The Gadget Helpline: RETRO REPLAY feature will bring you a weekly throwback to the days of old school gaming and will present a little history on the new wave of classic titles currently getting a revival on our modern gaming gadgets.

Popular smash ‘n’ grab driving sequel Grand Theft Auto III is a decade old on October 22nd and to celebrate publisher Rockstar are teaming up with the big two smartphone OS makers, Google and Apple to bring the threequel racing onto Android and iOS in early 2012. What better time for us old schoolers to take a nostalgic look back at the original – or beat some knowledge into you n00bs!

Full Title: Grand Theft Auto III
Original Platform: Sony Playstation 2 / Microsoft Xbox
Release Year: 2001
Publisher: Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto roared out of the garage and onto Windows PC in 1997 from DMA Designs and Tarantula Studios as an adventure/crime/driving game which featured a 2D aerial view of your ant-like sprite as you controlled him around a vast free-roaming cityscape, doing pretty much whatever you pleased. The idea of the game was to complete missions set out by gang bosses by stealing cars, crash them and flatten innocent pedestrians, including monks (GOURANGA!) – all to get the job done without getting caught by the cops. The game was addictively fun and featured a whole bunch of bonuses and secrets and even the opportunity to command a stolen tank!

In 1999 came GTA2, following the same 2D aerial format as its predecessor and detouring out onto Sony’s Playstation console featured the familiar gangland storylines and crime spree appeal of the original. These themes carried forward in 2001 – but the format changed bringing the first GTA title to use a 3D engine and viewed in the now standard third person perspective, Grand Theft Auto III.

Rockstar joined DMA Design to release GTA III which set the bar for all driving/crime titles to follow, utilizing the third person angle made famous by Playstation staple Tomb Raider and earlier PC titles such as Doom. Combining this ‘realistic’ style with the original themes proved immensely popular – and controversial.

GTA III launched on Playstation 2 and then brand new Xbox 360 console, and introduced the now infamous and fictional setting of Liberty City, the player controls an escaped bank robber named Claude, who as in previous games works as a thug taking missions from the city’s most notorious gang leaders – headed by Mafia Boss, Salvatore.

Just like in the originals, players could steal a variety of vehicles, with different speeds and characteristics and specific cars were required to complete certain missions. For a mission complete the ‘roamable’ area of the city became more accessible – providing a hugely versatile area of play which never became tired.

The character of Claude could also be controlled on foot, and had variable walk or run modes, as well as the ability to swim when required for brief periods. And then there were the weapons. The arsenal was massively increased from the original two titles, including AK-47, flame thrower and rocket launcher – weapons to invoke havoc and chaos, but did unfortunately get the attention of many a spoil-sport cop!

In between missions, the free-roaming game model encouraged players to wander the cityscape and mug or murder innocent passers-by and partake in illicit acts with street walkers for added bonuses, this leading to the GTA III becoming heavily criticized for its graphic portrayal of violence and sexuality which almost saw the game banned on more than a few occasions. All of which made us want to play the game more.

Another noteworthy feature of GTA III was the soundtrack, delivered through the car radio, stations could be tuned in and provide the perfect track from a selection of genres to compliment the driving mayhem. This feature was one of many to be carried forward into future sequels and spin-offs and even a collection of CDs featuring the songs heard on the game’s virtual airwaves.

Grand Theft Auto III was followed up by un-numbered spin-offs from Rockstar (now sole developer and publisher) Vice City in 2002 and San Andreas in 2004 which followed and improved on the format of the previous game until a true successor Grand Theft Auto IV became available in 2008.

We’re still awaiting solid confirmation from Rockstar in regards to a much-anticipated GTA V, with rumours revving up regularly to suggest that the game in well into production. Rolling out in early 2012 we can all enjoy replaying the title that set the GTA franchise (as we currently know it) on its road to cult infamy – Grand Theft Auto III – Coming to iOS and Android gadgets.  

Check out the GTA III 10-Year Anniversary video:

In the last RETRO REPLAY we took a look back at the original Tomb Raider game ahead of the Lara Croft’s leap to mobile platforms and the reboot to her archaelogical adventures on console! 

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