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Grand Theft Auto III is a 2001 action-adventure game developed by DMA Design and published by Rockstar Games. It is the third main entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, following 1999’s Grand Theft Auto 2, and the fifth instalment overall. Set within the fictional Liberty City (loosely based on New York City), the story follows Claude, a silent protagonist who, after being betrayed and left for dead by his girlfriend during a robbery, embarks on a quest for revenge that leads him to become entangled in a world of crime, drugs, gang warfare, and corruption. The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on foot or by vehicle. Its open world design lets players freely roam Liberty City, consisting of three main areas.

Development was shared between DMA Design, based in Edinburgh, and Rockstar, based in New York City. Much of the development involved transforming popular elements from the Grand Theft Auto series into a fully 3D world for the first time. The game was delayed following the September 11 attacks to allow the team to change references and gameplay deemed inappropriate. It was released in October 2001 for the PlayStation 2, in May 2002 for Windows, and in October 2003 for the Xbox.

Grand Theft Auto III received critical acclaim, with particular praise directed at its concept and gameplay. However, it also generated controversy, with criticism directed at its depictions of violence and sex. It became the best-selling video game of 2001, and sold over 14.5 million copies by March 2008. Considered by many critics as one of the most significant titles of the sixth generation of video games and a landmark game in the open world concept, it is often listed among the greatest video games. It won several year-end accolades, including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications. Since its release, it has received ports to many different gaming platforms. An enhanced version of the game was released on mobile platforms in 2011 for the game’s tenth anniversary, and a further enhanced version for the twentieth anniversary was released in 2021. The game was followed by 2002’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, while two prequels, Grand Theft Auto Advance and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, were released in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

Grand Theft Auto III is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story.[4] It is possible to have several missions available at a time, as some missions require players to wait for further instructions or events.[5] Outside of missions, players can freely roam the game’s open world, and have the ability to complete optional side missions. Liberty City is composed of three boroughs: Portland, Staunton Island, and Shoreside Vale; the latter two areas become unlocked as the player progresses through the storyline.[6]

Players may run, jump or use vehicles to navigate the game’s world.[7] In combat, auto-aim can be used as assistance against enemies.[8] Should players take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated through the use of health pick-ups. Body armour can be used to absorb gunshots and explosive damage, but is used up in the process.[9] When health is entirely depleted, gameplay stops and players respawn at the nearest hospital, at the expense of losing armour, weapons, and an amount of money.[10]

If players commit crimes while playing, the game’s law enforcement agencies may respond as indicated by a “wanted” meter in the head-up display (HUD). On the meter, the displayed stars indicate the current wanted level[11] (for example, at the maximum six-star level, efforts by law enforcement to incapacitate players become very aggressive).[12] Law enforcement officers will search for players who leave the wanted vicinity. The wanted meter enters a cooldown mode and eventually recedes when players are hidden from the officers’ line of sight.[11]

The game lets players control the mute criminal Claude.[13] During the story, Claude meets various new characters from gangs. As players complete missions for different gangs and criminal organisations, fellow gang members will often defend players, while rival gang members will recognise players and subsequently shoot on sight.[14] While free roaming the game world, players may engage in activities such as a vigilante minigame, a fire fighting activity, a paramedic service and a taxi cab service.[11][15] Completion of these activities grants players with context-specific rewards; for example, completing the vigilante mission allows players to bribe police after committing a crime.[16]