Staying up until midnight waiting for the iTunes App Store to refresh with new daily content is the new ‘queueing in the rain outside GAME’ – it’s generally warmer and dryer in bed, you don’t have to ‘interact’ with other ‘gamers’ and – usually – the game won’t cost you £40. In this case, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III is just £2.99.
And – on iOS at least, it’s a universal app meaning that one purchase gets you the iPhone and iPad versions – I’ve not tested the game on anything but an iPad 2 (let alone an Android device, on several of which the game is also released) but it’s worth noting because, well, that’s extraordinary value for money.[drop2]Sure, it’s a ten year old game, but it’s one of the finest games ever made – a true genre leader and marked the stage at which the gaming industry finally ‘grew up’ in the eyes of the rest of the media. Not always for the best reasons (shooting cops, mugging prostitutes and stealing cars was real Daily Mail fodder) but regardless, the game is held with much regard.
And rightly so. Other developers (and we’re including Gameloft here) have attempted to borrow the formula in the last ten years (has it really been that long) but have generally missed the reasons why GTA is so good: the characters, the clever missions, the real sense of progress and development. Yes, later Grand Theft games have pushed these aspects further, but Liberty City just seems pure.
So how does it look on iOS? Well, it’s clear that this is a step beyond the PS2 version, with the PC textures being used giving the game a much sharper look. It’s hardly going to blow you away visually – the models are still basic, pop-in is there (especially in shadow detail) and it’s void of fancy effects – but it’s solid enough, and nice and smooth.
I quickly dashed through the first few missions and didn’t experience any hitches.
Control wise it’s as good as it’s going to get until Apple throw out some kind of Bluetooth controller (Android owners may be better served in this respect) – there’s a lot of buttons onscreen but they’re all configurable and you can move them wherever you like. On foot it’s a virtual stick (one that centres on first tap, thankfully) and driving can be the same, a left/right digital pad or controlled via tilt.
To be honest, the controls are OK for the first few levels, the game takes a little while to get really difficult so impressions might change a bit further down the line. I didn’t really have any problems getting used to them, for sure, but I’m not one of those people that instantly vomits when they see virtual buttons.
Everything else is present and correct: the sounds, the radio stations, the vehicles, the pedestrians – nothing appears to be chopped out and some things, like the pinch-controlled map, are actually improvements.
But, look, it’s three quid. It’s tens of hours of fun to be had for the price of a Sainsbury’s sandwich, it’s downloaded in a flash (it’s just 450MB or so) and works just as well as you could have hoped it would. I’m keen on seeing what Rockstar do next on the platform (Vice City please) but this is streets ahead of anything else like it.
Did you really think it would be anything else?
Screens captured directly from an iPad 2.