It would be a crime not to buy it
Grand Theft Auto 3 was one of those game that changed the world. While GTA 1 and 2 were fun and introduced the world of crime bosses to PC gamers, GTA 3 blew everything before it away.
It might have been because it was one of the first 3D sandbox games, or that the console version was fresh and new to PS2 and Xbox owners, but it was also the story, the characters and the attention to detail that Rockstar lovingly created.
None of that is lost in this new iOS port to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the game. Yes, the game might have aged a little in the last 10 years. We've seen GTA games and those who want to be GTA games come and go since then, a few of them bettering it in the process, but this game was built to last.
The fact that the full Grand Theft Auto experience has ported so well to Apple's devices helps, on the iPhone's smaller screen the ageing graphics actually look pretty good and move surprisingly well. On the iPad 2 there are some rugged corners here and there, but because the game as a whole is so well made, it stands up perfectly well against, say, the Gameloft Gangstar games that have always aimed to re-create the experience of a GTA game, even without all the fancy graphical enhancements. The radio stations make it into the game intact too, with all their great jabs at society and some fantastic tunes to listen to while driving through the mean streets.
But it's when playing through the missions that it really becomes clear why Grand Theft Auto 3 is held in such high regard. The missions themselves are wonderfully varied and the larger-than-life characters are easy to buy in to, making you care about the ongoing story. Not many games on the iPhone have managed to recreate this talent for immersion, let alone in an open world situation.
Of course, there's always the opportunity just to go wondering around the city, stealing a taxi and taking fares or half-inching a police car for the odd game of cops and robbers, but even this is made accessible by the control system and the engine that provides a stable and fun-filled environment. Controls are laid out across the screen, an unfortunate side effect of having so many options. You can, however, move these around from the menu to suit your taste. Radio stations and weapons are both changed by swiping at the screen and everything else is just a press away.
Things do get a bit frantic from time to time and the engine copes well, even if the new lock on system for firing doesn't always make sense. It does hinder a few later missions where on foot action is required, but otherwise it's just a case of high-tailing it to a car and running people down.
Aside from the locking system, the graphics do have the odd tendency to have trouble rendering draw distance on an iPhone 4, but this seems less noticeable on a 4S or iPad 2 (but it could be just me). My time-addled brain can't really remember whether this was a big issue on the PC or console version, but it's still no biggie here and the game remains perfectly playable.
In fact, for a 10 year old game this beats most of the App Store content released this year, which is an achievement in itself. If Grand Theft Auto 3 got its first release today and there was no history involved it would still be a top rated game. But for many, history is part of the package and part of the draw, not to mention an aspect that will have a positive effect on your enjoyment of the game as you revisit old haunts and meet old friends and foes in your journey through the campaign.
Grand Theft Auto 3 is not, then, an old game released for the sake of an anniversary, it is a celebration of a true classic and a great iOS game in its own right.
- Sound: 10
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 10
- Longevity: 9
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