Developer: Rockstar Games
Price: $6.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2 and iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

If anyone were to take a generic straw poll of journalists who reviewed games during the PlayStation 2 era, asking what their “Game of the Generation” was, there is a very good possibility that Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas would top at least a few lists. Not only was it well received critically, it went on to smash top sales records all over the place. But the question remains: have the last nine years been kind to this storied classic? In the legendary words of Dr. Dre, “HELL YEAH.”

IMG_0259Returning to the streets of San Andreas, players once again find themselves lacing up the all too familiar sneakers of CJ. After returning home to mourn the death of his mother, the onetime gang banger finds himself reintroduced to the lifestyle before he even has time to process his loss. What follows is one of the most involved and engaging experiences in the history of the pastime, even if the title is growing a little long in the tooth.

Rockstar has somehow managed to find a way to elegantly transition dual analog controls to iOS, without it feeling overly cludgey. In fact there are three different control schemes including a digital analog stick, more generic left and right buttons, or gyroscopic tilt. Regardless of the scheme selected, the player will never feel like CJ was designed to appear on another platform. And that is saying something considering it has made its rounds in the last decade.

At the time of its release, San Andreas was a showpiece for PlayStation 2 owners. As such, the iOS offering is best experienced on the higher end of the game’s supported device list. Lord help the poor souls playing the game on iPad 2, this reviewer included, because even with a freshly cleared cache framerates will dip, controls become non-responsive, and even cut-scenes will be reduced to glorified slideshows. Thankfully, those playing on higher end devices will most likely never see these issues, as evidenced by its flawless performance on iPhone 5.

IMG_0260Performance issues on lower-end devices are reasonably justified, considering the massive footprint of the game’s map. Few modern console games even come close to approaching its scope, so managing to squeeze it onto a phone or tablet is an achievement in and of itself. Players would be hard-pressed to find another open world game that provides more variety in terms of missions and overall personality than what is found in this $6.99 package.

Looking back through the sands of time, the San Andreas iteration on the Grand Theft Auto brand helped define the modern day open world experience. Even now it sets a bar that few can match on iOS. Classics like this stand the test of time, even if it appears on a much smaller screen. Don’t miss out on the chance to revisit the game that molded an entire generation.


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