Reviewed: September 13, 2010
Released: September 9, 2010
App Store Price: $9.99
If you have played Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS or the PSP then you know what to expect here. The iPad version is no different, with the exception of it's terrible controls. The iPad version thankfully sidestepped any desire to try and use the tilting mechanism for gameplay, but you are still left with a virtual controller on screen which makes the game unwieldy.|
The controls for Chinatown Wars on the iPad are a big negative, but it really ends up being the game's only fault. The rest of the Chinatown Wars package has made it over intact, and it looks phenomenal on such a big display. The music really shines here to. Even if you hate it, you can easily grab some music from your iTunes. All you have to do is create a playlist called, ďGTA,Ē throw some of your favorite car stealing tunes in there, and youíre a good to go. Itís a very cool feature, that is easy to implement.
Chinatown Wars was a bit of a financial disappointment when it originally released on the DS last year. It only takes a few minutes of play, on any version, to see that Rockstar Games put a lot of effort into the game, and they are trying to re-coupe their initial investment by spreading it among many consoles. This is a good thing. Everything from the story, gameplay, city, sound and graphics all equal a robust Grand Theft Auto experience that can stand up to any of the previous releases. You may be seeing Liberty City from a different perspective than what we have grown accustomed to, but you will feel at home immediately.
Chinatown Wars follows the exploits of Huang Lee and his initial foray into the world of crime. He has come to America to deliver a ceremonial sword in accordance to the last wishes of his recently deceased father. From there, you go down an oddly familiar path of stealing cars, violence and drugs. Chinatown Wars is penned by Dan Houser, one part of the Houser Brother dynamic duo that built the Grand Theft Auto franchise to the media spitfire that it is today. Mr. Houser is not so much an excellent narrative artist, as he is a character and dialogue artist, and his strength holds true here in Chinatown. The narrative is not the most memorable part of Chinatown wars. You will forget about your sword after only an hour or two of play. What you will take away from the game though are all of your interactions with all the crazy people of Liberty City.
Itís really unfortunate that the controls make the game so difficult to play, because when it works, the game is exciting, fast paced, and fun. The large screen looks great, but with the virtual controller it place, the size almost serves as a negative. Youíre focus must be spread throughout the screen. Since the buttons are virtual, you are constantly checking to make sure that your fingers are appropriately positioned. After your thumbs are placed correctly, you have to check your GPS to make sure you are on the right path. Once your thumbs are working, and your path is correct, you have to make sure that you are driving well, dodging cops and pedestrians (pedestrians are optional). At this point, it is likely that your thumb has slid out of position, and then itís time to repeat the loop all over again.
The touch screen mini-games, like breaking into vehicles, filling Molotov cocktails with gasoline, all work great, and end up being a highlight of the game. These little side quests were built to be played with a touchscreen, and it shows. The drug dealing side game has made it over from the other versions as well, and it is as fun as ever. One of the great things about the drug dealing part of the game, is that it is not necessarily reliant on fast action and reflexes. Occasionally, a drug deal will turn into a bust, and you are forced into a car chase, but for the most part, drug dealing is a relaxing game of city exploration. You just drive around at your own pace, buy and sell drugs, and watch your money skyrocket.
When youíre not speeding away from cops, or clumsily manipulating a virtual control stick to run around on the street, the game works well. Controlling the game becomes less of a grueling experience, and more of one where you casually wish for some buttons in the back of your mind. Once the actions picks up again though, youíll be shouting for some kind of tactile feedback.
The iPad version of the game, is not the best version of Chinatown Wars, but it is still a great game. The loads, while friendly, could stand to loose a second or two, but everything, from any angle other than the controls, equals a great game. Itís unfortunate that the primary means of interaction with the experience is so frustrating. Itís sort of like watching your favorite movie through the reflection on a dirty mirror. Itís still a great movie, and the sound is good, but the main interaction with the film, the visual part, is distorted and difficult to translate. If you can get a version with buttons, I say go for it, but you will be paying a good bit more. And that is what it really comes down to. How much do you like buttons?