It has been ten years since Grand Theft Auto III first burst onto the scene, causing controversy along the way. But not even the critics can deny the fact that it’s cultural impact has not only cemented its own importance by providing an experience unlike any other, but it also showed that gamers are ready to handle more mature subject matter. Rockstar in the past ten years have become the premier developer on the market, even branching outside of the series to provide Western epics, murder mysteries and soon the most innovative multiplayer concept I’ve heard in years! But it is very important to realise that Grand Theft Auto is the developers flagship series. So by bringing the classic game to the emerging market of smart phone and tablet devices, can Rockstar repeat previous success?
During a robbery of Liberty City Bank, the main protagonist is betrayed by his girlfriend Catalina when she shoots him and leaves him for dead. He survives, but is later found guilty. Condemned to pay for his crimes, the silent protagonist is then bailed out of a police van on route to prison when a gang eliminates the convoy. Sensing an opportunity, he and a fellow prisoner escape to seek refuge at Luigi’s. It soon becomes apparent that there is a large gang warfare being fought throughout Liberty City and sure enough, your protagonist is going to be mixed up in it. The overarching plot is fairly minimal until the end, but each segment of missions is comprised of interactions with people such as Italian Mafia bosses, Chinese Triads and a few others. Voice work is top notch, largely due to an organic script that doesn’t make the delivery seem forced.
There are only really two things you can ask when looking at a conversion of a ten year old game. The first is how much of the game was ported over? In Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition, everything from the PlayStation 2 version is present. The visuals are slightly clearer in detail thanks to a HD upscaling, but are still the rather crude and primitive polygons that are a decade old. It doesn’t look bad mind, it just is a little more obvious thanks to the better clarity. The idea of the gameplay is the same revolutionary sandbox game, where the world is your oyster and each central hub acts as the beginning of a mission. All the missions are present and correct, complete with the many side objectives and easter eggs that made the original so appealing.
The second thing we need to ask is: What is different? Apart from the aforementioned upscaling of the graphics, there are only a couple of newer features. If you fail a mission in the original PlayStation 2 version, there was a lot of backtracking to be done. In the modern version though, the game autosaves prior to the beginning of the mission. Not only is to a huge time saver, but it allows you to retain your current vehicle and weapon selection, making this particular version a far less tedious experience. This time saving gadge unfortunately seems to come at the cost of the handling. Since the primary control of any tablet/smartphone seems to be touch based all the way, there are only on screen buttons. Fundamentally, most of the issues that would have surfaced had been dealt with by the ability to change where the buttons are on the fly in the options screen.
Sadly, two issues still remain. Being able to actually shoot the people you want to shoot is unusually quite difficult thanks to a rather spontaneous auto-aim system that likes to target the closest person, meaning if a civilian walks in the path of your gun, they will be shot. Then there’s the car handling. Despite having two separate control schemes for driving, neither seem to work all that well as there is very little feedback through touch controls. Without a control pad to gauge the feedback when pressing the buttons or holding the analogue stick in a direction, it is easy to slip your controls so that you go crashing into a car you could easily avoid. While the modifications to the controls are commended for going as far as they can, the lack of technological innovation to allow this feedback means that this remake seems to be a little before its time.
As far as conversions go, Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition manages to transfer the entire package offered on the PlayStation 2 with almost compete perfection. It is the exact same beast that caused such controversy all those years ago in how it looks and how it plays. What is different however is the portability and the subsequent control issues that come along with it. Playing using a tablet is difficult enough as although you can change the controls to your own layout, the lack of feedback from using them means that you may overshoot your input, leaving yourself open to crashing your car, or standing still while gangs wail on you with bats. I can only imagine how much worse trying to play on a smart phone might be. This is probably the only thing holding this fantastic port from obtaining the crown on the tablet market as while it isn’t a graphical powerhouse, Grand Theft Auto III still provides a lot of bang for your buck.
Version reviewed: Version 1.0 – iPad 2.