Wanted Level in GTA III Era

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A Wanted Level tells the player how much he/she 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 its 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), running a vehicle through a Pay 'n' Spray or going to airport and buying a plane ticket to another city in San Andreas.

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.

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 more stars outright.

One Star

At a one star wanted level, any police patrols that spot the player will give chase and attempt to arrest him/her. Officers will attempt to knock the player down with their nightsticks, but do not shoot unless threatened (i.e. having a firearm equipped). Police cars will follow the player, but they can be easily outrun. If the player stays out of sight and does not commit additional crimes, a one-star wanted level expires on its 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 or crashing into a police vehicle
  • Firing a weapon in public
  • Revving a chainsaw in public
  • Carjacking and stealing parked vehicles
  • Driving a vehicle with the alarm going off
  • Selling multiple ice cream cones in Vice City

Two Stars

At two-stars, the police start actively searching for the player. Officers now shoot to kill and each patrol car is occupied by two officers. Officers in cars now give chase rather than simply follow behind and often try to overtake or spin the player out. On water, armed police boats give chase.

Two wanted stars are attained by:

  • Aiming a gun at a police officer
  • Killing or wounding a police officer
  • Destroying many cars at once
  • Killing many people in a short space of time
  • Crashing into a fuel pump
  • Displaying a firearm inside a police station in San Andreas, a melee weapon will not warrant a wanted level
  • Destroying any aircraft in San Andreas
  • Trespassing in the Washington Beach Police Station

Three Stars

At a three-star wanted level, pursuing police vehicles become more aggressive, driving at maximum speed, and the police also begin to set up roadblocks on main roads. A police helicopter is also called in to assist and its crew follows the player, putting a spotlight on the protagonist (at night) and shoots at the player if they get a clear shot and yell various humourous remarks ("Hey, I can see my house from here!") over a loudspeaker. Police officers begin to deploy spike strips to puncture the player's tires. Additionally, in Vice City and Vice City Stories, undercover 'Vice Squad' detectives armed with Uzis and driving Cheetahs also give chase.

Three wanted stars are attained by:

  • Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement (evading capture or death by any means)
  • Continuing to cause collateral damage (killing civilians and destroying vehicles)
  • Entering police impound garages in GTA San Andreas
  • Trucking hot goods in San Andreas

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 Uzi sub-machine guns. Roadblocks now consist of the heavier and larger SWAT vans, making them more difficult to ram through. The pursuing police helicopter fires at the player more frequently and, from GTA Vice City onwards, rappels SWAT members down to the player's location. In GTA San Andreas, the police helicopter is often joined by a News Chopper, and military jets now pursue and attempt to shoot down the player if he/she is flying an aircraft.

Four wanted stars are attained by:

  • Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement
  • Continuing to cause collateral damage
  • Entering a city not yet unlocked in the storyline in San Andreas
  • Blowing up an AI controlled full-winged Dodo in GTA III

Five Stars

At five wanted stars, the FBI takes over the chase and completely replaces local police on the ground and the streets begin to clear of civilians (In GTA Liberty City Stories, however, there are still lots of pedestrians in the streets). Four-man teams of heavily armed and armored FBI agents drive armored cars and SUVs and make for formidable opponents. The FBI agents are armed with AK-47s and 9 mm handguns in GTA III and MP5s in later games. Their driving is even more aggressive and they usually opt to ram the player's vehicle head on at high speed and then batter it to pieces before he/she can recover. In GTA III, the pursuing police helicopter is joined by a second, and both stick to the player doggedly and fire at the protagonist whenever they get the chance. The roadblocks now consist of FBI vehicles, which are easier to ram through ,but the FBI's MP5s tear through most vehicles fairly quickly. 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 attempt to kill the player.

Five stars are attained by:

  • Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement
  • Continuing to cause collateral damage
  • Flying into restricted airspace, such as that over a military base in San Andreas
  • Trespassing into a military base in San Andreas

Six Stars

At six stars, the Army 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 (In GTA Liberty City Stories, however, there are still lots of pedestrians in the streets), and the soldiers drive with total disregard for anything but ramming the player 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 the player cannot 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. The Army soldiers carry M16s in GTA III, M4 in San Andreas and MP5 in any other game. Unlike in the story mode where enemies often miss, the soldiers almost never miss, and a gunfight is considered suicide as the army will take the player down very fast.

Six stars are attained by:

  • Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement
  • Continuing to cause collateral damage