Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for iPhone full review

GTA: Chinatown Wars brings a city full of violence, self-serving cops, drugs, guns and explosions to your Apple handheld. You play Huang Lee, who is embroiled in turf wars and takes on missions on behalf of gang leaders aiming to control Liberty City’s triads.

For newcomers, the game might be a bit of a shock. iPod gaming tends to be geared towards quickfire thrills, but this one’s a slow-burner – there’s less immediacy, though the game has depth. The first few hours are cut-scene and plot-heavy, with Huang being sent on various missions in a linear, albeit branching, fashion. There are shoot-outs and high-speed chases, but these can feel like a chore and there’s the occasional difficulty wall. Luckily, the ‘sandbox’ nature of the series is largely intact. You can hijack a taxi, turning the game into a 2D Crazy Taxi; you can also steal ambulances and fire engines if your sense of civic duty overpowers the need to deal drugs and shoot people.

For aficionados, this port mostly matches the DS and PSP releases. The graphics are detailed, the overhead view recalling GTA’s roots, and there’s surprisingly little censorship. However, there are control issues. On foot, Huang Lee reacts fine (although combat targeting is basic and clumsy), but when he’s in a vehicle the game is often akin to bumper cars. Thankfully it’s also forgiving for the most part, lessening frustration. If you’ve experienced other versions of GTA you might be irked by the cramped interface, although it’s hard to see how Rockstar could have improved things.

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