Hands-On with Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition
Grand Theft Auto III marked a groundbreaking shift in the action/adventure genre of video games. A little over a decade ago, the popular shoot-em-up title burst onto the scene, and gamers received an experience of organized crime and unbridled mayhem akin to a sizzling Hollywood blockbuster. Recently, Rockstar Games released a port of GTA III for iOS and select Android devices in celebration of the game’s 10th anniversary. Does the epic Liberty City saga of violence and revenge translate to mobile devices? Let’s find out!
There are twenty Android devices which are currently capable of running Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition:
- Acer Iconia
- Asus Eee Pad Transformer
- Dell Streak 7
- Galaxy Nexus
- HTC Rezound
- LG Optimus 2x
- LG Optimus Pad
- Motorola Atrix 4G
- Motorola Droid Bionic
- Motorola Droid X2
- Motorola Photon 4G
- Motorola Xoom
- Samsung Galaxy R
- Samsung Galaxy S II
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
- Sony Tablet S
- T-Mobile G2x
- Toshiba Thrive
If you don’t have one of these devices, you may still be able to play the game so long as you have Android 2.2 or greater. Your mileage may vary. For this review, I’m using the Samsung Galaxy S II.
If you’re anxious to jump right into the fray once you install the game, you’ll have to wait a while. On the first run, the game downloads over 400MB of data which is necessary before beginning. The total download time takes about 5-6 minutes depending on your connection speed.
Once the additional files are downloaded, you’re ready to play.
Home Screen and Options
As you can see from the home screen, you have three selections to choose from: Start Game, Options, and Quit Game. While you may be tempted to jump straight in and begin cruising the streets and assaulting civilians, spend a little time in the Options section first. Even though the game is a faithful port from the PS2 classic, the interface has changed to accommodate touch screen devices.
The Options section includes five selections: Controls, Audio, Display, Language, and Main Menu. The Controls screen includes options for adjusting the camera view and re-positioning and re-sizing the touchscreen controls. (The latest version of the game supports Bluetooth controllers as well, including the Gamestop Wireless Game Controller.) I would highly recommend checking out the View Controls link because it contains a handy legend of all the touchscreen icons.
The Audio section includes a page for adjusting the volume of music and sound effects, and you can toggle vibration feedback. The Display section lets you adjust the brightness, screen resolution, subtitles, and other visual effects of the game. Depending on your device’s processor, you may want to edit these settings to give you a smoother gameplay experience. The Language section gives you six different language options (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese), and the Main Menu button takes you back to the home screen.
When you have your options fully configured, now you’re ready to play.
Even though this is a mobile port of the Playstation 2 game, none of the sounds or graphics are compromised. Full-motion cutscenes include spoken audio, and the user can choose from several radio stations while driving through the streets of Liberty City. Whether you’re playing on a phone or on a tablet, you’re getting the full GTA III experience. Newbies and seasoned veterans alike will delight in the urban, freestyle gaming environment, the array of different vehicles, the colorful Liberty City residents, and dozens of crime missions throughout the game. There’s no shortage of tasks to complete in the game, even if you just want to wreak havoc and go on a wild police chase.
Perhaps the most major drawback of the game is the touchscreen controls. This is a pretty big issue considering the port is aimed for touchscreen devices. If you think about how the game works on Playstation 2, your controller has sixteen buttons (the D-pad, start, select, circle, triangle, square, X, L1, L2, R1, R2, and the analog stick buttons).
Now imagine if all those controls were mapped onto a touchscreen device through a series of taps and swipes.
When you’re in the middle of some fast-paced action like a car chase, or even through mundane movements like walking through the street or driving between missions, your controls are only as good as your speed in tapping and swiping. And sometimes, even that isn’t responsive enough.
Controlling the main character’s movement is done through a virtual joystick that appears on the left side of the screen whenever you tap your thumb. Then there are buttons on the right for running, jumping, punching or shooting, entering a car, and changing your camera angle. These controls change once you enter a car, as you now have buttons for accelerating, braking, honking the horn, getting out of the car. And if you’ve played GTA III before, you know that driving is still pretty finicky. The pressure sensitivity of driving with a controller is lost through the touchscreen controls. You also have the option of turning on your device’s accelerometer to steer once you’re driving (this is in the Options screen, but this makes driving and seeing where you’re going even worse. Unless you’re playing with a Bluetooth controller, traversing around Liberty City will quickly become an exercise in patience.
Fighting and shooting in the game are equally problematic because of the controls. For fighting, you have to make sure you are facing your opponent, which can be difficult with the touch controls. Your opponent, on the other hand, will often be more nimble in getting around you than you are with adjusting the camera. If you happen to get in a brawl with several opponents, running away is your best option if you want to survive. When shooting, the game has an automatic aiming feature which will target anyone in your shooting radius based on their proximity to you. Of course, this means you’ll end up tagging innocent bystanders while your opponent fires away at you with no obstacles.
The other drawback I discovered deals with ending your game. The game has autosave functionality, but if you exit the game by pressing the Home or Back button, it will still run in the background. In order to properly quit the game, you’ll need to navigate to the game’s home screen and click the Quit Game button. While I appreciate that the game posts a notification letting you know it’s waiting for you to return, the option to quit the game from the Notifications drawer would have been nice as well. A few quick plays throughout the day will easily run your device’s battery down to critical levels.
Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition brings you everything you love about the Grand Theft Auto series — open, destructible gameplay, civil disorder, and unbridled pandemonium on a city-wide scale. All the music and characters you know and love are back for the ride, and it’s a great trip down memory lane for hardcore gamers. However, the lack of finesse with touchscreen controls makes enjoying gameplay more of a hassle than a treat. For optimal performance, make sure you have a Bluetooth controller to circumvent this issue.
Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition is available on the Android Market for $4.99 and requires select Android devices running Android OS v2.2 or higher to run. Download the app from the Market link below or by using the QR code provided.