iPad Game Review: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (GTA) is a lovingly-crafted iPad game that is absolutely not for kids! In this game, you will engage in shootouts with cops, commit murder, deal drugs, and steal cars; and you will do it all by way of an excellent touch-screen interface while staring at high-resolution cell-shaded artwork. This game has it all: Beauty, brains, style, and outrageous, over-the-top criminal behavior.
You begin the game as the spoiled son of a murdered Chinese gangster tasked with delivering an ancient sword to your uncle. Obviously, this doesn?t go as planned, and what begins as a simple story of revenge quickly grows into full-blown gang warfare. Unlike more recent GTA ports, this game is played from a top-down view, which works quite well for the iPad. While on foot, you control your character with a D-Pad, however, while driving, the controls change to left/right arrows on one side, and the gas, brake, and carjack button(!) on the other. If you think this is a simple dual stick shooter/driving game, think again. As you progress through the game, you will find yourself performing in a parade, dealing drugs, scratching lotto tickets, and, of course, solving the mystery/advancing the plot. This last point brings me to the writing, which is excellent. I can?t tell you how often I?ve come across games with truly great gameplay only to find that they skimped on the writing. Rockstar games, however, skimped on nothing. If you?re like me, you tend to skip the cutscenes in an effort to hurry back to the game. With GTA, you will enjoy the graphic novel portions almost as much as the actual gameplay. This is high praise, indeed, coming from me, whose name actually means in Gaelic: He Who Skips Cutscenes.
One aspect of GTA that may put-off a certain group of players is the violent, sociopathic nature of the gameplay. While I consider myself a law abiding citizen and a contributor to overall societal health, I really didn?t have any trouble suspending my disbelief long enough to thoroughly enjoy this game. If you?ve ever seen (and rooted for) The Sopranos or Goodfellas, then you know exactly what I?m talking about. This is not new ground.
The graphics in GTA are not only unique and stylish, but beautiful, as well. If you like cell-shaded, comic book style art, you are going to love this game; and if you don't, you are going to learn to love cell-shaded, comic book style art because the graphics are that good. GTA is bursting with atmosphere, and the graphics are a big part of it. This is a key feature of why the game succeeds visually. Rockstar could have easily made the game quite a bit flashier but instead of letting the graphic capabilities determine the game style, Rockstar wisely chose to let their own vision determine the level of eye candy. Trust me, you won't get tired of looking at this game.
GTA features truly excellent sounds. Tires screeching, sirens, breaking glass; it's all here; beautifully sampled and flawlessly executed. The in-game music consists of different radio channels, each playing a different type of music (none of it licensed, by the way, as it was in other versions of the game). Additionally, the player is given the opportunity to program their own music into a separate channel. A nice touch, to be sure.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an exceedingly fun game that allows us to take the role of a dark and violent protagonist. It is a gritty, violent, and completely amoral game that offers no apologies, yet manages to feel like good clean fun. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy the premise, you will not be disappointed, as it is as close to a perfect iPad game as I've seen.
GTA Chinatown Wars for iPhone/iPod touch trailer:
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Super sharp cell-shaded graphics. Sound: - 5 - Widely varied and highly immersive. iPod music option is great. Controls: - 5 - Controls are not overly complex, and are quite intuitive. Gameplay: - 4.5 - There?s nothing else like it. A LOT of content for your $10.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Due to the wildly variable gameplay, it is difficult to come up with a few crucial hints/tips. My best advice, however, is to simply dive right in. The learning curve is very low, and ramps up slowly. Lastly, it's extremely difficult to make the kind of mistake in this game that you can't undo so don't be afraid to roll with the open-ended style of gameplay that GTA offers.