Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (iPad)

Posted: September 16, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod, Nintendo DS/i/3DS, PSP
Tags: , , , , ,

Grand Theft Auto, one of the biggest franchises in videogames, now rides shotgun on iPad. A port of the PlayStation Portable edition of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (which was in turn a port of a Nintendo DS game), the iPad version is a phenomenal play.

You are Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a Triad ganglord. After your father was murdered, you must deliver an ancient sword to your uncle so as to keep the empire in your family’s name. Ambushed at the Liberty City airport and left to die, you now find yourself drawn into the underworld with thoughts of vengeance. But what starts out as a simple revenge tale grows in scope, with a criminal world about to explode as gangs (and cops) square off for control. The Chinatown Wars narrative is strong, full of both humor and real drama, and benefits from excellent writing.

Instead of a 3D behind-the-shoulder view, Chinatown Wars returns to the top-down roots of the pre-PlayStation 2 GTA games. The art style is cartoonish and looks fantastic. The camera gives you a good view of the city around you, and unlike the iPhone version which allowed you to get too far ahead of yourself if you started going really fast, the iPad provides ample space around Lee. It’s great to see one of the few problems with the iPhone edition solved by making smart use of the benefits of the iPad.

Chinatown Wars uses a virtual stick for on-foot movement that is just about as good as you’ll find on the iDevices. Combat controls would benefit from some sort of targeting system, but I experienced few problems with digging into a violent crew and trading bullets or putting shoe prints on their faces. When driving, though, you default to a pair of arrows for turning left and right, which you use in conjunction with gas and brake pedal buttons. All of the virtual buttons (gas, shoot, kick, carjack) are also now just the right size. (They were too small on the iPhone.) However, until you get the hang of things, you often must look at the buttons to make sure you are hitting the right one. In the middle of a big fight or a high-speed pursuit, this is troublesome until you are 100-percent comfortable with the controls. The menus have also been cleaned up a little for the iPad.

The mission variety in Chinatown Wars is one of its strongest features. You are not just driving to a location, shooting somebody, and then returning to home base. You perform in a parade, hijack fuel tankers to turn into giant bombs, run interference during a race, and put out fires. And on top of the main story, there is a plethora of side jobs and races, including the extra content that was included with the PSP port. But most surprising is the drug dealing. I’m not just shocked that Apple was cool with heroin (other games have been rejected for drug- and alcohol-related content), but just how vital it is to the overall game. If you want to make money, you have to juggle this resource management game-within-a-game where you buy low, sell high, and watch out for busts.

Another Chinatown Wars high point: the GPS system. Tapping locations on a map to set a course is intuitive and makes finding your way around town easy. Of course, getting there isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, as you must watch for cops on the lookout for the new kid with the high wanted level. All of the touch screen elements from the DS original are pulled into the iPhone Chinatown Wars, too, such as kicking out the back window of a car in the water, interacting with computers, scratching lotto tickets, or hot wiring a car.

Finally, Chinatown Wars does not have the same kind of licensed music as other GTA games. Instead, it has a series of five stations that play genre instrumentals, like hip-hop and dance. I actually like this quite a bit; over time, I found the licensed music in the GTA games almost look-at-me distracting. You can also create a custom station with your own music, which is cool if you want to shoot up Chinatown while listening to Dean Martin.

I already mentioned that the raised camera and extra screen size of the iPad makes it easier to play Chinatown Wars on iPad. But I must also stress just how insanely good this HD edition looks, too. Rockstar refreshed almost everything for this port, cleaning things up so they look sharp on the large, higher-resolution screen. The attention to detail combined with the cel shaded-esque art direction makes Chinatown Wars one of the best-looking iPad games to date. (ign)

Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Rockstar Games
Genre: Third-Person Action
Release Date: US: September 9, 2010
Also Available On: PSP, iPhone,Nintendo DS, iPad
Also known as: GTA: Chinatown Wars

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Comments
  1. Amazing. Whats next. I remember when Gameboy was setting the world on fire.

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