Grand Theft Auto III's mobile outing is as complete as its console cousins, but its touch-screen controls get in the way of enjoying everything Liberty City has to offer.
- Compelling narrative
- Great voice acting and dialogue
- Masses of NPCs make Liberty City feel alive.
- Touch-screen controls make even simple tasks a chore.
There's a certain novelty to playing a game on a mobile that was as widely lauded on consoles as Grand Theft Auto III. The sheer scale of the open world, the complex narratives, and the excellent voice acting are all as great as you remember. And it's all right there on a device that's as much for telling your other half to pick up some milk as it is about games. Yet, while GTAIII was a seminal and highly influential release for the PlayStation 2 and PC back in 2001, the same cannot be said of its 2011 incarnation on the iOS and Android. Yes, it's as clever and action-packed as ever, but it's hampered by touch-screen controls that sap the fun out of your on-the-go crime sprees, so you're likely to be as frustrated as you are enamoured with the beautiful mobile version of Liberty City.
For the uninitiated, GTAIII is a 3D open-world action game set in a fictional metropolis known as Liberty City, which is loosely based on New York City. It's not the kind of place where you'd want to wander the streets alone at night or even in the middle of the day. Crime is widespread, fuelled by a corrupt police force and government that turns a blind eye to the city's vast criminal underworld. You play as a small-time criminal who is betrayed by his partner in crime in a bank heist. After being freed in an explosion-filled action set piece you're set loose on the city, looking for work and aspiring to rise up the hierarchy of the criminal underworld.
How you go about that is largely up to you. Scattered throughout the city are missions in which you take on tasks for a criminal gang. These include performing simple fetch quests, tailing rival gang members in a car, and assassinating foes. Though there's some repetition in the latter half of the game, there's a huge variety of missions on offer, with excellent narrative and voice acting that's as much about love and romance as it is a gritty crime drama. You won't be working for just one gang, either. Multiple crime bosses seek out your skills as you progress, and you can complete their tasks in whichever order you please, giving you a host of options. The story does a fine job of keeping the disparate missions tied together, with your job as a gun-for-hire giving you an inside look at how each gang operates and the mounting tensions between them.
You need to play through certain missions to unlock other sections of the city or new items, such as guns and vehicles, but because this is an open-world game, you can choose to ignore them and simply use Liberty City as your destructive playground. Fancy jacking a car and mowing down a bunch of helpless pedestrians? How about grabbing a rocket launcher and watching stuff burn? Or maybe you're just in the mood for a quiet drive through the city, watching its many citizens go about their daily business as you listen to the excellent radio? It's all yours for the taking, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. It can be even more fun when the fuzz gets involved. Outrunning the cops or revelling in a five-star wanted rating and watching an ever-increasing squadron of tanks and helicopters attempt to chase you down is immensely satisfying.
Sadly, enjoying these elements to their fullest is hampered by the touch-screen controls. While the solution Rockstar has implemented tries to make the best of the situation, it highlights how easily a great game that wasn't designed for a touch interface is made less enjoyable. Overlaid on the action are virtual touch-screen buttons, which change depending on whether you're driving or on foot. Each action is represented by an icon, such as a car door for jacking a car or a bullet for firing your weapon. On foot, there's a virtual analog stick for controlling your character. When driving, it changes to simple left and right buttons for controlling your car. It's straightforward enough, but in the heat of the action, the lack of physical feedback makes completing missions unnecessarily difficult.
For example, in one mission, you have to chase down a gang member, shunt his car with yours, and then get out to finish the job with a pistol to the face. The multiple button presses required mean you have to take your eyes off of the action to see what you're pressing, which more often than not results in crashing your car into a wall (a problem exacerbated by the floaty handling of GTAIII's cars) or taking too long to fire your weapon. The lack of an extra analog stick for controlling the camera is also a problem, particularly in a firefight. While you swipe across the screen to position the camera, you have to take a finger off of the analog stick or fire button (or perform some mightily impressive finger gymnastics), making it difficult to keep your eyes on the action in the middle of a shoot-out. The system does offer some flexibility in that you can customise the position and size of the virtual controls to make things more comfortable, but it's not enough to make up for the game's shortcomings.
Fortunately, the visuals are much better. Whether you're running the game on an iPhone 4, 4S, or iPad, the game runs admirably, with crisp visuals and bags of detail, along with a smooth frame rate. It's not going to challenge the likes of Infinity Blade II for sheer graphical accomplishment, but even 10 years after the game's initial release, the visuals still look impressive. A lot of that comes down to the little details that make you feel like a small part of a larger world--the taxi drivers picking up passengers, the cops patrolling the streets, the hookers on the prowl for their next clients. To see such levels of detail running on a phone is very impressive.
The underlying game still holds up extremely well, but is it enough to make GTAIII a great mobile game? Sadly, the answer is no. The control issues keep it from achieving the same level of greatness as its console predecessors and keep you from enjoying everything it has to offer. Not even a visual wow factor is enough to counteract it. The novelty is great while it lasts, but you'll be craving a controller long before you've settled into Liberty City.
