I felt a bit uncultured never having played Grand Theft Auto III. I’d played GTA: SA, and was quite impressed by it, but I thought I should go back and see where the series really took off.

And, for a while, I wished I hadn’t. GTA: SA drops you off right in the middle of the plot: you meet up with family and old friends, people have histories, you get dragged right in. Not so with GTA III: you’re an anonymous character with no history, no friends, no connection to the world around you.

And the initial dialogues and settings just seem vulgar. I’m not sure that, taken on its own, it would be any worse than what’s in GTA: SA, but the lack of a plot and the lack of wit makes what I saw as artistry in the later game just seem (uninterestingly) offensive in the earlier game. And, to top it off, the early missions are so short as to be actively boring. (And once they get out of the overt tutorial mode, you see that the interface is rather worse than GTA: SA. Not that the latter game is a model of control…)

So I almost stopped playing two hours or so into it. Around then, though, they started stringing together a bit of a plot, and I started enjoying the missions more. I ended up finishing the first third of the game, but gave up after that, feeling that I had better ways to spend my time. Not that I wouldn’t have basically enjoyed finishing it, probably, but there are enough other games out that I’m curious about that I didn’t see why I should devote much time to this. (Actually, a better choice would be to devote time to movies: it’s a game that I can’t play with Miranda around, obviously, which is also the case with most movies we rent.)

Or maybe I didn’t feel that I would have enjoyed finish it. I almost wish I hadn’t played it: I was reasonably exciting about the forthcoming GTA IV, for example, but now I’m thinking I won’t be up for another one of these games by next fall. We’ll see; it’s not like I won’t have a zillion other great games to play then, after all. (At least if Nintendo keeps their promises. Which, based on past experience, is highly unlikely, but there should still be several really good games out there.)

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