Grand Theft Auto III
Marking its tenth anniversary by jacking onto iOS
The first thing you’ll notice when you play Grand Theft Auto III on a smartphone or tablet is how apparently nothing has changed.
All things considered, this has to be seen as a good thing, because it brings a level of nostalgia to the gameplay that a tenth anniversary release is supposed to have. Also present are the majority of the imperfections that littered the original game, like car lights being visible through garage doors and out-of-sync mouth movements. Despite the gradual ironing out of such issues as the franchise has developed, Rockstar seems to have made a conscious effort to pay homage to the original by not changing a thing, at least visually speaking.
Of course, the big change in the game mechanics is the introduction of touchscreen controls. This piece of functionality does take some getting used to, and while using the controls when on foot are okay, when it comes to driving you’ll need a few trips around Portland before you feel comfortable and in control. This is due to the steering being a little bit crude in that you can only tap left and right, rather than enjoying joystick-style movement like you do when on foot. The result is that you’ll spend a lot of time veering from side to side as you try to get the balance of the car right, and while you’ll find yourself becoming gradually better the more you cruise the streets, it’s when the heat is on during a timed mission or in the middle of a chase that the lack of subtlety really starts to become apparent.
On a more positive note, the rest of the controls have been reasonably well converted for use on the touchscreen. The majority of the icons are found in the bottom right-hand corner, with your floating joystick on the opposite side. The main actions are broken down into several icons, with separate prompts to do things like run, jump, punch or shoot depending on whether you’ve got a weapon. A carjack icon in the shape of a car door constantly pops up on the screen when you’re within striking distance, and there’s also a camera angle option. While this may sound like an extensive breakdown, it’s straightforward enough to learn, and doesn’t cramp the screen. When driving, you are also given icons to use the handbrake, horn or gun if you’re armed. The use of the swipe screen gesture has been nicely incorporated into proceedings, allowing you to change radio station when in a vehicle, or switch weapon by swiping over the correct thumbnail in the stats corner.
Once you’ve spent a bit of time mastering the controls, you can truly start to appreciate the seamless nature of the gameplay. Considering the large amount of action that is constantly going on, GTA III is incredibly sleek, and the iPad 2 handles it comfortably, at times making it possible to forget you’re using a handheld device. This is all the more impressive considering that this, of course, wasn’t initially designed for handheld, touchscreen devices, and yet it looks and feels very natural. Yes, there are some bugs that need to be fixed, but in a game this large and busy there was always going to be imperfections, and the chances are these will vanish with updates, which is, of course, one of the virtues of iOS gaming.
The best thing this version of GTA does, however, is show just how far the series has come, with advances in the shooting system on the console versions meaning that having to use this one again is a little jarring. However, it doesn’t dampen the thrill of being able to play GTA III wherever you are.
Rockstar has done a great job of optimising its classic title, even if there are a few stumbling blocks.
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