Grand Theft Auto 3 iPad Review

Seeing Grand Theft Auto 3 running on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S is a revelation. Yes, the game is ten-years-old and looks its age, with crudely animated characters and a Liberty City that pales in comparison to the high definition version from Grand Theft Auto 4.

That said, it's Grand Theft Auto 3 running on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

Rockstar's epic crime drama was initially a 2001 PlayStation 2 exclusive, the one game that made Sony's console irresistible. The open world 3D adventure cast players as an unnamed thug (later revealed to be Claude) who gets set up by his girlfriend and left to rot in prison.

After escaping an armored vehicle, Claude sets off through Liberty City, interacting with a memorable cast of lowlifes, from call girls to mafia kingpins, with cut scenes that rivaled anything we'd seen from Hollywood, a high level of quality that would become Rockstar's pedigree.

Of course, most remember GTA 3 for wanton destruction, the option to break off from the story missions and go anywhere, do anything, from car jacking civilians to causing as much mayhem as possible and running from the law. They even partook in side missions that had them driving a taxi and ambulance.

All of this was lovingly translated to iOS. You receive one of the best ports, with crisp visuals, crystal-clear audio and controls that, for the most part, let you terrorize people like never before. Yes, you can kill a man, wait for the paramedics to arrive and bludgeon that fellow to death with a baseball bat.

With this in mind, the game runs beautifully, and the fact that load times are brief makes it ideal for smart phone users looking to jump in and then drop out several moments later. The old safe house returns for saving one's progress, but the game will temporarily hold your current location if you need to quit pronto.

Controls, meanwhile, work better than expected. The on foot virtual thumb stick is surprisingly good, and although Rockstar throws a whole mess of buttons on the right side of the screen, you have the option to resize and then replace them. The auto targeting while in a firefight is kind of weird, but not a deal breaker.

Driving is a whole other matter, and there are two options. You have left and right arrows on the bottom left corner of the screen. These work reasonably well, but it's too easy to unknowingly remove your thumb and then crash into a wall when you intended to make a left turn. Very frustrating.

The second choice involves a virtual analog stick that takes a long time getting the hang of. It's so awkward that we eventually went back to the arrows.

That's the biggest knock against GTA 3. When things get nuts, as they often do, the controls make situations tougher than they should be. If controller snobs need another reason to complain about playing 3D games on a smart phone, Rockstar just gave those people ammunition.

At the same time, and as we said, it's Grand Theft Auto 3 on iOS, and it rekindles a wealth of happy memories. If anything, it opens the door wide open for future releases (Vice City, perhaps?) and raises the bar for what can be done on these types of devices.

In other words, Grand Theft Auto 3 is one of the App Store's best titles, and we strongly suggest downloading it immediately.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

Download Grand Theft Auto 3

What's Hot: Excellent port of a ten-year-old classic, impressive on-foot controls, outstanding presentation, wealth of cool missions, entertaining story, universal, $4.99.

What's Not: Driving controls take some getting used to.