Saturday, 4 January 2014

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - Android Review

   You would have thought that one of the best games ever made, certainly the best (depending on who you speak to) GTA game ever made to make an appearance on Android over the Christmas period would have sparked far more fanfare and media coverage? But sadly it seems to have slipped past many unnoticed for one reason or another, yet it really shouldn’t have if you’re a fan of this game as this port is by no means a half-arsed half-baked slapped together cash-in for the portable market. It’s actually a well nurtured highly polished Android port that makes good over its console versions in some surprising areas.

   First and foremost then, just how does the Android version stack up against the console versions in the graphics departments? Well, when I first played the Android version the first thing I noticed was how crisp and sharp the graphics looked, and how there was a distinct lack of jaggies present in this version, everything the eye can see is smooth and defined. This was in stark contrast to the Xbox version I was comparing it to where jaggies or blurriness seemed to be ever present. In the Xbox version I had the choice between less jaggies and more blurriness in composite 50 Hz, or a sharper picture and more jaggies through a component lead at 480p. Here is where the Android version comes out shining, as you get a super sharp picture (more so than on the Xbox at 480p) but without any horrible noticeable jaggies present. As far as graphical detail goes, I first thought that the Android version of San Andreas would surly be closer to the PS2 original, but upon closer comparison I have found that its actually on a par with the Xbox version which was slightly more detailed over the PS2 original. In The Android version you can adjust the level of graphical detail in the game to help it run smoother on less powerful tablets, you can adjust the visual effects detail, resolution, draw distance, shadows and car reflections. But with all these set to max, the Android version without a doubt matches the Xbox version in the detail department. However one effect it lacks over the console versions is the heat wobble in the daytime sun, and I’m guessing this was taken out to give the game a cleaner sharper look. Overall then the graphics in the Xbox version of the game has more character and atmosphere about it, but at the cost of either jaggies, blurriness or both while the Android version is the opposite having less character and atmosphere yet is pin sharp with no jaggies or blurriness to speak of.

   Next up you’ll want to know just how well this massive game runs on a capable tablet with the graphics settings maxed out. Well from my experience there does seem to be slightly less NPCs and vehicles roaming about San Andreas, but only slightly which would make the game run smother, but even on a really capable device there can be some noticeable slowdown when there is a lot of action onscreen. But fear not, follow these few simple steps and you should see an increase in performance. Firstly you will want to turn off Bluetooth and wireless on your tablet before playing the game, why? Well its simple, various elements of your tablets OS will want to connect to the internet in the background not to mention any other apps you have downloaded and this will eat up valuable ram and processor resources. Secondly it’s best to reboot your tablet and launch the game soon after it’s booted, this is the best way to clear out and stop any apps and elements of the OS hogging ram and processor space, don’t even bother using any cleaning apps to do this as they have nothing on a clean reboot. These two simple steps will go along way to improving overall performance and loading times even on the most powerful of tablets.

   Last but not least controls, just how well do touchscreen controls really work in this game? Well the controls work extremely well and are very responsive, moreover the way in which they have been implemented has had some real thought put into them and I can’t see them ever been implemented better than this on a touchscreen device. Having said that they do take some getting used to, and even then they will always be rather maddening and at times frustrating to use over using a normal controller as an input method. But fear not as you can use a proper controller with this game as it’s supported by the Android Moga controller, or you have the option of using a wired PS3 controller, either way both options are a welcomed relief.

   The Android version of San Andreas could have turned out to be a piss poor cut-down port of the game, but instead Rockstar have bought the game over to tablets whole and seemingly complete and have worked towards making many improvements to the game in the process. But while there is a lot to love about the Android version of the game, it lacks one crucial and very important element, without which makes it less the sum of its parts, and that ladies and gentleman is cheats. Yes that’s right, this version lacks the one thing most if not all gamers will want to implement within the first half hour of gameplay; it’s the first thing many gamers will think about upon booting the game. But anyone trying to implement cheats through touchscreen, controller or keyboard inputs will be very disappointed as none of the above mentioned will work. I’m not sure just yet whether it’s a case that Rockstar has left the cheats out all together, or they have not put a way to implement them into the game. Either way it has been left up to the modding community to create apps and hacks to get cheats to work, which in a game so synonymous with in-game cheats is quite frankly a stupid situation for this game to be released in and a baffling decision by Rockstar.
   Without wanting to download some dodgy APK from some website I have never heard of I am sadly left with a brilliant version of San Andreas I can’t use in-game cheats in, a game made for cheats that is. Which as good as this game is and as much as I want to continue playing it, I honestly cant see myself ever putting any more hours into this version over its console counterparts until this issue with the cheats is resolved, so don’t go giving up on that Xbox version just yet.


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