NY Comic Con Celebrates Grand Theft Auto III

Grand Theft Auto III turns 10 years old this year, and its influence during this past decade has been absolutely undeniable. It cemented the fact that video games were no longer child’s play, it popularized sandbox gameplay, plus about a hundred other gaming conventions and trains of thought that we all take for granted or don’t even notice anymore.

So an iOS and Android port of the game, on a purely historical level, is by itself significant. But even without all that context, there’s still a very good chance that it might be, the biggest release for those platforms this year. Especially here in NYC, and primarily on the subways, where folks are pissed and need an outlet for their aggression that Angry Birds simply can’t subdue.

The versions I was able to test drive were on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, and both were, without question, technical marvels. The frame rate was a silky smooth and a constant 30 frames per second, with far greater detail and draw distance than originally on the PS2.

Instead of just being a straightforward port of the original, it smartly combines the two previous iterations before it, to form a “best of” package. The base code is from the PC version, which has the greater draw distance and far more solid architecture. Whereas the actual textures, specifically Claude, are all lifted from the Xbox port, which addressed technical deficiencies in the PS2 version, via its added horsepower. Basically, Claude has actual fingers, instead of big blocky stumps of flesh for hands.

I could be wrong, but the game ran faster, almost too fast. While running around, Claude was moving his feet to such a degree that it practically felt like sped up footage from an episode of Benny Hill. Though I was playing around with a pre-release build, which still has some finessing left to do.

Speaking of controls, I’m not the biggest fan of virtual buttons and d-pads, but it’s fairly unavoidable in this instance. I also found the handling of the cars a bit too fast for my taste, but again, it was an early build. One definite positive, somewhat that I wish every iOS game would employ, is the ability to place the buttons and any other HUD elements wherever you want on screen. Perfect for those with chubby fingers on the iPhone, or who simply have their own way of holding an iPad.

Content-wise, it’s the whole game. Everything you enjoyed doing in the console version has been faithfully brought over. I was able to run around and get into fist fights with cops, then run away while they tried shooting at me, until I came across a car, which I then carjacked, and then immediately drove into the side of the wall. Just like the good old days. And so will you.

[BoxTitle]Grand Theft Auto III [/BoxTitle] [Trailer]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm5UVRCj0yA[/Trailer]

The visuals are accounted for, so what about the audio? All your favorite songs from before are present, though what I cared about most was the fake talk radio station, Chatterbox, which is also present. Thank God. Though there was also talk about supporting custom playlists, and of course, you’ll be able to listen to your own music library.

If it gets weaved into the game remains to be seen (as in, your music will only happen when you get in a car, which I guess is what they were talking about). As for support for older devices, since not everyone has the 4S or the second iPad, I was assured that folks at Rockstar are working their hardest to support older Apple devices. Rumor has it, this is being worked on and is a total possibility.

A release date has not been announced, but it should be by the end of this year. Again, for multicore devices with wider support following shortly.