Nice to see iDevice mobile games finally catching up. Now they're only 10 years behind everything else...
GTA 3 was mediocre when it came out, why would it be any different now? If you throw off the glasses of nostalgia, it's easy to see; broken aiming system, terrible controls, bad graphics and buggy as hell; the only things going for it were that you were on the wrong side of the law and that you could bang hookers in the backseat of a car. Even the licensed soundtrack wasn't that great, and the fact that it alluded to Scarface was an insult to gangster movies. Oh right, but it's a sandbox where you could do whatever you wanted...so long as the game didn't glitch on you. At the end of the day, just like GTA 1, GTA London and GTA 2, the game still ended up devolving into a personal contest between friends to see who could get their wanted rating the highest and how long they could survive. And with all so much to do. Scores of 7.5 and 7.0 are generous, and frankly, I think mobile device owners got screwed. GTA Vice City fixed EVERYTHING that was wrong with that game and actually made GTA an enjoyable experience. If a GTA game deserves the re-release treatment, VC would be it. But hey, if there's demand, there's demand.
This game actually plays pretty good on an iphone. The controls can be a pain, but overall it's still a fun game, as it was 10 years ago.
I think it's really meant for tablets like the iPad. I can't see how anyone could play it on the iPhone or any smartphone, especially those with big fat fingers that take up 1/2 the screen On the iPad, the game works great. No problems fiddling around trying to hit the right button at the right time. the icons are all well spaced out and just a slight learning curve before it's all second nature The game plays exactly like it was that soo many years ago; driving around a "sandbox" city doing anything you well please, listening to a good selection of music and hilarious talk radio, completing missions most of which are pretty good stuff and keeps you going, and all the clever little details that pop up the more you play and explore the city. It's a lot like Skyrim, but without dragons ;) And to top it all a silky smooth framerate, even with some parts where a lot is happening on screen. The graphics has also been spruced up a bit, with less fog and more draw distance on the tablet Overall a lovely cruise down memory lane!
I knew it, from the very beginning that it was impossible to port a GTA game to a touch device, you can't play like that!
Do a gta style on Apple and force them to give support to a BT controller , send N.B. ( does Apple have something up their sleeve as far as a future gaming platform so no bt joystick/controller support ?)
Poor controls, neatly explains why phone games, for me, will never be as good as a console. That said, even the controls on dedicated handhelds leave something to be desired too...
I've got to be honest, I was really surprised with the review, I think everyones missing the point, you can't compare a mobile phone game and then try to pick holes because of its limitations i.e. no controller, but surely the point is that its a phone its a touch screen and they've made the best of what is available for this type of game, should the game have been made yes, it's rekindled my interest in the series again after a few years, it's like playing angry birds on a console or p.c. in my opinion not the same as the touch screen works for that type of game alot better.
Are there really that many people that HAVE to play this on a phone? I wouldn't think people on the go would have time to play something complex like this and would rather enjoy it at home. At the very least, if need be, pick up a GTA title for a hand held system if you are that desperate to play a title like this when you're on the road. I would tend to agree that this title is best suited for something with physical buttons.
Gs giving less than 9 rating to a GTA game]? Is the world coming to an end or sanity is about to reign at last?
ahhh, nothing like profit recycling to turn the stomach. "Lets not create new and innovative games folks, lets rehash the old ones and milk this cow!"
Cant believe it got such a low score. This was an amazing buy. I love how we can change from birds eye to 3rd person ANYTIME
The controls aren't perfect but they could be much worse. Once I played it for a bit I got used to them.
I wish Apple would come out with a blue tooth controller already... Touchscreen does work well for games like Civ or strategy games.
If only this gets released on the the 3DS. It would look awesome in 3D and the fairly decent 3DS controls.
Its not to suprising that a game like this can be ruined by its contorls, I mean lets face it this thing was never designed for a touch screen it was designed for a controller. Sometimes it just aint gonna work.
t's a fair assessment, but I don't really agree. The touchscreen controls are obviously not as good as real controller, but I still thought it was really fun and barely hampered play at all except on a very few select missions. IMO They did a great job porting it and this really has shown me the size of game that should be getting made for mobiles (especially Android).
It's a fair assessment, but I don't really agree. The touchscreen controls are obviously not as good as real controller, but I still thought it was really fun and barely hampered play at all except on a very few select missions. IMO They did a great job porting it and this really has shown me the size of game that should be getting made for mobiles.
"Touch-screen controls make even simple tasks a chore" I would have been really annpyed if they hadn't specifically mentioned something so blindingly obvious. Apple will have you believe it's the future. Touchscreen gaming is a fail and always will be. I wish Sony hadn't tried to copy Apple in that respect.
i guess this is proof that handheld gaming wont die anytime soon...sorry but i'd hate playing such an awesome game with crappy touch screen controls anyway. give me a 3ds or vita anyday its still better than all that crapware on the iphones and ipads
The last paragraph of the review makes its read like this should have gotten a lower score. A 6 or lower.