Back in October 2001, Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto 3 exclusively on PlayStation 2 and everything changed. A genre was defined by a gameplay formula that still persists to this day, many millions of copies were sold, and a megabucks franchise was born. 10 years later, Rockstar has unleashed a celebratory new version of the game for iOS and Android mobile devices - so what better opportunity for Digital Foundry to begin its long-threatened Retro Face-Off coverage?
In this article we'll be examining this iOS GTA running on iPad 2, and seeing just how Rockstar has converted it onto mobile platforms, noting the improvements made and perhaps the opportunities missed. We'll also be factoring in the PC version of the game, released seven months after the original in 2002, and most intriguingly of all we'll be examining the classic Xbox conversion, released precisely two years after the original once Sony's exclusivity period had expired.
In our usual Face-Off coverage it's rare that we actually see enormously significant differences between platforms these days. There's seldom any kind of financial imperative in making different versions of the game that utilise the respective strengths of each set of hardware to produce exciting, unique features, so instead it's all about finding a balance. With GTA3 on Xbox though, it was different, and with Rockstar Vienna on development duties the Xbox version was enormously improved over its predecessors on PS2 and PC.
Microsoft's aged console against Apple's new tablet.
The first Digital Foundry retro Face-Off!
Games industry analyst Mike Hickey has said a Grand Theft Auto V announcement may be on the way - and that it could be made before E3 kicks off in June.
"There is building suspension for a pre-E3 GTA V announcement," he said, as reported by Industrygamers. "Although we expect nothing from Rockstar at this year’s official E3 event."
Rockstar is more likely to hold a separate press event and make the announcement independent of any publisher conferences, apparently. That's because GTA V really is kind of a big deal.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has claimed videogames are messing up the kids with their crazy violent ways.
Rockstar has denied reports it almost gave the go-ahead to a Grand Theft Auto film last year, saying the company is "not interested" in bringing the series to the big screen.
Microsoft could have had Grand Theft Auto III on Xbox first if a third-party publishing initiative called "The Star Chamber" hadn't turned down a Rockstar proposal, author Dean Takahashi claims in his new book, The Xbox 360 Uncloaked.
Confirming the troubled publisher's heavy reliance on its controversial Grand Theft Auto series, Take-Two's latest 10-Q filing includes mention of a three-year, USD 25 million deal to secure and safeguard the creative team behind its flagship franchise.
An Alabama judge has denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Take-Two by the families of two police officers and a dispatcher killed by a Grand Theft Auto-playing teenager.
Anti-videogames campaigner Jack Thompson has withdrawn from the Grand Theft Auto lawsuit filed against retailers and publishers following accusations that he violated legal ethics.
Warren Spector, the former studio head of Ion Storm Austin and the brains behind Deus Ex, has slammed game developers for relying on tried and tested formulas instead of coming up with new ideas.
Rockstar plans to release a Grand Theft Auto Trilogy pack for Xbox and a Special Edition of San Andreas for PS2 featuring a video DVD in the run-up to Christmas. So that's the GTA Threesome and the GTA Big Disc Edition for those living in a parallel universe where Jack Thompson hasn't been invented.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to pinch yourself in this job. After seven hours of solid Vice City yesterday, a realisation dawned upon me that I was, in fact, being paid to play Grand Theft Auto. I shall make a mental note of this joy and remind myself of it every time I get a little pissed off about a dodgy camera angle or wayward enemy AI.
Let's get the conversion issues out of the way first, and it won't take long. In fact it's possible to sum up the 'enhancements' (for want of a better word) to the Xbox versions in a sentence: better loading times (especially noticeable on Vice City), no hideous road drawing glitches, smoother frame rate and the welcome facility for custom soundtracks, lest the novelty of hearing cheesy 80s tunes wears off. But apart from that, it's evident that this is the exact same game ported identically - but when you've got two games as good as this in your hand for £40, that's not really something to gripe about. You've easily got 100 hours-plus of gaming to enjoy between the pair, and what's more, they're the sort of games you can talk to random strangers about the way movies, music and books are discussed. In short, Grand Theft Auto is a cultural phenomenon, and the two games ought to form an essential part of anyone's collection - it's really that simple.