Although the Grand Theft Auto
series has been around for about six years the name really gained notoriety when it made its 3D debut on the PlayStation2 in the fall of 2001. Since then the name has been used as a benchmark for 3D free roaming titles that contain extremely violent overtones. Although it wasn’t the first title to feature a massive city, Eidos’ Omikron
did it beforehand, Rockstar’s magnum opus did it in such a manner that gamers could relate it to their own surroundings. It was a whole new ballgame and Rockstar had pioneered an entirely new way of gaming; now those who were unfortunate enough to miss out on two of gaming’s most influential titles have a chance to kill two birds with one stone, thanks to Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto
Since we’ve already reviewed GTA3
for both the PS2 and PC I’ll save us the trouble of going over what we already know. Instead, I’ll focus on the discrepancies and additions that the Xbox version brings to the table. That way all of the Xbox fan boys who are looking to wave something in the face of their PS2 toting buddies won’t have to skim too far to look for ammunition.
Right off the bat you won’t notice too many differences but as you put more hours into the game they’ll become apparent. New lighting effects give both the city and your vehicles a new sheen that was absent in the PS2 original and the subsequent PC ports. Everything also contains way more polys that ever before, helping to flesh out both characters and cars. Playing the Xbox version I was able to notice facets and nuances in the vehicles that I had never noticed before. Characters also look a whole lot better as they now have more weight and mass to them. Instead of looking like a bunch of walking scarecrows they look more realistic and human. They’ve also been given a few surface enhancements including real-time lip synching and individual fingers; nothing too groundbreaking but nice touches nonetheless. Rounding out the visual enhancements are the crisper textures that make the world look sharper and more believable. I’d still say that the PC versions, running at higher resolutions, look the best out of the three available versions but the Xbox is a very close second.
Utilizing the Xbox’s superior hardware the designers have been able to make significant cuts to the load times. Instead of sitting around and waiting for about 4 minutes for the initial loading time the game boots up in less than half that time. Also when traveling between zones the transition is nearly seamless without the delayed load time that plagued the PS2 version. When I was reviewing the PS2 version I often dreaded playing it because I was too impatient to wait around for the load times, the Xbox enhancements do an excellent job of remedying this problem.
Perhaps the most subtle change is the enhanced draw-in distance, not with the actual viewing distance but rather with the rate at which vehicles are rendered on the screen. The problem with the PS2 versions wasn’t with the buildings but rather with vehicles that would suddenly pop up on the screen as you were tearing down the street. Now you can see oncoming vehicles for a number of blocks, giving you ample time to react. This is an especially large improvement for all you motorcycle lovers out there. As the PS2 fans can attest it was frustrating to go cruising along the street at a 100mph only to run into the side of a bus that materialized out of thin air. Now those problems are gone as you’ll see them well before they can turn you into road pizza.
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