- 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, a police helicopter named simply as Helicopter (HELI in handling.cfg, and Chopper in its texture and model name) is used in police pursuits against 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, even though police helicopters can still be seen in Liberty City Stories which is set 3 years before GTA III (1998).
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 second, 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 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 M-16 is also effective in disabling a helicopter, but requires a substantial number of 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 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 texture and handling line, while the GTA III's police helicopter's (HELI) texture files and handling line still exists. It is used in police pursuits, but only with a Police Maverick texture.
- In the beta version of GTA III the helicopter originally had the same body color as the regular helicopter.
- 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 can be set on fire with the Flamethrower and Molotov Cocktails but it will receive no damage from the fire.
- Like the civilian variant of the police helicopter, and the RC Goblin and the RC Raider in future games, spawning the helicopter will make it fall into the ground and remain unenterable, but unlike the civilian variant the colors will be the normal blue and white texture. Nevertheless, if the player somehow manages to enter it, the game will crash as the helicopter lacks dummies for the doors and where the player sits.
- In GTA III, GTA Vice City, and GTA Liberty City Stories, 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.
- Like in GTA Vice City, shooting down the helicopter may result in it spinning in circles many times a second.
- Walking through the helicopter while close down the the ground will immediately explode the aircraft. Interestingly, if the player presses the "Enter" key when Claude is near the helicopter, he will run toward it. There have been reports of players reaching the helicopter in this manner, only to make it explode.
- Helicopter (GTA III), the civilian version of GTA III's police helicopter.
- The Armadillo and Air Ambulance in GTA Vice City Stories, also based on the Bell "Huey" family.
- Police Maverick, the successor to GTA III's police helicopter.