the individual requirement being the player must eliminate 20 criminals per borough.

For eliminating every 10 criminals, a police bribe pickup will be delivered to Claude’s safe house that will come in handy when faced with a 5-star or 6-star wanted level in-game.

An example of when the safe-house police bribe could be exploited is during the mission “A Drop in the Ocean” where Claude would get a 5-star wanted level where the FIB would pursue him after collecting the last package retrieved. By having 5 or 6 police bribes available, this would erase the headache of having to outrun the FBI or even the “Army” (6-star wanted level).

Where’s the Fire…Firefighter Missions

The firefighter missions which would have the same requirement as the vigilante missions…extinguish 60 car fires overall with 20 per borough.

By extinguishing 60 fires, the “flamethrower” weapon would be delivered to all of Claude’s safe houses to use.

Checkpoint Charlie: Off-Road Missions

One of the most challenging side missions when completing GTA 3 was trying to successfully complete each of the off-road missions. Each of the off-road missions requires the player to navigate over cliffs, steep inclines…and even a mountain in the Patriot (Humvee) while factoring in strategy on how to collect all checkpoint markers in the time allowed.

By collecting each checkpoint, the player would add anywhere between 10-20 seconds to their time to make it easier to complete the course (even-though if spending too much time on collecting one checkpoint marker or making too many mistakes would making it harder to complete the course in time).

There is 4 off-road missions located throughout Liberty (with 2 missions on Staunton Island) with 2 of the off-road missions using the Patriot.

R/C Search and Destroy

In a game of “search and destroy,” there are 4 Toyz vans located throughout Liberty (with 2 vans located in Portland alone) that would require the player to destroy at least 1 specific gang car to get credit towards the 100% completion requirement for GTA 3.

By replaying each R/C mission again, the player must beat the previous high score to pass the R/C mission. For each extra gang car destroyed surpassing the high score would also give the player an extra $1,000 for every extra car

Importing and Exporting Cars

import export gta 3

One of the best ways to earn a little green while working towards 100% completion of Grand Theft Auto III is getting into the world of boosting cars…that is working in the import/export business of stealing cars to send to garages located at both Shoreside Vale and Portland boroughs.

There is a list of 16 cars at both boroughs (32 cars total) to locate and safely to drive into the garage to check off the list. Most cars are easier to find on the road while others are “rare” that will only spawn if driving a particular vehicle. The Mr. Whoopee is a prime example of a rare car that would only spawn in the game when driving the firetruck.

The “Dodo” (the only airplane the player could fly in the game) is also on the import/export list which is challenging to fly from Shoreside Vale to Portland…the classical PS2/PC controls before Vice City improved flying in-game made flying near impossible to achieve in GTA 3.

Each import/export list completion gave the player a $200,000 reward and gives the bonus of allowing the player to keep one of the imported cars boosted.

Importing/Exporting Emergency Vehicles

A 3rd list on top of the general import/export lists at both Shoreside Vale and Portland gives the player the opportunity to boost 7 emergency vehicles at the Portland Docks (just look for the magnet dangling above a yellow marked zone close to the Portland import/export garage).

Out of the 7 cars, the “FBI car” is the most challenging car to get since it can only be retrieved by getting a 5-star wanted level and requires the player to act quickly to take the car without getting shot up by the FBI agent’s AK-47.

The Rhino tank is another car on this list; but is locked to the player until the main campaign is completed (the player must complete the mission named “The Exchange”). The quicker way is to get a 6-star wanted level and get the tank if the player can sidestep the military soldiers precise gun fire.

Importing Securicars

An “optional” list to complete despite not counting towards the 100% completion of GTA 3 was finding Securicar armored trucks around Liberty City to take to a garage at the Portland docks to allow the buyers to bust open the safes and get a cut of the money.

The first securicar imported pays $5,000 while every other securicar imported awards the player $500 less than the previous securicar brought in (talk about being low-balled, right). There are 10 securicars to collect to get the extra money.

A shortcut to getting all the securicars needed is to first complete the portland list then go back to the portland import garage each time to get a securicar (since it is on the general import/export list) to quickly complete the securicar imports required.

Finding the Drugs…Hidden Packages in GTA 3

hidden package gta 3

One of the newest challenge to the Grand Theft Auto series back in 2001 in GTA 3 was finding all 100 hidden packages scattered around liberty city on the ground to the rooftops of many accessible places that no-one could think of looking for the glowing package…the hidden package may resemble the mystery SPANK drug mentioned in the game on theory.

Before YouTubers and the community GTA wiki started revealing the ultimate secret on where to find every package, many gamers would normally get lucky to find at least half or less of the packages by spending an extra 25 to 30 hours just to find the hidden packages not assuming how many are on each borough (some didn’t assume that at least a third of the packages are on each borough).

By finding all hidden packages, the player would receive a bonus of $1 million and the rocket launcher that will be more than useful towards the end of the Grand Theft Auto III.

The Stuntman of Liberty…Unique Stunt Jumps

unique stunt jumps grand theft auto III

Rockstar games didn’t stop with putting hidden package collectibles into GTA 3, they also brought in an additional collectible type (if you want to call it a collectible) known as “unique stunt jumps” where the player would have to find the 20 unique jump locations and successfully stick the landing to get credit for the stunt.

By completing each unique stunt in GTA 3 gave the player a $5,000 (also times a number of successful stunt jumps made) with a ending bonus of $1 million by completing the 20th jump.

Just like the hidden package collectibles, finding each unique stunt jump location is near impossible to find and would take a lot of time to find with not assuming every ramp and staircase (that resembles a ramp) to count as a stunt location.

Viewpoints about GTA III

Grand Theft Auto III to me proved to be the “first stepping ground” to greatness that was to come later for evolving Vice City, San Andreas…and eventually snowball to what is currently GTA 5.

At the time of it’s release in the Fall of 2001, the game’s release really came at a rough time in the United States all because of the events of 9/11 and similarities the game brought when comparing the layout environment to New York City to bringing in violence from the game when the country itself had already been dealt a great deal of “bloodshed” on American soil…

So putting it blatantly, some wanted Rockstar to postpone the game’s release to the following year while some wanted to cope with the tragedy of a terrorist attack by taking their anger out on shooting bad guys in GTA III.

Onto the personal views, GTA III brought some weirdness into the game by creating a petty crook that had no voice; but, Rockstar proved the point that…Claude doesn’t need a voice, let actions speak louder than words that is from the barrel of his gun.

GTA III remains on memory the most simplest and straight forward GTA game created minus the gimmicks seen later in the newer GTA games plus one of the easiest to get 100% completion.

Grand Theft Auto III Photo Gallery

  • claude grand theft auto 3

Review Summary

  • Community Patches available to fix Graphic and Framerate issues in-game
  • Straight-Forward Campaign
  • No Swimming = Instant Death
  • Lacks Side Missions Other Than R/C and Patriot
  • No Motorcycles or Helicopter Vehicles

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About The Author

Chief, Author/Writer for TornadoTwistar Gaming. 15+ year gaming experience. Always a big fan of most first-person and third-person, action/adventure, and racing games from Forza Motorsports to Rainbow Six.
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