Wanted Level in GTA III Era

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A Wanted Level is a measure of the how much the player is wanted by law enforcement. As the player's wanted level increases, more powerful forms of law enforcement will pursue them. In GTA III era games, wanted level is measured on a six-star scale. Committing several minor crimes in quick succession - such as beating people up, destroying cars, etc - will earn the player one star. Continuing to commit crimes or resisting arrest will often lead to a second star, and so on. Committing serious crimes (for example, throwing a grenade into a large crowd of bystanders) often earns the player multiple wanted stars outright.

If the player has one or more wanted stars, nearby Police will give chase and attempt to arrest the player - bringing up the message "Busted". An arrest is executed by either knocking the player onto the ground and holding him at gunpoint, or by opening the player's car door and holding him at gunpoint. In both cases, the player has no choice but to give up. If arrested, the player is transported to the nearest police station and is released some time later minus some money and their weapons.

A players wanted level can be decreased various ways. A one-star wanted level will disappear on it's own if the player "lies low" for a while (stays out of sight and commits no more crimes). Higher wanted levels can be lost through picking up Police Bribes (each one reduces the player's wanted level by one star) or running a vehicle through a Pay 'n' Spray.

It is notoriously difficult to survive higher wanted levels without the use of Cheats, available only in GTA III and subsequent games.

  • In all GTA III Era games, there are cheats to raise and lower wanted levels.
  • In GTA Vice City, upon being Busted, the voice of the player's lawyer, Ken Rosenberg, can be heard persuading the police to let the player go: "Officer, do you really think my client is capable of that?".
  • GTA San Andreas contains a cheat to prevent the player from ever obtaining a wanted level. However, the player can still get attacked at police impound stations.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, witnesses can call 911 on their cellphones to report the player's crimes, giving the player a wanted level even if no police officers witnessed their crime.
"Instead of sprinting to the first available car, jacking it then hurtling to the nearest Pay N Spray, escaping from the cops in GTA IV is a far more organic affair. For starters, any crime you commit will give you a wanted level. Jack a car anywhere and you'll get a star because there are witnesses. Instead of the cops just screaming to your position though, the star warning you're 'awarded' translates to a visible search area on the radar. If you manage to escape the circular search area, then your wanted level will flash and disappear. If you're spotted though, the centre of the circle changes to your position, and you have to start again. This offers up numerous options. As police only operate on their own line of sight, if they can't see you they can't stop you."

A wanted level is cumulative and it is possible to reach a six-star wanted level by simply gunning down a lot of pedestrians, but some crimes are more serious than others, and some can earn you three or more stars outright.

One Star

At a one star wanted level, any police patrols that spot you will give chase and attempt to arrest you. Officers will attempt to knock you down with their nightsticks, but do not shoot unless you display a weapon. Police cars will follow you, but will not keep up a high-speed pursuit and can be easily outrun. If you can stay out of their clutches and do not commit any further crimes, a one star wanted level will usually expire on it's own.

A one-star wanted level is attained by committing the following minor crimes. Many of these will not immediately result in a wanted level unless a police officer is around to witness them or several are more than one are committed in quick succession.

  • attacking and/or killing bystanders
  • damaging or destroying a vehicle
  • attacking a police vehicle
  • crashing into a police vehicle
  • firing a weapon in public
  • pointing a weapon at a police officer
  • carjacking and stealing parked cars
  • breaking through a tollbooth without paying (in GTA IV)
  • driving while intoxicated (in GTA IV)
  • pushing a police officer repeatedly (in GTA IV)
  • spraying cops with a water cannon when driving a Fire Truck (in GTA IV)
  • climbing on top of a police car (in GTA IV)

Two Stars

When you attain a two-star wanted level, the police start actively searching for you. Officers will now shoot to kill and each patrol car is occupied by two officers. Officers in cars now chase you rather than simply follow behind and will often try to overtake you or spin you out. On water armed police boats will give chase.

