It is hard to believe that it has been ten long years since GTA III launched for the PlayStation 2 and revolutionised the gaming landscape forever. The previous games in the series were 2D, top-down affairs; good games but hardly revolutionary. The switch to 3D changed all that.
Players were confronted with an open world, seemingly full scale city to explore. You could drive around the mean streets of Liberty City at will, listening to convincingly real radio stations thumping from the stereo of your stolen car, aggravating the cops until they gave chase.
The freedom the game gave you to explore this enormous city, with trouble on every corner made the game feel like a gigantic playground full of guns and violence, with a host of weapons to take out rival gang members, the police or even innocent bystanders. It spawned several sequels, each expanding on the groundwork laid down in this game, culminating in the epic GTA IV, itself soon to be surpassed by another entry, GTA V.
So, what of this new version of the classic game?
Well, Rockstar have done a really good job of this port, although the graphics have not aged as well as you might have liked. The new lighting effects are decent and really help to add some sheen to the title, but they unfortunately can’t completely cover the cracks. The whole game has been upscaled to HD, and again this does help a little, but the angular characters in particular really have not improved with time like many 2D games have. It is difficult to upgrade older 3D games, and although there are aspects of the graphics that are less than impressive, it still feels good to roam the streets of Liberty City, and overall I feel Rockstar have done just enough here. The fact that there are only a few instances of slowdown when things get hectic is a good sign of the work put in.
The radio stations are present and correct, and the games virtual controls are fully customisable, and can be dragged to the exact position you like, which means even lefties will be happy with the way the game plays, although I have to say the driving does suffer a bit in comparison to using a joypad.
The game does seem to have a bit of a problem with how close you need to be to a car to attempt to steal it. You need to be a lot closer than you do in more recent GTA games, with the whole thing feeling a little less automatic. I cant remember if the original title was like this, but if it was then I wish Rockstar had tweaked this aspect a little.
It really is impressive to have the entire sandbox world of GTA 3 in the palm of your hand, and it does strangely lend itself well to quick dip gaming sessions, but is obviously equally good for long sessions of playing through the story.
Overall, despite some minor graphical shortcomings, this feels fabulous to play on a mobile device, and while I would hesitate to recommend it above stablemate Chinatown Wars, as that game may fit better on the smaller screen, this is still a good game and one that is well worth a trip down a gangster infested memory lane.
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