The player becomes Claude, a criminal who is betrayed and left for dead by his girlfriend. Now Claude is out to settle the score, but he'll witness just how corrupt and lawless Liberty City is in the process as he becomes the target of rival street gangs and law enforcement. Players will traverse Liberty City on foot or using a variety of vehicles they can jack at any time (including planes and watercraft) to engage in storyline and optional missions featuring cutscenes with dialog.
Players won't get far without starting some fireworks and general mayhem using a variety of melee weapons and firearms which they can use on foot or even in vehicles. Missions will frequently require players to eliminate targets through force. Despite having a storyline, missions can be undertaken at the player's leisure and the game does not end even after completing all scenarios. This allows players to continue exploring the game's environments in sandbox fashion.
Like previous games, Grand Theft Auto III features in-game radio stations that players can tune into while driving in vehicles. The stations feature a selection of licensed tracks totaling nearly three hours, and some feature dialog from ingame characters.
- Liberty City is a complete physical universe with laws, rules, standards, ethics and morals. They are yours to shatter.
- Over 80 gangland missions and loads of side missions.
- Work your way through the hierarchy of the gangs, meet bigger bosses, get better jobs.
- Multi-layered missions interweave story elements from level to level.
- Revenge plot drives the player through the game, whilst retaining non-linearity and freedom of previous games.
- Over two dozen ways to take out another character: fist fighting (punch, kick and head butt), base ball bat, handgun, Uzi, machine gun, M-16, rocket launcher, grenade, Molotov cocktail and flame thrower.
- Organized police forces including cops, SWAT Teams, FBI, and the Army work strategically to keep Liberty City properly corrupt and somewhat safe.
- Liberty City is divided into 3 districts: industrial zone, commercial district and suburban neighborhood all connected by bridges and tunnels. Each has its own look and feel - different kinds of buildings, cars, and inhabitants. As you progress through the game, new areas will open up to you eventually allowing access to the whole city.
- The streets of Liberty City are jammed with over 50 vehicles, each with their own physics. All ripe for the plucking, cabs, sedans, family cars, mini vans, SUVs, trucks (pick-ups to 18 wheelers), sports cars, convertibles, buses (school buses and metro buses), fire engines, ambulances, SWAT vehicles, and even the ice cream man are on the move in fear of losing their ride. When trying to escape a jam, boats and trains help transport players from one side of the city to the next.
- Vehicles take damage on 18 different panels.
- The time of day and night affects every mission. This city is a very different place at night and some missions can only be performed at certain times of day.
- A full-weather eco-system (including rain, fog, thunder and lightning) also affects gameplay. For example, rain makes roads slippery, fog reduces visibility, etc.
- Unpredictable pedestrian AI makes for wicked nights and strange days throughout Liberty City. Hundreds of pedestrians each with their own characteristics populate Grand Theft Auto 3's intersections and alleyways. Businessmen hurry to work, gang members look for trouble, and hookers prowl for business. Each character acts and reacts to situations and the activity surrounding them in their own unique way.
- Over two hours of music make up the soundtrack for the City. Each vehicle is tuned to its own radio station playing a combination of licensed tracks, specially created music and talk radio.