At long last, Rockstar has brought Grand Theft Auto III to the App Store in its entirety, celebrating its 10 year anniversary. Undoubtedly a game changer when it was first released, do these mechanics really hold up today? If so, did they survive the touch screen conversion? I'm delighted to report… yeah, pretty much.
Just in case you've somehow remained unexposed to this game for the last decade, I'll give you the run down. GTA III was to open world sandbox games what Halo was to shooters and God of War was to action-adventure titles, bringing great innovation and setting the precedent for the next decade of gaming. Upon starting the game, you're thrown into crime ridden Liberty City. After being betrayed, jailed, and subsequently broken out, you proceed to climb various crime ladders as you interact with gangsters, drug lords, the mafia, and more. The story is very R-rated, of course, and the characters are well crafted caricatures and stereotypes, all voice acted very well.
The new touch screen controls, however, don't hold up quite as well. There were a LOT of functions mapped to the PS2 controller, and all those buttons must now be crammed onto the screen. You control movement with a touch-anywhere left thumb-stick. Various virtual buttons control your jump, sprint, attack, accelerate, reverse, brake, and other various functions. Swiping the middle of the screen moves the camera, and using the mini-map or changing weapons requires you to touch the corners. The controls are surprisingly well done, at least until you get to combat. The auto-targeting mechanics are a bit wonky, and you'll spend more time fighting the camera than any given enemy. It's also easy to accidentally hit the wrong button due to them being packed so tightly. I had a very hard time progressing due to various control related deaths. Despite all of this, the game is still extremely fun. If you can get used to the controls, it's definitely worth playing.
This is still one of the all time greats, even though titles like Vice City and San Andreas are even more polished. The fun comes from the wide variety of things you can do at any given time, choosing between different story missions, completing the Taxi, Ambulance, and Vigilante side missions, or just going on random rampages through the city. As you commit crimes and progress through the game, more devastating weapons will be made available while tougher variants of law enforcement try to hunt you down, eventually leading to the full force of the military. The only thing this game is really missing are the cheat codes. If I can't summon health, armor, weapons, unlimited ammo, and a Rhino tank, it just isn't the same game...
The graphics are dated but still look fine in HD, though the pop up is really noticeable now. The soundtrack and various fictional radio stations are a blast from the past. If you've enjoyed Gameloft's Gangstar series but haven't played the GTA games that series is emulating, you owe it to yourself to see how it's properly done. The nostalgia factor alone is powerful enough to warrant a purchase. You can pick up this iOS Universal classic for the launch price of five dollars, so don't miss out.