Two wanted stars are attained by:

  • killing a police officer
  • destroying many cars at once
  • killing many people in a short space of time
  • crashing into a petrol pump (causing death or severe property damage)
  • displaying a weapon inside a police station
  • destroying an aircraft (in San Andreas)
  • faking arrest (in GTA IV)
  • refusing to pull over (in GTA IV)

Three Stars

At a three-star wanted level, pursuing police vehicles become more aggressive and the police also begin to set up roadblocks on main roads. A police helicopter is also called in to assist and it's crew will follow you, put a spotlight on you (at night), shoot at you if they get a clear shot and yell various humourous remarks ("Hey, I can see my house from here!") over a loudspeaker.

Once you've attained a three-star wanted level in GTA Vice City, police officers begin to deploy spike strips to puncture your vehicle's tires. Additionally, undercover 'Vice squad' detectives armed with Uzis and driving Cheetahs also give chase.

It is still possible to lose a three-star wanted level by lying low; however, as there is now a helicopter chasing you, it is signifigantly harder. It is really only possible to lose this level when hiding in a location the helicopter can't follow, such as under a bridge or inside a tunnel.

Three wanted stars are attained by:

  • continuing to attack police officers
  • killing many bystanders
  • causing excessive property damage very quickly, such as blowing up several cars at once
  • entering police impound garages (in GTA: SA)

Four Stars

At a four-star wanted level, police driving becomes yet more aggressive and SWAT teams join the chase. SWAT members wear body armor and are armed with sub-machine guns. Roadblocks now consist of the heavier and larger SWAT vans, making them more difficult to ram through. The pursuing police helicopter will fire at you more frequently and, from GTA Vice City onwards, will rappel SWAT members down right on top of you if you stay stationary. In GTA San Andreas, the police helicopter is often joined by a News Chopper, and military jets will pursue you and attempt to shoot you down if you try to escape in an aircraft.

Four wanted stars are attained by:

  • continuing to retaliate against law enforcement
  • continuing to kill civilians
  • shooting down one or more police helicopters
  • causing extreme property damage, such as blowing up many cars
  • exiting Los Santos before you're allowed to (in GTA: SA)
  • entering the runway at Francis International Airport (in GTA IV)
  • going on the site 'Littlelacysurprisepageant.com' at the Tw@ internet cafe (in GTA IV)

Five Stars

At five wanted stars, the FBI (FIB in GTA IV) take over the chase and completely replace local police on the ground and the streets begin to clear of civilians. Four-man teams of heavily armed and armored FBI agents drive armored cars and SUVs and make for formidable opponents. Their driving is even more aggressive and they usually opt to ram your vehicle head on at high speed and then batter it to pieces before you can recover. In GTA III the pursuing police helicopter is joined by a second, and both stick to you doggedly and fire at you whenever they get the chance. The waters are saturated with Predators at this wanted-level. Trespassing inside a military base will release a five star wanted level and cops swarm in and kill the player (

Five stars are attained if you:

  • continue to retaliate
  • take down a few more police helicopters
  • continue to cause extreme property damage, such as blowing up more than a dozen cars
  • fly into restricted airspace, such as that over a military base (in GTA: SA)
  • trespassing into or passing too close by the marine base in San Fierro while driving a boat (in GTA SA)

Six Stars

At six stars, the Army (NOOSE in GTA IV) will take take over from the FBI and will give chase in Barracks OL trucks and Rhino tanks, making travel in ordinary vehicles extremely hazardous. Civilians have almost completely disappeared from the streets at this point, and the soldiers drive with total disregard for anything but ramming you into oblivion. At six stars, police helicopters rule the skies, the sea is thick with police boats and in addition to the army, police officers are everywhere - appearing from all directions in large numbers. If you can't get to a Pay 'n' Spray with a suitable vehicle, stealing a tank or taking to the skies in a helicopter and trying to pick up police bribes around the city are often the only practical options for reducing a six-star wanted level.

In Grand Theft Auto IV, the One Man Army achievement is unlocked when the player stays alive for at least five minutes with a six-star wanted level.

Six stars are attained if you:

  • continue to retaliate
  • take down several police choppers and kill scores of law enforcement officers
  • cross police barricades before you're supposed to (GTA IV)