At some point while taking notes for this here GTA San Andreas review, I realised I was contemplating the release as both a touchscreen conversion, and a game that was first unleashed a considerable 10 years ago.
How does GTA San Andreas for iOS play with touch controls? How does it compare to the original? And importantly: has the original aged well in the past decade? Answer: “Very well”, “It’s arguably better”, and “Yeah, it’s still one of the best games ever”.
For those unfamiliar with GTA San Andreas (say WHAT?), it sees Carl “CJ” Johnson return home from the east coast to Cali, to investigate the mysterious murder of his moms – with a little help from Big Smoke (the fat one), Sweet (CJ’s brother) and Ryder (the one that smokes all the time).
While GTA 3 raised the bar for our videogame expectations, and while GTA Vice City wowed us with motorbikes and generous splashes of neon, GTA San Andreas - the third and final instalment of the GTA 3 trilogy - took the ball and ran faster and harder than Carl Lewis on steroids.
For the first time in GTA history, we had – among countless other things – driveable trains, submarines, player stats, haircuts, gang wars, car mods, and the ability to freakin’ swim.
Throw in a voice cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn (RIP), Ice T and James Woods, alongside a stupidly colossal map, and you have what many people consider the Best Game of All Time.
But how has GTA San Andreas aged? Remarkably well, my friend. We’re still a generation away from GPS, and two generations from fancy stuff like character switching, but there’s still a ton of stuff to enjoy.
My main complaint about GTA San Andreas was always the cringe-inducing “hood” dialogue, and it’s no less embarrassing 10 years later (“The streets is cold, dog”), but the jury’s still out on whether it’s tongue-in-cheek, balls-out racist, or no worse than, say, Boyz n the Hood.
In any case, that’s the game we’re playing here, and we’re now playing it on futuristic touchscreens. Is that a good thing?
Well, yes. Without being able to put my finger on why, exactly, GTA San Andreas feels that little bit more satisfying than GTA 3 and GTA Vice City, and there are new options for driving alongside helpful features like touch to target.
That’s not to say there aren’t problems, and no one in his or her right mind would argue that touch controls are more effective than dual analogue sticks, but GTA San Andreas boasts controller support. Nice.
As I mentioned before, GTA San Andreas for mobile is arguably better than the original, thanks to the remastered high-res graphics, lighting enhancements and improved character models, while the iPhone 5+ and iPad 4+ benefit from “dynamic detailed shadows” and “real-time environmental reflections”.
Other new GTA San Andreas features include cloud saves for play across multiple devices, and the ability to create custom playlists from your iTunes library, though with a soundtrack including Dr. Dre, Snoop, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Faith No More, Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction (to name just a few), I’m more than happy with the plain old radio.
All in all, great stuff.
- It’s GTA San Andreas
- Multiple options for driving controls
- The enhanced graphics
- Cloud save support
- Controller support
- The soundtrack
- Yeah, occasionally irksome touch controls
Summary: GTA San Andreas has aged like a fine wine, and if the prospect of playing with touch controls has you screwing up your face like a professional lemon eater, go grab yourself an iOS-compatible controller.
Developer: Rockstar Games
Price: £4.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Compatible with iPhone 4S or above, iPad 2 or above, and iPod touch fifth-generation. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.