Unnecessary Game Reviews: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (for IOS/Android)

For older reviews, check out the archive!


Continuing my tradition of reviewing games no one is really playing anymore (maybe except Star Wars and Call of Duty: Mobile), recently I picked up Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for my mobile phone in yet another bid to drown out reality by basking my eyes with the harsh and addictive light of my iphone.

As you may know from my review of Call of Duty: Mobile, my free time has been sparse lately. I've been limited to mobile games in between marathon work sessions and the precious, quiet forty five minute spurts where my child naps. I bought San Andreas for the Iphone years ago and never really touched it. I switched off to Android in 2015 and kind of forgot about the game all together. Late last year, I switched back to the Iphone, and while scrolling through the app store I saw the game (still paid for by the way) and decided to download it once again. I had several long flights planned, so this seemed like a good offline game to kill some time between terrible plane peanuts and my irrational fear of the new viruses rampaging throughout our world.


For starters, I played this game a long time ago on the consoles. Let's get the obvious piece out of the way; it is a great game. For anyone who has lived under a rock (or happen to be one of the dozen or so members of the completely misleading One Million Moms “movement”), GTA: San Andreas was a period piece, set in the early 1990's era of rap, police brutality, and gang life. Rockstar games, utilizing a sense of humor only they can pull off, managed to satirize almost every aspect of the gangster life. From the ridiculous need to “wear your colors”, to the pointless endeavor of killing rival gang members simply because they live three streets over, this game was about as close to the “streets” as a middle class, chubby, awkward, white kid like myself was ever going to get. Add in the classic, over-the-top characters ,and ridiculous missions that have defined the GTA series, and we have a game that was a perfect way to waste many, many hours.

This review is not about the game itself. It is a complete port, and identical to the console versions. This is not some watered down version of GTA: San Andreas...which is a huge plus. Look up any review from the game's release if you need that information. This review is all about the mobile port. Do the touchscreen controls translate, and does the game work well? I managed to play for about six to eight hours, and I feel like I got enough playtime in to render a meaningless judgement.

Combat Controls:

To the most important question, do the touchscreen controls work?

Answer: Ehhhhhhhhh.....sort of?

I'm not going to lie. I've never been a fan of complicated games on the touchscreen. Call of Duty: Mobile opened my eyes to how it can be done and still feel smooth and intuitive. Oftentimes, if a game was not designed for touchscreen, the ports tends fall flat. I think this is a case of a game designed for a controller, struggling to translate to the touchscreen.

Is it unplayable? No.

It is intuitive? No.

This actually goes back to the original game as well. Grand Theft Auto games have a history of slightly wonky controls, especially when it comes to combat. Hell, even on the consoles, Vice City and GTA III were barely functional when it came to a gun fight against multiple enemies. San Andreas was the first to tweak the gun-play to make it enjoyable on the consoles. Unfortunately, that did not translate well to the touchscreen. It felt like a step back.

There is an auto-aim, but it is unreliable and often lead to me spraying bullets into a nearby wall, car, or unfortunate pedestrian walking by. You can “tap” the enemy you wish to shoot on screen, but this too becomes difficult when you have a lot of enemies on screen shooting at you. Keep in mind, they are like a millimeter tall on my phone. My chubby, sausage fingers may have been the issue, but I felt like I could never tap the right enemy, leading to me targeting an enemy that was way out of range while the guy in front of me casually peppered me with bullets. This often lead to many deaths and failed missions that grew more and more frustrating.

There is a manual aiming mechanism, but it is highly unlikely you will survive long enough to sit perfectly still while aiming your gun in a chaotic gunfight.

Vehicle Controls

All I can say is, vehicles are the hallmark of these games, and I was never able to get comfortable with the controls. After six hours, I'm blaming the game on that one.

The default controls are “flick” which means you tap the screen in the direction you want to go. This tends to go against when your brain wants to do, because if you fail to release your finger from the screen, you will continue steering in the direction regardless of where you move your finger. It is counter-intuitive.

The option was there to switch to analog controls, which were an improvement. It may be me, and I may just suck at driving, but I found myself dreading vehicle based missions.

Especially keeping up with the God damn train.

Anyone who has played this game can probably feel their blood pressure rising after watching this.

Final Thoughts:

My other gripe with the game comes down to performing more complex moves with the touch screen. Things like crouching for a stealth mission seem like it should be simple to do, but took me way to long to figure out. On a controller it is one button press. On a touch screen, it required me to double tap one of the icons. If this were clearly spelled out in the controller layout screen, I probably would not have had an issue, but I had to die...a lot...before finally figuring it out, and unfortunately, situations like this happened more than once in my extended play through.

It's an alright game to kill a few hours if you have a large chunk of time prepared to dedicate to it. Grand Theft Auto games are not made to drop in and play for fifteen minute stretches. They are meant to be played for long periods of time, which is counter-intuitive to mobile gaming. If I have three to four hours at home to game, I'm not hopping on my phone. I would probably only play this in situations where I have no access to wifi for long periods of time, like flying (Suck it Southwest, I'm not paying 8$ for wifi)

So, overall, if you truly love this game and absolutely have to experience it again, I still have a hard time recommending the mobile port. There are far superior ways to play this game. If you happen to have a very long flight or road trip planned, then I could recommend it, but even then $6.99 is a stretch for an IOS/Android game.

Wifi is 8$ on Southwest.

I'm not sure what the better value is.