Arguably the greatest game in the much lauded Grand Theft Auto series returns once again. After incredible success on home consoles and PC’s back in 2004, GTA: San Andreas has, somehow, been squeezed down into mobile form. And not just content on delivering a lazy port, Rockstar have introduced various improvements to develop upon their original design. But can these enhancements offset the ham-fisted controls usually associated with mobile games of this ilk, and make this the greatest version of GTA: San Andreas?
Set in 1992, GTA: San Andreas follows the story of Carl Johnson – CJ to those that know him – detailing his rise from the ghetto. The usual corruption, betrayal and mayhem that are linked to GTA are present, and all of which is wonderfully realised by a memorable cast of supporting characters – perhaps best exemplified by the crooked officer Tenpenny, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.
While the chronicles of CJ are great, it is the fun, freedom and variety that you have within the San Andreas playground that truly sets it apart from other games in the sandbox genre.
Take on the challenge of climbing Mount Chillad, travel down the Vegas strip and gamble all your money – and even life – in the casino’s, go the gym to bulk up and learn new attacks, participate in a destruction derby, do a physics-defying super swing by strapping five tractors together, work as a tanker driver (among other jobs), search for the mythical bigfoot, buy property, buy clothes, get a hair cut, get fat. That is just a small sample of the things you can do in San Andreas. Only your imagination can hold you back from getting countless hours out of the game.
From taking on a 100-strong army to steal a jetpack for a hippie to battling in a low-rider ‘dance’ competition, the missions are outlandishly entertaining and diverse. Not every mission hits the mark, but for every dud is a further ten unforgettable scenarios for you to experience. GTA V tried to capture this same essence with their missions and achieved it for the most part, yet this aspect of the series is still very much ruled by San Andreas.
But all of this was present in the previous releases of GTA: San Andreas, so what is different about the mobile version?
The first thing that will strike you is the noticeable difference in the graphics. Everything is much sharper than the original iteration of San Andreas seen on the PS2, which is rather miraculous considering the sheer scale of the game. This, however, does cause concern for users that own older generations of iOS systems. While the game will be silky smooth on, for example, the iPhone 5, performance levels will drop considerably on devices like the iPad 2. Framerates can dip, cut-scenes chug along disappointingly, and controls can become non-responsive at times. It is something to keep in mind if you don’t possess a newer model.
In terms of controls – perhaps the most sceptical aspect of this iOS release for many – they are actually really good. Trying to transition from dual analog controls to a touch screen can be difficult, but Rockstar have done an admirable job in achieving just that. In fact, they have covered all the bases by offering three different control schemes. One has a digital analog stick; another one has a gyroscopic tilt and the third a simple left and right button scheme. Either way, the controls feel natural and should not be a deterrent for any player.
Overall, GTA: San Andreas on the iOS is a must-have for newcomers to the game and even those that have played it before. Although the game is nearing its 10 year anniversary for when it was first released, it doesn’t feel dated or even eclipsed by later editions of the series and other titles in the sandbox genre. As long as you own a more updated iOS device and are of age, GTA: San Andreas is an essential purchase.
Tested on iPhone. Final score: 9/10