Reverse-engineered GTA III source code is back online

It's the cops!
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Earlier this year, a group of hackers successfully managed to reverse-engineer the source code for Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City. For their efforts, the project was swiftly stamped out by a Take-Two DMCA takedown. But one developer didn't just disagree with the publisher's decision—they successfully fought back, bringing the fan-made code repository back online.

The result of years of community development, the Re3 and reVC projects improved the ancient crime sims with modern conveniences like widescreen support, debug menus, and an easier entry to modding. Fans loved it, but the games' original publisher did not, forcing all trace of the projects from GitHub.

"The content in the links below consists of copyrighted materials owned by Take-Two," the publisher said at the time. "The use of our copyrighted content in these links are unauthorized and it should be removed immediately."

But TorrentFreak reports that last month, a New Zealand coder going by Theo issued a counter-claim. Theo maintained one of the forks containing Re3 and reVC, and believed that Take-Two's claim over the code was invalid—the code was reverse-engineered, meaning that hackers figured it out and wrote it themselves, rather than digging up Rockstar's original code.

"It would appear that the code in the re3 repo is reverse engineered, not a straight decompilation. I believe Take-Two’s claim to be wholly incorrect if this is the case, since the code may be functionally identical, but not exactly identical, they hold no claim to the code."

Theo's fork of the GTA 3 projects has since been restored, though the 200+ other forks of the code remain offline. DMCA rules urge that contested content be restored within 14 days of a counter-claim being filed, though it's entirely possible Take-Two could strike back and take Theo to court. But Theo tells TorrentFreak that, while he's prepared for legal action, he doesn't expect the publisher to take this any further.

"I do not agree with how Take-Two handles events like this," Theo added. "Taking down code that does not belong to them is abhorrent."

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.