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Hit and run: Grand Theft Auto 3 arrives on iOS, Android

Rockstar's seminal PlayStation 2 game hits the App Store and Android, complete with remastered graphics and all the wacky radio stations you remember.

Mobile phone and tablet games are fast becoming the repository for all things retro, and there's no better indication of that than tomorrow's release of Grand Theft Auto 3: Ten Year Anniversary Edition.

Available from the App Store and the Android Marketplace on December 15 for $4.99, it's the exact same PS2 game I remember fondly--with improved graphics and a touch interface, of course.

GTA 3: just as catty and punchy as you remember. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

This isn't the first GTA game to hit mobile: Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is a port of a Nintendo DS and PSP game, but relied more on top-down gameplay. GTA 3 is a third-person game that's the precursor to the console-based Grand Theft Autos we know today, complete with a truly 3D Liberty City. It's all there to browse, cruise, and complete secret missions in. After spending some time this morning playing the final version, I can attest that it's as good as a touch-based GTA could be.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

The amount of gameplay in the average GTA game is obviously through the roof, but the big question for most will be how those touch controls hold up. On an iPad 2, the answer is: not bad. Arrows on the left steer the car, and a set of right-hand buttons handle everything from gas/brakes to weapons and carjacking. Finding the right one in a pinch could kill your success in hairy missions, but in the early parts of the game, I got used to the layout relatively well. When running around, those left-side arrows become a virtual analog pad that activates wherever you put your thumb down.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Just flipping through the incredibly produced radio stations and fake ads is nearly worth the price of admission alone. I do wish the iPad and iPhone had a perfect controller solution; games like GTA 3 only prove the value of such a product, were one released. I'm starting to give up hope. Android users will be happy to know that its version supports the Gamepad.

Other notable additions to the Ten Year Anniversary Edition that should greatly alleviate mobile-playing frustration are Mission Retry, which is a standard to modern GTA games but wasn't in GTA 3, and an autosave mode.

The relatively affordable $4.99 price of GTA 3 may help alleviate those gripes for some, and the fact that it's a universal iOS app will give the title some life across various iOS platforms. GTA 3 shows its age graphically compared with jaw-dropping games like Infinity Blade II, but as a car-based RPG, there really is no App Store equal.

GTA 3: Ten Year Anniversary Edition will go on sale tomorrow, December 15. Per Rockstar's site, this is the official compatibility list:

  • Apple iOS devices: iPad 1 and 2, iPhone 4 and 4S, fourth-gen iPod Touch

  • Android phones: HTC Rezound, LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola Photon 4G, Samsung Galaxy R, T-Mobile G2x

  • Android tablets: Acer Iconia, Asus Eee Pad Transformer, Dell Streak 7, LG Optimus Pad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, Sony Tablet S, Toshiba Thrive