reviews\ Dec 19, 2011 at 10:56 am

Grand Theft Auto III Review (iOS)



It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since we were first introduced to the glorious open sandbox world of Grand Theft Auto III, a world brimming with criminal activity, over-the-top stunts and genuine bravado.  It’s easily one of Rockstar Games’ greatest accomplishments, and now it’s revisiting the old stomping grounds of Liberty City for iOS devices, primarily the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.  Is it a return trip well worth taking?  Absolutely…though it helps to know what you’re getting into.

You know the story.  A criminal is wronged in a robbery, left for dead and stuck in jail.  After getting out, he immediately sets out for revenge, working for a series of ne’er-do-wells to gain access to money, weapons and just the right amount of goods to get even.  Hours worth of gameplay awaits, whether you’re cruising around looking for trouble, completing missions or seeking out hidden goods.

Good news – the game as you remember it from the PS2 days is completely intact.  That might spoil you a bit if you know the location of hidden packages and other missions, but on the other hand, it’s fun to revisit and go through everything again – for nostalgic purposes, if you will.  The fact that Rockstar was able to cram the game in its entirety in 462 MB of space is a superb feat, even if this game isn’t nearly as big as most of today’s open world adventures.  We’ll still take it for what it’s worth.

What’s more, Rockstar didn’t just make this a plain old PlayStation 2 port.  It’s touched up the graphics, on some devices at least, to bring it roaring into the HD era.  On the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, the textures look superb, with every character, car and building touched up.  And those explosions?  A real beauty.  It’s hardly the kind of thing you’d confuse with, say, Infinity Blade II, but it’s a solid conversion.

However, if you’re using an older device, such as an iPhone or a lower generation iPod Touch, you may be in for slight disappointment.  By comparison, the game doesn’t look as good on these devices, coming across as if it’s run through a fuzzy filter.  It still runs fairly enough that you can play through it and have fun, but your best bet is to play it on a more modern tablet/iPhone device.  The newer the better.

The audio remains untouched across the board, though.  Every radio station is accounted for here, and just as varied as you remember, with lots of licensed tracks and atmospheric chatter amidst the deejays.  You can change stations with the simple swipe of a finger, and listen to the variety offered.  The sound effects are great, and the voicework, featuring the likes of Kyle McLachlan, Joe Pantoliano and others, is completely intact.  You’ll love how this game sounds – particularly with headphones.

Now, let’s get to the gameplay.  Obviously this is the biggest change to the package, because the game’s been translated from controller to touch-screen gameplay.  For the most part, it’s good, as you can run around, throw punches (or swing a bat), steal cars and perform other actions with very little problem.  The buttons are somewhat wide apart, so it takes getting used to, but all the functionality is intact.  But there are hiccups, mainly with trying to keep a car from flipping over (the physics almost make them seem like toy models) and try to turn off the auto-lock when you’re shooting enemies.  If you can overcome these obstacles, you’ll have fun.  If not, um…you still have the PS2 version handy, right?

I won’t lie.  This would’ve been the type of situation where Rockstar would’ve been better off re-releasing Grand Theft Auto III HD for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, rather than limiting it to the mobile front.  But we’ll take what we can get, and this port, though not without its setbacks, is a fun return to Liberty City.  Plus, it’ll only run you back about five bucks.  That’s a small price to pay for a life of crime, isn’t it?


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