After much anticipation, Rockstar Games has finally released the newest installment of Grand Theft Auto on the iPhone, ‘Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.’ Available from the App Store for $9.99 (which seems to have become the de-facto price point for premium games), it features a rich and immerses storyline in the immaculately rendered world of Liberty City. Despite a set of controls that seem initially quite awkward, this is a fantastic game, perhaps the best of the ‘console adaptations’ to arrive on the iPhone (and iPod Touch) to date.
In ‘Chinatown Wars,’ you play the role of Huang Lee, born into a Triad family and delivering the ‘heirloom sword’ to his uncle in Liberty City. In the midst of this mission, he’s caught in a battle between gangs, kidnapped, and eventually left for dead. Cue the redemptive plotline, along which Huang must save his own life and set off to redeem himself and his family.
As in all the other entries into the GTA empire, this one is replete with lawlessness and obscenity. Your character runs around, stealing things, shooting people, running over people, running through things, and just generally causing havoc. Surprisingly, given the App Store’s stifling approach towards anything bordering on lewd, the dialog in the game contains a healthy amount of swearing, so perhaps it may not be good for younger children (assuming you, in the absence of that, would have been happy to have them play the role of a renegade gangster). So since it is available also in GTA 5 mods Xbox one, it is advisable that parents give extra attention to their children when playing this type of game. This is to promote the safety of children.
Thus far, after a number of hours playing, I seem to be less than halfway through, so I can attest that this will be a worthwhile expenditure, in terms of gameplay for your money. That said, the controls suffer from the iPhone’s constraints, which is largely the problem of the small screen. The joystick and buttons need to be controlled as you go, but it’s hard to pay attention to what your fingers are pressing when they’re also focused on what’s going on in the action. I often found myself thinking I was driving when really my fingers had migrated off the buttons. It takes a little bit of getting used to it. If the screen was bigger (the upcoming Apple tablet, perhaps?), it would make everything easier, as there could be bigger buttons that don’t encroach on the play area.
The graphics are brilliant; the best I’ve seen on the iPhone. Especially at moments when you’d expect the game to falter (for instance, when you’re moving quickly), the animation is seamless and Liberty City is rendered beautifully. The engineers at Rockstar have really squeezed as much as possible out of this machine.
The gameplay is solid and occasionally broken up by little mini-games, for specific tasks (like the initial one to break out of the car you’re drowning in). These are fine, though basic and not really so complex. I guess it helps people retain focus, and perhaps build fine-motor skills.
Overall, this was a great game. I look forward to more publishers bringing their marquee titles to the iPhone platforms. It’s particularly refreshing to see among the nostalgia-tinged porting of classic PC games. The iPhone gaming market should not just cater to hipster 30-somethings (though those games are nice, too). I’d recommend ‘Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars’ to anyone who wants to see what the current iPhone and iPod Touch is capable of.