This recent Christmas, my mother was doing some shopping for my siblings. Since one had requested Grand Theft Auto 3, she had done a bit of homework- asking co-workers who had seen the game, had heard of the game, that sort of thing- but, for a final recommendation, she asked one of the individuals working in the Electronics Department at the West Side Wal-Mart. Said minimum-wage monkey informed her that he himself owned the game, and loved it to death, but he wouldn't recommend buying GTA 3 for anyone else.

Of course, said sibling managed to get his hands on it anyway, but that's another story. The point is, though, the guy at Wal-Mart was right- this is not a game you buy for someone else.

GTA 3 is not a particularly gruesome game- at least, not gruesome in the sense that some shock horror movies or video games are. There aren't any vivid pictures of skin being flayed from torture victims, there aren't any scenes of dissection... it still merits the M for Mature rating given it by the ESRB, though, due to the casual treatment the game gives to violence.

Yes, it's a story about organized crime. Yes, the nature of its themes are going to be oriented towards an older audience. Yes, the mission tree contains a number of goals that don't inherently involve killing gang members, yakuza, or Cartel thugs. Yes, you can spend the game just doing stunts around Liberty City and playing around with the Taxi and Firetruck missions. When it comes down to it, though, you can't get around the fact that most of the game revolves around a wide variety of ways to make people into corpses.

Like the guy at Wal-Mart said, you don't buy this game for someone else. Instead, you give someone else gift certificates in the amount of forty-nine ninety-nine (or however much your local store prices the game) plus any applicable sales tax and hint to that someone else very strongly that they should buy this game the moment they have the chance. Everything mentioned in the previous writeup is true. Rockstar has created a masterpiece- if I were to have only two games for a Playstation 2, they would be Final Fantasy X and Grand Theft Auto 3.

Play GTA 3- go to exciting places, meet interesting people, kill their enemies, steal their cars, meet more interesting people, kill their friends, kill their girlfriends, steal their cars, blow up their cars, shoot more interesting people, blow up helicopters, steal tanks...

Wicked fun.