Ten years back Grand Theft Auto III changed games. Not only did it give us the first believable virtual city to roam around, it also provided the kind of devilishly good gangster action that we now take for granted. Looking back it’s clearly the defining release of the PlayStation 2 era, and to celebrate a decade of carjacking, murder and stinging satire, it’s now available on smartphones and tablets.
The worry, of course, is the controls. Many developers trip up when moving from the precision of joypads to the fogginess of touchscreens. Thankfully, Rockstar has largely got it right: moving, shooting and carjacking are so effortless that it’s easy to forget you’re actually using a touchscreen. Unfortunately, GTA III's driving isn’t so successful and it’s hard not to drive like a drunk.
It’s not the end of the world and skilled gamers will be able to get used to it at least to an extent, but Rockstar could have compensated for this accidental increase in difficulty by giving players longer to finish the time-pressured driving missions. Or by adding support for iCade, letting players use devices like the Gametel controller and iControlPad to control Claude as he races and chases his way around Liberty City.
GTA III's controls are hugely customisable though – letting players alter the size and position of the buttons and the HUD, and choose between button, analog stick or accelerometer steering.
The other big difference between then and now is visual. The once blurry Liberty City is now gloriously sharp and pretty, and while there has been a little pruning – cars no longer have brake lights and some trees have been chopped down – it’s nothing anyone should really miss. Besides, everything of real importance is still there, including the taxi driver missions and GTA III's infamous radio stations.
Beyond the changes you have an almost unaltered landmark game that still delivers the all-important gaming fun. It might lack the style consciousness and storytelling smarts of later GTAs but its nihilistic action is still potent, not least when taking out a train with a rocket launcher and then trying to deal with the waves of angry cops that follow. Somehow that’s even more fun now that you can do it while actually sitting on the train to work.
More after the break...
Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition
GTA on tablet is as brilliant as before, but now it’s prettier and more portable