Grand Theft Auto 3: 10 Year Anniversary Edition Review

By Ashley Esqueda - Posted Dec 19, 2011

Shooting cops, mowing down civilians, and taking Liberty City by storm is back in an iOS port of the original Grand Theft Auto 3. Can a port of such a groundbreaking title still capture our collective imagination the way it did ten years ago?

The Pros
  • Liberty City still feels as gritty as ever
  • The entire console version of GTA3 is here, side quests and all
  • Radio stations still hilarious
The Cons
  • Combat system sometimes works against you
  • Not as touch optimized as we'd like (a.k.a. "Button Overload")
  • Graphical pop-in is a bit jarring, shows the game's age

Grand Theft Auto 3: 10 Year Anniversary Edition Mobile Review:

I played a lot of Grand Theft Auto 3 when it came out back in 2001. My Playstation 2 spend countless hours keeping the game going while I cruised the streets of Liberty City, running over pedestrians and having insane police standoffs. You might say it shaped me in my later youth; without GTA3, I’m not sure I’d be the snarky, silly, crime-loving nerd I am today, not to mention my love of killing hookers and launching cars off of ramps to score points.

All kidding aside, GTA3 changed the genre of crime games forever, and in a very, very good way. So does Grand Theft Auto 3: 10 Year Anniversary Edition, a mobile port, retain that magic the original delivered a decade ago? Have we become too jaded to enjoy it today, or can the masses once again reclaim that illegal delight?  

Welcome to Liberty City

If you’re not familiar with the Grand Theft Auto franchise... oh, who are we kidding? Everyone knows the GTA franchise. Whether you love it or hate it, Rockstar pretty much set the bar for every open world crime game after it, and its model hasn’t changed too much in the past 10 years.

The story? Nothing less than mischief, mayhem, and the occasional taxi fare, ordered by the lowlives, drug lords, and miscellaneous miscreants in Liberty City. The original game’s story still holds up, offering an excellent linear single player campaign and an immersive world to traverse. The real fun, however, starts when you take advantage of the game’s fundamental feature: the open world exploration that’s made the GTA series a bastion of its genre. 

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There are buttons. A lot of buttons

Upon starting up your game, one of the first things you’ll notice is there are a smorgasbord of buttons at your disposal. The game pulls from the PS2’s controller; as every button had a function there, they’ve all been mapped to this port. While I’ll admit this makes for a slightly confusing learning curve (sometimes I still forget where specific buttons are underneath my thumbs while playing), the good news here is you can easily customize the layout of the screen to your liking.

While everything works pretty well while you’re simply out and about in Liberty City, the controls can get a bit overwhelming when you’re shooting multiple targets in combat, and the timed driving missions get a bit dicey. In all honestly, I do wish Rockstar would have taken the time to truly optimize touch-based and/or tilt controls for a lot of the game’s available buttons. Perhaps if GTA3 does well, they’ll decide to port other titles in the franchise and spend a little more time making them feel like great tablet games instead of ultra-straight ports with some control issues.

Grand Theft Auto 3: 10 Year Anniversary Edition

Side quests and you, or “Taxi Driving for Fun and Profit”

The best part of GTA3’s open ended world is still here for you to enjoy; that is, the fantastic side quests and mini games are available from the original. If you want to drive around town seeking ramps to launch your freshly-stolen ride off of to gain points (and feel like Steve McQueen), they’re waiting for you. If you’re a more gentle criminal, and feel like ferrying about citizens of Liberty City, carjack the nearest cab and start collecting fares. Completionists and overachievers (like myself) will recall the days of yore when one spent 100+ hours seeking out every bonus and exploring every nook and cranny of Liberty City.

Grand Theft Auto 3: 10 Year Anniversary Edition

Handing down the sentence

Grand Theft Auto 3
is an awesome port. It’s the kind of content that should be on iOS. We need more excellent games from consoles past that deserve a revival on the iPhone and iPad, and hopefully this is a huge jumpstart in that direction. There are countless titles out there I’m sure many of you would love to play on your iOS or Android device, and the fact that Rockstar squished an entire console game into your cell phone is nothing to scoff at. We’re carrying around some powerful technology capable of some incredible things, and Grand Theft Auto 3 proves that fact well.

Word on the street is Rockstar might be working on a port of my favorite GTA installment, San Andreas. If that’s the case, I hope they take a little time to really get the most out of the iOS experience, since we’ve seen how great games can be when they’re truly made for the touch experience. Liberty City’s out there, and it’s ready for you to corrupt it.