Grand Theft Auto 3 Review

By , on December 19, 2011

Grand Theft Auto III
Download on the AppStore
5 out of 5


  • Nothing lost in translation; this is GTA 3 as you remember it.
  • Easy to use controls despite their relative cramped positioning.
  • Auto-resume's (almost) anywhere; no need to worry about short bursts of play.
  • Scaling visual performance; minor effects turned off depending on the device used.


  • Currently only fourth-gen or higher devices supported; iPhone 4/4S, iPod Touch 4, iPad 1/2.
  • Australian version (and potentially other international releases) still censored; a sharp reminder of the game's sordid history.


Despite the Grand Theft Auto series constantly pushing the boundaries of its genre, Grand Theft Auto 3 still remains a rock-solid classic and a title not yet realized with the same level of detail on the iOS platform.

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Editor's Note: For the sake of transparency, yes, I live in Australia and as such the version of the game played was the 'Australian Edition'. As such no hookers were hurt during the making of this review. Except that one time I decided to use the side-walk as a freeway, but then again who hasn't done that? *police siren* *door cracking in background* I'm sorry officers! I was in a rush, please believe me!

Slipping back in to Grand Theft Auto 3 for the first time in almost a decade was a strange, but certainly not unwelcome experience. While playing the game old memories would light up and eventually cascade, with the sum total being an almost unwilled, but convenient guide book existing entirely in my mind. The fact that these knowledge has remained so ingrained is a testament to the original release and if it's any indicator, the iOS re-release has got things right on the money.

However, lets first consider what has changed: Visually the game has been enhanced (that is to say, upscaled to a new resolution), but detailing has been lost even on A5 devices. Visual effect overlays are gone, along with the cooler tone and trash blowing in the wind. The upshot is the removal of the unnecessary 'blur' effect and a framerate that is stable, though the odd moment of choppier performance does rear its ugly head (if only briefly).

The payoff is a game that defined a generation of clones that came close, but never quite captured the same spirit of freedom and fun of the original. Grand Theft Auto 3 places you in the role of Claude, a criminal who finds himself with a second-chance to climb the ladder of the shadowy underworld instead of spending life in jail. In order to advance the story and unlock new areas (including new weapons and vehicles) you'll need to perform favors for various individuals and organizations around the city including the Mafia, Yakuza and even the prominent 'Donald Love'.

If this isn't your first time in a sandbox title on the iOS, you'll slip in to the controls with ease - a responsive virtual stick along with a handful of dynamic buttons make it easy to run, jump and smack people around the face. Sadly the automatic targeting system hasn't been updated, making some encounters needlessly complicated, but new-comers and returning genre fans should find themselves tearing around corners in vehicles or shooting up a storm in no time thanks to a handful of introductory missions.

Aside from the high hardware requirements, the only complaints that could be leveled at Grand Theft Auto 3 come in the form of missed opportunities that could have helped to define this as a strong iOS title - accelerometer based driving and an iTunes based radio station just to name a couple. That said, iPhone owners need not fear incoming calls as the game automatically resumes from where you've left off, removing the fear of losing progress over short bursts of play.

If you owned and loved the original Grand Theft Auto 3, then this is exactly what you'd expect - a nostalgic and full-featured romp with all the fun that comes from a sandbox style of game. New-comers may be initially put off by the dated aesthetics, but it doesn't mar what is otherwise an excellent archetype.


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