Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an enhanced port of the PSP version, which was a port of the DS title released last year. This version plays like a combination of both games, keeping the aspect ratio and graphics of the PSP version with the touch events from the original DS title. You play as the son of a recently murdered gang lord sent to deliver a sword, a treasured family heirloom, to your uncle in Liberty City. You are ambushed at the airport, robbed of the sword, and left for dead. Its up to you to seek revenge upon the ones who shot you and the people who murdered your father.

This is it folks. A proper free-roaming sandbox game on the iPhone, and Grand Theft Auto nonetheless.  For the few of you reading this site that have never played a GTA game, you are put into a virtual city in which you can go anywhere and do anything. You are given missions to accomplish, such as stealing certain fast cars, or taking out some rival gang members. This game is played like the classic GTA titles on the original PlayStation, in a top down perspective. The graphics have an almost cel-shaded, cartoony/graphic novel look, and they look great. Liberty City feels like a real city, with people walking around, plenty of traffic, and vendors selling hot dogs from carts. The amount of detail that went into this game is amazing. Billboards can be seen as you drive by. Pedestrians will snap your picture if they witness you committing a crime. Did I mention that Liberty City is absolutely huge? The cutscenes are well drawn, playing out in comic book fashion. The story is typical GTA fare, and very well written. Do favors for your uncle, make sure your rival gangs don’t cut into your business, and don’t get whacked or busted by the cops. The missions don’t get dull and you are being presented with a multitude of different tasks.

The controls take a little bit of time to get used to, but when you do, you will be tearing down the streets and evading cops with ease. There is a virtual analog stick for character movement, along with buttons for attacking, kicking, and actions (hopping ledges, rolling). When you get into a car, it changes to left and right arrows for steering (there is also an option for analog steering).  

The sound design of this game is great, and it is best enjoyed on headphones. You can really hear the city; people chatter, distant sirens, cars honking, everything sounds great and adds to the realism. Due to app size constrains there is not as wide of a radio station selection as the console titles, but the real draw is you can play songs from your iTunes. 

Lots of touch screen elements were re-incorporated from the DS version and make game play much more interesting. When you car falls into water, you have to break the windows out by tapping the glass so you can escape. You can hot-wire cars on the street by unscrewing a compartment and twisting two wires together. You can even scratch off instant win lotto tickets purchased from convenience stores.

As a diversion to the main story missions, there are also the standard optional GTA taxi, police, paramedic, and fire truck missions, which involve transporting customers for fares, or being a renegade police officer. There is a drug dealing mini-game where you can purchase substances from your local street pharmacist and sell them for profit in other areas of town. Its like they taught you in economics class- buy low, sell high.

You have an in-game PDA which is used for keeping your contacts, email, your GPS (just tap a location on the map and a guide will appear to help you drive there), and a brief feature in case you forgot what mission you were on or what you are supposed to do. Your overall stats are also recorded in the PDA, such as total people killed or missions passed. You eventually get a PDA app for weapons store Ammu-nation so you can get guns on the go. The menus are great looking and there are plenty of customizable options. There are also two save files!

Chinatown Wars is not for the kiddies. The game drops the F bomb countless times, many missions involve murdering people and police, and drug dealing is an essential way to gain money. Overall, Chinatown Wars is the biggest, most full featured game on the app store. At $9.99, it’s a steal. There is so much game play here that you will at least be tied up for 25+ hours just to complete the story missions. The replay value is pretty much infinite; you can always drive around the city and have fun terrorizing the town. Do yourself a favor and just purchase this now.


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