It’s long been a subject of fan speculation as to how much Rockstar Games changed Grand Theft Auto III in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the decade-plus since GTA III came out, rumours have abounded: cut sequences where planes hit buildings, a supposedly removed pair of Twin Towers-style skyscrapers and the erasure of children and school buses.
Turns out some things did change about GTA III after 9/11, but not as much as conspiracy theorists would have you believe.
In the latest look back at the creation of GTA III, the New York City-based publisher of Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire runs down how the terrorist attacks on the United States affected the PS2 classic. Rockstar says that the game wound up being only “1 per cent different”:
We removed only one mission that referenced terrorists and changed a few other cosmetic details — car details, a couple of [pedestrian] comments, lines of radio dialogue etc — the game came out a very short time later. The biggest change was the US packaging which remixed the previous packaging into what became our signature style — because the previous packaging [which was released as the cover of the game in Europe] was, we felt, too raw after 9/11.
That rawness might have something to do with the explosions happening against a urban back drop. One of the best games ever — which had players engaging in all kinds of criminal mayhem in a virtual homage to New York City — came out only a short while after the greatest tragedy to happen on American soil. The proximity could be little uncomfortable, when you think about it. But Rockstar’s comments indicate that the GTA II that players got was 99 per cent the game the developers wanted to deliver.
Other GTA III mysteries that get covered include the ghostly multiplayer menus buried deep in the game’s code, why the Dodo plane doesn’t fly and the Liberty City bridges and tunnels that lead to nowhere. GTA III conspiracy theories may be fun, but it’s far more fascinating to learn about some of the process behind making the game that changed open-world design forever.
Grand Theft Auto III: Your Questions Answered — Part Two [Rockstar Newswire]