Not all games are meant for kids. Stock car racing is for adults, for example, and paintball isn't intended for 6 year olds. In the same manner, Grand Theft Auto 3 isn't meant for your 4 year old niece. It's a game deliberately geared towards the millions of adult gamers who make up a large segment of the gaming population.
The game taps into the current love of shows like The Sopranos and movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas. Sure, we know that the mob causes harm. But we still love to watch and read about them, and we can feel understanding as they fight to maintain their own style of honor and family while other groups try to muscle in.
You start out as a bank robber who was betrayed by his girlfriend. Sprung out of a police convoy through a lucky situation, you and your new friend, "8-Ball", are starting out in the world of crime. A member of the local mafia asks you for some simple help ferrying a girl around. Taxi service, really. But when you do a good job, the requests get more complex ... and more rewarding.
This game is impressive on many levels. First, there's the basic graphics. It's a fully immersive world that you can walk around on, much like EverQuest. But instead of forests and glades, it's a fully realized city, complete with bridges, subways, pedestrians, cars, vans, even police helicopters. Everything is interactive. Jump in a car, drive down a few blocks, hop out, walk on the pedestrian walkway. Your world is huge, and each area (Chinatown, etc) has its own character.
The vehicles have different models, the world cycles from dawn to day to dusk to night. Street lights come on, signs glow. Traffic lights cycle green to red, and you have to pay attention to what you're doing. Other drivers aren't always paying attention to the lights, especially when they're in the middle of a chase. So defensive driving is definitely the order of the day.
There are many different gangs that the mafia are bumping up against - the Columbians, the Yakuza, and many more. Each have their own turf, their own preferred cars, their own radio stations they tend to listen to! The missions you take on start to get you involved with the different gangs as well as other small-time hoods.
Sure, this game isn't about helping elderly widows walk to church each Sunday through a grassy lane. It's about taking on jobs to bring entertainment to the cops for their Policeman's Ball as quickly as possible. It's picking up a double-crosser so the boss can talk with him. But one of the pleasures of gaming, just like any other form of entertainment, is that it lets you imagine worlds that you don't normally enter.
In Dungeon Keeper you played the part of the "nasty" overlord, out to stop those goody-goody elves and paladins from stealing your treasure. In the various Command & Conquer games you could choose to be the good guys, or you could choose to be the bad guys. In games of Cops & Robbers, someone is always the Robber. Grand Theft Auto 3 is a Cops & Robbers for adults, and it delivers gameplay that's not easily matched elsewhere.
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Grand Theft Auto 3 Walkthrough