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Saturday, April 24, 2010
Review: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Review: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Psst. Over here. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Wanna hear a review of
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars? I thought so. So listen up, worm, and I’ll tell you the way it’s gonna be. Now pay attention because I’m not going to repeat myself.

That’s the kind of attitude Rockstar Games brings into this small screen version of the GTA franchise. The one thing they amazingly accomplish is anything but a small experience. A game franchise that made itself famous with the “here’s the city - go play in it” design leaves that same door wide open. I can tell you when I first entered the touchscreen world of GTA I was apprehensive about the ability to make it “real” and as wide open as the console versions… Have no fear - the game is yours to play however you want!

iPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown WarsiPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars

Appearance / Graphics - 4
The look and feel is pretty consistent with the historical GTA franchise and is also what you would expect when shrunk down an put into the palm of your hand. I have seen the PSP version of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - and this in pretty much dead on. Things are very well rendered in play from a 3D perspective and there’s lot of nuance for the observant eye to catch. I wouldn’t say the graphics are going to blow you away - especially since a lot of the game is spent looking down on the city or talking with cartoon drawings of shady characters…  but the feel is clean and consistent for the franchise. If it sounds a little like I’m on both sides of the fence on this one, I might be, deal.

iPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown WarsiPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars

Features - 5+
Ok - I’m not going to tell you all the things you can do here because, well, a massive amount of fun in the game is all about wandering off the beaten path and then going “holy $%@# - I can do THAT too” (and of course you swear because you are playing GTA).  One great design element in the game is the fact that your character is plugged into all the different activities through his PDA. It’s a GPS for locating missions or people you need to “deal” with, it’s your email hub, it’s your everything (including lock picker for some high tech cars).  It makes managing this massively open world way easier than you would expect. Need to know what’s next, where the pick up is, where your contacts are - the PDA answers all.

One detour I have to take here in talking about the features of this game without offering too much of a spoiler is the drug trade. I actually found myself losing interest in the story at times and focusing on buying my drugs in one part of Liberty City and selling them for a price premium in another part. The entire drug economy of this game reminds me of an old black and white game I used to have on my very first Palm Pilot called Dope Warz. It’s addicting - but I guess that’s because of the drugs, right man.

iPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown WarsiPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars

Playability/Emotion - 3
I have to give BIG points off in this category because I was almost completely unable to master the virtual joystick while in a vehicle. I found driving the car to be a disaster (good thing it’s so much fun running into things, beating up people, playing the lottery, stealing money and dealing drugs - none of which need the car). I just never could get the hang of the perspective changes the game made and the responsiveness of the joystick. A cool part here is, car by car things change - the sporty looking ones are sporty and the fuel taker truck (won’t tell you what havoc I raised with that one) drives like a tanker full of really explosive fuel.

I quickly discovered the more you smash into things the more damage your car takes (funny how that works, huh?).  The nice thing is - I got really good at destroying my car, jumping out and stealing another car (is it wrong to smile when you drag someone out of their car and they sound like someone you know)?

iPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown WarsiPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars

Value - 5+
Look buddy - there’s no free ride here. This game costs you $9.99 - and a big slice of iPhone storage…  but come on - let’s be real. You get games within games. You get completely open-ended play. You get a plot and story that’s full of more twists and turns than my pathetic in-game driving. Is it a lot - no way! This game is definitely worth every penny - actually I would go so far as to say it’s a BARGAIN. The poor suckers playing this (with their real joysticks - ohh how I envy them) on their PSP are paying $30 for the exact same game. This is value defined. And since you saved so much scratch on this version - I don’t suppose you would be interested in sending some my way… I have a nice little pistol I’m thinking about buying…

iPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown WarsiPhone games | Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars

Overall - 4.75
Honestly dude - I’m not sure how the folks at Rockstar did it. How they took a franchise built around the power and openness of a console and shrunk it down in size only to fit on my phone. The fact this game has so many elements (many of which I don’t talk about because the “coolness” of discovery is a massive part of the ongoing enjoyment in this game) it’s hard to get tired of the game. If you do get bored with mugging people for some pocket change… well - you can always go steal a taxi and charge unsuspecting fools their fare… or, well… I just can’t say enough about the depth of gameplay. Well, I could…  but then I’d have to ask you to step out back so the story stays, um, private. Now - stop staring at this screen and go get the game, punk.


NOTE: RockStar Games provided a licensed copy of GTA: Chinatown Wars for this review.



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