Grand Theft Auto 3’s legacy in the industry and the impact it had on games as a whole is unparalleled. Soon, thanks to the remastered GTA trilogy, players will get the chance to dive back into the classic for what will hopefully be an improved experience thanks to enhanced visuals and gameplay adjustments. Ahead of that though, in this feature, we’re going to take a look back at the 2001 original and talk about a few interesting facts that you might not know about it.
Given the fact that he has a very brief appearance as a secondary character in which he doesn’t even speak, you’d be forgiven for not remembering who Tanner is, but his inclusion in GTA 3 is actually of note. That’s because he’s an obvious reference to John Tanner, the protagonist of Driver, who, incidentally, is also referenced in GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas.
LIBERTY CITY LICENSE PLATES
This might not be a detail that you notice while you’re playing the game yourself (unless you’re paying ridiculously close attention to things that don’t matter), but it’s an interesting little tidbit nonetheless. Every single car in GTA 3’s Liberty City has the exact same license plate- LC R29.
Content being cut out of games while they’re in development for some reason or another has been a reality of the industry for ages, and there’s plenty of examples of that in GTA 3 as well. For instance, the game’s files suggest that it was going to have a vehicle called the Buggy (which would have been, well, a buggy), but was dropped mid-development, owing to the fact that its model in the game is incomplete and is missing textures. Interestingly enough, Rockstar went on to introduce a vehicle of that design not long afterward with the Injection in GTA: Vice City.
Speaking of content being left out of the final product, the map and layout of Liberty City itself also some some alterations throughout development. For starters, early sketches of the city in the game’s initial development stages shows parts of the map being larger and having more streets and areas than what we ended up seeing in the game. Meanwhile, some landmarks were also moved around, like the airport being moved from one area to another, while some were also added, like the Callahan Bridge, which wasn’t originally in the game.
DARKEL AND THE BUTLER
In addition to the city itself and some vehicles here and there, GTA 3 also had to leave a few characters that it had envisioned behind. One of these was Darkel, who was going to be an eccentric homeless man who would send Claude on a string of bizarre side missions. Another was someone who’s referenced passingly the game’s files simply as the “butler”- one might assume he was going to be Salvatore Leon’s butler.
Multiplayer is now the lifeblood of Grand Theft Auto, in many ways, to the extent that it has prolonged GTA 5’s shelf life far, far more than anyone could have ever predicted. Interestingly enough, Rockstar had considered going down that road (or at least some variation of it) long before GTA 5 exploded. GTA 3 was originally going to have a multiplayer mode, as evidenced by references to it found in the game’s files, though Rockstar ended up shelving that idea.
Grand Theft Auto 3 was already a massive shift in perspective for GTA, a series that had traditionally been 2D and top-down, but Rockstar initially had even greater ambitions for the game. Early on in production, they planned on also including a full first person perspective in the game as an option. That idea, obviously, didn’t make it into the final game, but they would revisit it years down the line with GTA 5.
TOP DOWN CITY
Speaking of the massive shift in perspective that GTA 3 brought about for the series, even though it was a radical departure, it didn’t completely forget its origins. Throughout Liberty City, you can spot posters for a film called Top Down City, starring Arnold Steelone. That name is, of course, a parody mash-up of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, but Top Down City, too, is a reference to the original 2D top down GTA games.
Those aren’t the only references to the 2D top down GTA games that you’ll find in Grand Theft Auto 3. If you head to the Totally Wireless Internet Cafe in Staunton Island, you’ll spot something interesting on the computers inside. Look a little closer at their screen and you’ll see screenshots of GTA 1 and GTA 2, which is a neat nod tucked away for those who want to go looking for something like that.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City started the series’ trend of featuring voiced protagonist, which means that GTA 3’s protagonist was a silent one. In fact, it wasn’t even until GTA: San Andreas’ ending that Rockstar confirmed his name as Claude. Interestingly enough, there are many who believe that Claude is Claude Speed, who was GTA 2’s protagonist, though this isn’t something that Rockstar has ever officially confirmed.
GTA 3 had a pretty robust collection of vehicles (especially for its time), and it certainly helped that different cars looked, sounded, and felt different enough from each other that it felt like there was meaningful variety. The muscle car Diablo Stallion is one that many series fans will be familiar with. In fact, the engine audio effects that Rockstar used for that car in the game are the same as the ones used for the Joker’s car in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Joker’s Wild”.
Keen-eyed players will probably remember that there are a lot of billboards proclaiming “Visit Miami” scattered throughout Liberty City in GTA 3, and there’s a very good reason for that. Early on, Rockstar planned on making a direct sequel to GTA 3 that would be set in Miami and would even feature GTA 3’s Ray Machowski as a returning character. Of course, the ended up shelving that idea, instead going for a game set in the 1980s in the fictional Vice City (which, of course, is based on Miami).
It wasn’t until GTA: San Andreas that Rockstar’s series allowed players to go into water and swim around, which meant that falling into a water body in GTA 3 (and Vice City) meant instant death. The in-game lore in GTA 3, however, claims that the water is polluted due to an oil spill in Liberty City harbour, which is why Claude can’t go in. It’s totally not because he cannot swim.
This one is another pretty tiny and inconsequential detail, but one that those who’ve spotted it will definitely at least chuckle a little bit at it. Some of the newspapers scattered on the ground in various spots in the city have headlines that talk about a zombie Elvis being found. GTA is known for this sort of thing, of course, and it’s great to see examples of this going as far back as GTA 3 as well.
Grand Theft Auto 3’s shift in perspective wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful as it was if it weren’t for its fully 3D visuals, which, at the time, were incredibly realistic and immersive. Originally, however, Rockstar envisioned the game with a much more stylized aesthetic, with exaggerated animations for movements and a strikingly vibrant art style with bright colours. They ended up going with a grittier tone instead, and it’s fair to say that was the far better choice.