Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars – Review


Anyone who has visited Liberty City (and who hasn’t?) will tell you it ain’t exactly the friendliest place on earth. In fact it’s a cesspit of crime and corruption; whores and hustlers stalk the streets, there’s a drug dealer around every corner, the local gun shop offers a home delivery service and the average life expectancy can’t possibly be over forty.

So it’s not that surprising then that within moments of his arrival from Hong Kong, rich kid, Huang Lee, is ambushed, shot in the head, bundled into a car and, believed dead, dumped off the end of a pier.

Delivered with Rockstar’s trademark cinematic verve, this is an incredibly arresting opening to the sprawling adventure that ensues. Playing as Huang you must delve deep into the city’s underworld in order to retrieve your dead father’s sword from your would be killers, restore honour to the family name and exact some bloody revenge in the process.

With a nod to the series’ roots, the action is viewed from a top-down, eye in the sky style perspective, albeit with a new 2.5d slant. Yet despite this return to the old skool, Liberty City still looks gorgeous and feels convincingly “alive.”

Thus, as ever, should you stray from the central storyline, there’s a lot of sick kicks to be had playing in this impressive sand-box; develop a scratch card addiction, practise your kung-fu moves on a passer-by, peddle narcotics, wage a one man war against an army of cops, whatever, the possibilities are damn near endless.

And you’ll soon realise, as did I, it’s this sense of freedom and exploration and that has been lacking from the raft of GTA wannabes (Gang$tar, PayBack et al) that beat Rockstar to the punch. Not to mention big budget production values, an engrossing plot, well written lead character and razor sharp wit. Ladies and gentlemen this is the real deal, a console quality GTA expertly crowbarred onto iDevice.

While most iPhone/Touch actioners clock in at a few hours of playtime, CTW offers days (weeks, months even) of criminally compelling gaming. The diverse missions that make up the main game taking in cop chases, shoot-outs, Triad turf wars and every inch of the city; branching storylines and an abundance of side-missions and enjoyable mini games fleshing out the title further still.

Traversing Liberty City, whether on foot or behind the wheel, is a joy thanks to a intuitive control set up. The game also makes great use of the touchscreen interface, allowing for a novel hands on (well fingers really) approach to a multitude of illicit activities, ranging from hot-wiring cars to assembling molotov cocktails.

However CTW is not without its faults. Too much time is spent fiddling around in menu screens, gun-fights are often reduced to frantic button mashing due to the exclusion of a targeting system and the game’s repetitive selection of bland tunes soon get irritating (although thankfully there’s an option to drown out this forgettable dross with your own music).

But honestly even pointing out these few flaws feels like nit-picking in the face of all the brilliance on offer here. The game is an absolute blast from start to finish, representing the perfect balance of style and substance. In short, as far as iPhone/Touch crime sims go, GTA: CTW is most definately number one with a bullet.

iFanzine Verdict: Sacrificing none of the GTA franchise’s controversy courting violence, scathing satire or R-rated action, Rockstar deliver the most complete gaming experience yet for iPhone/Touch. An instant Appstore classic.

Score: 10 out of 10