- This article is about the uncontrollable police helicopter in Grand Theft Auto III. For the civilian variant of the helicopter in Grand Theft Auto III, see Helicopter (GTA III). For the controllable police helicopter from GTA Vice City onwards, see Police Maverick or Helicopter (disambiguation) for others.
In Grand Theft Auto III, an unnamed, uncontrollable police helicopter (HELI in handling.cfg, and Chopper in it's texture, and model name) is used in police pursuits on the player. The helicopter is the predecessor of the Police Maverick, which has an official name and attributes inherited from GTA III's police helicopter.
The helicopter is designed as a large vehicle bearing similarities to the Bell 205. The game's rendition bears a blue-and-white LCPD livery similarly adopted for the game's police road vehicles early in game development, and comes equipped with a gunner or turret, which fires bullets from its underside, a search light that is commonly used at night, and a loudspeaker used by occupants on board to (hilariously) address the player. According to an in-game news report, the helicopters were only recently introduced in Liberty City (circa 2001) to aid the police force in fighting crime.
The police helicopter appears only after the player attains a three-star wanted level, initially hovering just over the player. Due to its airborne capabilities, the police helicopter is able to reach places where conventional police forces can't (i.e. rooftops and off-road locales). However, the helicopter will retreat as soon as the player enters a enclosed area which the helicopter cannot reach (such as a building interior or tunnel). Despite its availability in the game, the helicopter cannot be commandeered by the player.
The helicopter is designed to shoot the player from three stars onwards, but will only open fire once the helicopter's spotlight has been shined on the player for a few seconds, regardless of whether the player is on foot or in a vehicle; by constantly moving and changing directions, the helicopter will be unable to target the player using the spotlight, preventing the player from being shot. By five stars, a second police helicopter will join in, doubling the police's firepower from the air.
As is the case with any airborne vehicle, the helicopter can be shot down using firearms. The rocket launcher, in particular, is effective in taking down any police helicopter with one hit, sending the helicopter spinning out of control before exploding and disintegrating on impact at a building or on the ground. The M16 is also effective in disabling a helicopter, but requires 176 direct shots before the helicopter begins to lose control. In its downward spiral, however, the helicopter may still shoot the player until it crashes. Also the helicopter has no set height limit and can match the player's altitude.
From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City onwards, helicopters were redone and most are controllable by the player. The Police Maverick, in effect a police variant of the Maverick, replaces GTA III's police helicopter. However, the controllable Police Maverick has a separate vehicle, while the GTA III's uncontrollable police helicopter with a modified Police Maverick model is used in police pursuits.
- A pre-release screenshot of GTA III shows the police helicopter having an entirely white body color.
- The helicopter bears an NYPD-like light blue and white police livery, a color scheme that was cut for both the game's police car and Enforcer following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
- The helicopter was meant to appear in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but cut during development. This is evidenced by the handling files, and it is probably replaced by the Police Maverick, probably a leftover from GTA III.
- The helicopter can be set on fire with the Flamethrower and Molotov Cocktails, although no damage will be taken.
- Like the civilian variant of the police helicopter, spawning the helicopter will make it fall into the ground and remain unenterable, but unlike the civilian variant, it spawns in its usual blue-and-white livery.
- In GTA III, GTA Vice City, and GTA Liberty City, there is a bug with the police dialogue where the police helicopter will swoop over and play dialogue. However, it will stay in one place and not follow the helicopter, making it sound like it is coming from nowhere.