Hands-on Preview: Grand Theft Auto III for iOS, Android [Update]

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Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto III is celebrating its 10 year anniversary and if you remember playing it on your PS2, Xbox, or PC, it has probably blown your mind to think that same game will soon be released across a number of iOS and Android devices in a couple of weeks. During this weekend’s New York Comic Con, fans were able to get some hands-on time with the game running on iPad 2s. After some elbow throwing and using sexy cosplayers as decoys, I was finally able to get my hands on Grand Theft Auto III.

Grand Theft Auto III was a landmark in Rockstar’s historic open-world franchise as both Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto II were played from a top-down point of view. GTA III took a huge leap and brought the carnage and mayhem we all loved from the two previous titles and brought it into a modern day fully 3D Liberty City. Seeing as the game turned 10 years old, the game’s graphics certainly hold up on the iPad 2. Claude and other people in the game have somewhat of a blocky 3D look to them, but everything certainly looks as it should and possibly even better as Rockstar put some work into tweaking the graphics to look more crisp.

The game will, of course, sport on-screen controls. The demo had a floating virtual joystick on the left side of the screen, which is used to move Claude around, while a number of actions can be performed via their respective buttons on the bottom right side of the screen. Claude will be able to attack, sprint, jump, and carjack like he did in the original game. Once Claude gets into a vehicle, the buttons change for those specific to driving the vehicle. The virtual stick became a “Left / Right” D-pad, but producer Rich Rosado assured me controls for the game were completely customizable, allowing players to change the position and size of the on-screen buttons, as well as the ability to use the virtual joystick or D-pad controls. As for the game’s camera, the game will now have a fixed camera that will swing around Claude as he moves around the city. Shooting enemies or random¬†passerby’s can be done by activating the game’s lock-on targeting system just like in the original GTA III.

During my time with the game, I was able to hijack a number of vehicles, run over pedestrians, and get into some serious trouble with the law. Throughout my rampage, the game performed flawlessly, barely dropping under 30 fps even with all of the action going on in the game. All of the sights and sounds that I remember from the original GTA III were all present and it felt just as good to play as it did 10 years ago. This was all due to the iPad 2’s A5 dual core processor, although producer Rich Rosado said Rockstar plans on supporting non-dual core processor devices, such as the iPhone 4 and other Android devices. The focus right now is to get GTA III out on the dual-core processor devices mentioned previously, then to trickle down support to other devices to let fans of the game play it on their devices.

Since my demo time was short, I wasn’t able to get into the game’s story at all, but I did get to experience one neat update. GTA III will sport an additional camera mode that pays homage to the previous GTA games by transforming the entire game to a top-down view. If you’re a nostalgic Grand Theft Auto fan, then you know how cool of an addition this is. Aside from that neat addition, Rockstar says the game’s content for the most part has been left unchanged. GTA III really impressed me this weekend and I can’t wait until Rockstar finishes it to spend hours with it once again 10 years after its initial release.

[Update: Producer Rich Rosado informed me the top down camera view was also included in the original Grand Theft Auto III, but assumes not a lot of people knew it existed. I for one didn't. Looks like we all learned something new today.]

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