Game Review: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Release: January 17, 2010
Genre: Sandbox, Action-Adventure
Developer: Rockstar Leads/Rockstar North
Available Platforms: iPhone/iPod Touch
ESRB Rating: M
Chinatown Wars came out for the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP last year. Recently, Rockstar finally ported it to the iPhone with all of the drug-dealing and car-jacking intact. Chinatown Wars features a birds eye view of the action as you run around Liberty City trying to return honor to your family and make a name for yourself. As protagonist Huang Lee, you are tasked with returning a sword that was stolen from you at the beginning of the game. Over the course of the game, you will be dealing drugs, torching businesses, and racing cars through the streets of Liberty City. It is an amazing amount of gameplay fit into such a small package.
Rockstar has taken the touch screen mechanics from the DS version and brought them to the iPhone with great effect. You move your character by using the on-screen d-pad. Fighting and shooting is handled by buttons on the screen to the right. These buttons change once you jack a car and start cruising Liberty City’s streets. You can actually shoot from your car, which is fun when you are evading the cops or taking out your rivals. Doing things like digging through dumpsters and hot-wiring cars is handled using mini games utilizing the touch screen. I was also impressed with how the game allows you to restart a mission if you fail. It gives you the option to restart the mission as soon as you fail, removing the need to go back to the person who gave you the assignment. This really alleviated the frustration of failing, which has always been one of my issues with the Grand Theft Auto series.
The great thing about this version of GTA is you don’t feel like they stripped it down to fit into your hand. The GPS system works wonderfully, and makes getting around the city a breeze. You get e-mails from your uncle or other characters with a link to plot the path right to them. Of course, you can steal any car you see, and once you hop in the radio station is playing just like in the console versions. The soundtrack is full of eclectic songs just like you would expect.
Getting a gun in Liberty City is as easy as going online and ordering one through the Ammu-Nation website. Once you place your order, the weapon is delivered to your apartment. Drug dealing requires you to go to the location with your drugs in tow. This can lead to some sticky situations if the cops show up. I lost a bunch of money when I got busted with my full stash. Of course, you can evade the cops and lower your wanted level by hiding yourself or disabling the police cars chasing you. This is a lot of fun.
My main gripe is not being able to save anywhere. With this being a portable game, I would like to be able to save at a moments notice, even in the middle of a mission. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about finishing the current mission or finding my way back to my apartment to save. Also, some of the dialog is a little corny. A lot of times they seem to use profanity for profanity’s sake, which is a bit of a turn off to me.
All in all, if you’re going to spend $10 on a game for your iPhone or iPod Touch, this is the best game for your money. It features a great story, dynamic gameplay, and doesn’t feel like you’re missing anything from the GTA experience. It’s simply a fantastic game, whether you’re making molotov cocktails or buying cocaine from a drug dealer. Let’s hope we see more developers move their franchises from the DS or PSP to the iPhone with this much success.
Don’t forget, Chinatown Wars is on sale this weekend for $6.99. Go get it before Sunday!