Way back in March of 2009, Steve Schardein took Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for a spin on its native platform, the Nintendo DS. Later that year in October, Eric did the same on the PSP. Since that time, the game has been ported to the iPhone, and now as of last week, the iPad. Granted, either Steve or Eric would have been better suited to review this than me, but, due to travel and lack of multiple iPads -- well, you get the point.
So this newest iteration of Chinatown Wars offers spruced up visuals, multiple control layouts, and it makes great use of the gorgeous iPad screen. While that may already be enough for some, if you're looking for significant changes or addition to the gameplay, you won't find them in this iPad version. But, if you're looking for one of the best iPad games available, you should strongly consider this release from Rockstar Leeds.
GTA On the iPad? Cool...
Players take the role of Huang Lee, the son of a mob boss who gets killed at the outset of the game. Huang is tasked with delivering a family heirloom, a priceless sword, to his uncle (Kenny) but gets robbed and shot in the process. Huang manages to survive and is eager to take his place in the family gang and seek revenge for those who killed his father. That's exactly what you will do over the course of fifty missions and as much free play as you want.
Chinatown Wars HD features all of the gameplay elements you've come to expect from a GTA game: gratuitous violence, drug dealing, police car chases, and top notch sandbox, aka, open world, gameplay. Chinatown Wars HD changes things up just a bit with its presentation and controls. The presentation is clearly crisper and more vibrant than previous versions and it looks impressive on the iPad's ample screen. The top-down perspective can be a nuisance though, as you can imagine. While on foot, it's never really a problem, but action in high speeds can make it difficult to stay in control. No matter how you slice it though, it's definitely the best looking version of this game to date.
There's really no doubt that Rockstar Leeds has nailed the core gameplay, but there is something to be said for the controls. I don't think any touch screen will ever be able to provide the feedback and granular control of a gamepad (or stylus). That said, Chinatown Wars HD does well for itself, but there are times where the touch controls disappoint. While you do have the option to switch between four different control layouts, it's safe to say you will experience some nags with the controls. Whether it be not knowing what buttons to press (it seriously took me the better part of ten minutes to figure out how to drive), or accidentally fat-fingering a neighboring button you didn't mean to press, it'll happen. This hasn't caused me a great deal of trouble to this point, but it's worth mentioning.
I'm still fairly early into my Chinatown Wars HD experience, but it should come as little surprise that it's already apparent to me that this is easily worth the $10. Of course, if you've already bought the game on another platform, that's a much harder decision to make. Personally, had I originally played this on the DS, and hadn't gone back to it since, I think replaying it on the iPad would be well worth another $9.99.
Overall, this is a solid, not perfect, game. It's far and above most (all?) other iPad games out there so serious iPad gamers or hardcore GTA fans shouldn't miss it. If you didn't like the story or gameplay from the original Chinatown Wars though, this HD version won't change your mind.
To the summary...