Jan 13, 2012

Grand Theft Auto III: 10 Year Anniversary Edition

I still remember the day quite vividly. I was working at Radiant Systems and a group of us headed to the mall for lunch. Given that many of us were into video games we'd also always stop at the EBGames in the mall and look around. That was the day they had Grand Theft Auto III up and running on a PS2 and it was AMAZING. And the reason it was amazing is that it was among the first games to immerse me in a living world where I didn't have to follow the plot and could do what I wanted. Now, I'm a bit of a prude so I really don't like all of the hooker stuff and such in my games, but even I could appreciate the game on its technical merit.

So here we are roughly a decade later and Grand Theft Auto III has made the jump to Android... a platform that I can hold in my hand and take with me wherever I go. And the jump is solid. If you don't know what Grand Theft Auto III is I'll do a quick summary. You play the role of a petty criminal and the story line takes you through various missions... drive here, go beat this guy up, go there, be an escort service, ... etc. And on your way it's stunning to see the world alive with people going here and there, traffic that obeys traffic signals, and even trains going by. In 2012 it's not quite as amazing given that developer RockStar games has steadily improved upon the genre on the console/PC front, but to see it on my tablet compared to the other table games I'm used to seeing is still actually quite impressive. I don't know why when I compare the specs on my tablet to ten year old hardware, but it is.

Before I get into the details of the port, let me say that this game serves as a great demo of Android Market fragmentation. I got this game, but I can't play it on my Epic 4G. It's not 'certified' for that device and I gather it's only available for a handful of devices that have the specs to be able to run the game at a good clip. Now the devs are fair in that they list all supported devices in the Market, but it is getting frustrating buying a game on one device and thinking I'll have it for my other device only to see that it's not there. I don't blame the devs for this... especially given all of the idiots that give a one star review if something doesn't work for them which in turn leads to devs threatening users not to leave one star reviews (I've seen two say "no support if you leave a one start review!") and ultimately means you can't trust app ratings in the Android Market. I'll also note that the iOS platform, in this case, isn't much different as the reason this game is fragmented has more to do with the capabilities of various devices and my Epic 4G probably doesn't have the muscle to run this game. I just like talking about fragmentation.

Back to GTA III. First, the game's controls, while not as good as having a game controller, work quite well. Generally the game doesn't require fast action reflexes to get around, and they did the nice moving DPad for controlling your character that I've mentioned in another review. In GTA you just touch and slide to move your character and you don't have to worry about slipping off of the on screen controller. Unfortunately that only applies to running/walking around and doesn't apply to driving a car (?). The graphics while minutely pixilated are countered with all that is going on and the audio is all there. Because this game is a sandbox game it can be fun just to run around and do stuff, but the reality is that the meat of the game is in the story. It's also fun on a juvenile level to see the stuff that doesn't make sense in the game such as running a red light in front of a police officer (no he doesn't hunt you down, but instead passively ignores you) or running over a few people (nobody cares?). However, the game does keep the 'real' feeling going despite these shortcomings. I can't tell you how frustrated I was to get a new car, get it repainted, and get in an accident pulling my car out of the garage. That's why I don't like buying new cars in real life.

qrcodeFor those that want to know more, the game starts off with a sequence in which a bank robbery occurs and during transport of some prisoners a bomb is set off on a bridge to break them free. You and paired with a guy that loses his hands in the explosion making you the driver to get to your HQ. From there you're told that you can go far if you can follow orders and your first job is to go pick up Misty. One of the many neat things to demo the detail of the game is that Misty hops in your car on the passenger side. I then decided to get out of my car. Misty dumbly follows me. Apparently walking her home is an option. But when I hop back in the car she get in on the rear drivers side versus having to enter through the same door. Then it's drive her back and so forth...

As you complete missions the game guides you with a nice map, but as you play the game you'll start to learn the city just like you would had you moved there. And I can't see anything that's missing from the original all the way down to the novelty of having a selection of radio stations in the cars. And fun? Yes, GTA is a lot of fun if you don't mind the theme. I'd much prefer to play the role of the police, but that's the prude in me talking again. As I see it this has to be one of the best games available on Android right now... uhm... on select Android devices. And for $5? I paid $50 when I first saw it.  5/5 stars.


P.S. So now I'm checking out the review score on the Android Market... 3.6. Just 3.6?? Reading deeper it's the usual "doesn't work for me" stuff and not too much targeting of the game... and occasional crash issues which I have not experienced on my Transformer tablet.


  1. I've been playing this one some on my Xoom, and it really is a pretty impressive piece of work.

  2. Yeah, I've also got it running on my Bionic and my gTab (running VegaTab 5.1.1) without any issues on either. Ridiculously impressive offering for the price point.

  3. Running on EVO 3d on maxxed out graphics settings, Droid incredible could not keep a playable frame rate even on lowest settings. You can adjust graphics in the options.