The Game: Grand Theft Auto 3: Ten Year Anniversary Edition
The Device: iPad
The Price: $4.99 for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and Android.
The Basics: This is it, the one that started it all. There are very few games that can be legitimately called trendsetters, but Grand Theft Auto 3 is certainly one of them. A massive open sandbox world the likes of which had never been seen before, with all the guns, car chases and adult themes one could hope for. It’s sold well over 15 million copies, became this generation’s Doom to both overly concerned parents and senators looking for votes, and defined a genre that developers are still trying to emulate it to this day.
Despite all the controversy over the adult themes and the multitudes of easily murdered hookers (hey, they took your money!), people fell in love with Grand Theft Auto due to its irreverent sense of humor, fun missions and over-the-top characters, and now, ten years later, the full experience is available to be downloaded straight to your phone.
The only question is- should it be?
The Review: Sometimes memories are best left alone.
While Grand Theft Auto is still quite a fun game, start it up and you’ll immediately find that improvements to future GTAs are sorely missed. Perhaps the biggest misstep in the game is the silent protagonist, the bland, Twilightian conduit. Ostensibly used to let you feel like you were playing as yourself but instead giving you the feel of playing a slave with no input (see- Bioshock); developers have figured out that people would rather play someone with a distinct personality and reasoning behind their actions.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll quickly remember how awful that auto-aim worked. You’ll rarely point at the right person in a gunfight, a fact that combined with your easily chipped-away health means that you’ll spend more money at the hospital than you’d like. Stock up on a vests in this game whenever you can if you want to stay alive. This is made worse by the fact that aiming requires some serious finger gymnastics, as you aim on the right side of the screen, where the shooting button is also located.
The controls are clearly the biggest point of contention. If you were wondering how the PS2 controller could translate to a touch screen…well, not perfectly. Rockstar has done a commendable job of adapting the controls and letting you customize them as you see fit. The left section of the screen is used as the analog stick and you can just tap and hold it anywhere to bring up a floating analog stick. The right side will show context-sensitive “buttons” that feature anything from run and jump buttons when you’re on foot to brake, accelerate, and driveby buttons when you’re in a car. Most of the time it works just fine, but every so often you’ll notice your car isn’t turning or accelerating and look to your hand placements to see that they’re a few millimeters off.
But still, you’ve got the entire game in your hand! Everything from the original is included here, every mission, every character, every radio station. It’s also a bit improved as well, especially with the inclusion of checkpoints. No longer will you have to go back to the mission start and try it all over again- you can simply click retry and go at it again. It makes sense on the portable platform, and indeed you don’t have to worry about savepoints since it saves your progress automatically.
I don’t want to sound too down on this game- it’s still very fun, and the radio stations are absolutely hysterical. I forgot how funny Lazlow’s station is, and found myself just parking the car before a mission just to listen to the rest of the broadcast. The world, while primitive and small compared to the Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto IV, still offers a ton of freedom, and running from the cops is as fun as ever.
It’s certainly still worth a play, but this isn’t the ideal platform for it.
The Final Grade: C+