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Concept & Design
Chances are, you are already familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series. It is hard to imagine someone who is not familiar with this incredibly violent and downright fun game series from Rockstar Games.
In case you missed the memo, Grand Theft Auto is a very violent video game which can be found on most major gaming platforms. Gameplay consists of completing missions for gang members, killing innocent people, turning over drugs, robbing weapons (and using them) in addition to buying property across the city, in which to stash your goods and hideout. Did we forget to mention that you can steal vehicles, just about any vehicles from cars and motorcycles to helicopters and boats - which is where the name Grand Theft Auto comes from.
The latest mobile installment of Grand Theft Auto, Chinatown Wars is true to the original game. You work in Chinatown and have various tasks and missions to complete for gang leaders, you can also freelance or just wreak havoc. The great thing about the design and concept is that this mobile version feels just as engaging and complete as the console version.
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Gameplay & Control
Gameplay is incredibly smooth and action packed. When playing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars it is hard to remember that you are on a mobile device. All aspects of the game are engaging and complete which lead to an overall console-like experience.
The majority of the gameplay consists of completing missions for your uncle and two other candidates for the leader of Chinatown. The story follows the basic concept that your uncle is losing his position of power in Chinatown. You can either decide to help him, or help one of the other two leaders to rise to power. The game is set in Chinatown, and as such the music, characters and general theme of the game resemble stereotypical Asian culture.
There are a wide selection of weapons available within the game. Weapons include: SMGs, assault rifles, baseball bats, tasers, flame throwers, grenades, shotguns, explosives and just about everything else. Vehicles can be hijacked at any point and used for your own mischievous cause. Many vehicles from the original series appear and each vehicle has its own unique handling and acceleration. Vehicles are driven using touch controls, steering and acceleration/brake alike. This is a welcome control scheme which is far superior to using the iPhone's accelerometer.
Money is earned by completing missions and by selling drugs. Drugs can be purchased from a wide range of dealers and you will receive occasional "tip-offs" in the form of in-game email. Tip-offs lead you to the best places to sell and buy drugs. Exchanging drugs in Grand Theft Auto is the easiest way to make large sums of money fast, but beware, the occasional transaction turns out to be a bust, gun-fire and all. Money is used in the game to purchase vehicles (should you find the need to) as well as order weapons from AmmuNation, the in-game arms dealer.
Weapons can also be obtained by robbing them from the bodies of hoodlums, regular citizens and even police. In addition, AmmuNation delivery trucks can be found throughout the city. Robbing an AmmuNation delivery truck will result in free weapons, although it is not an easy task.
The control scheme in Chinatown Wars is completely touch based. The game does not make use of the accelerometer, which may be for the better. Controls feel very natural and allow for smooth gameplay. One of the coolest features of the game is the extensive use of the touch controls. Hijacking a car often requires unscrewing the dash panel, and hot-wiring the vehicle. This is manually performed with your finger on the touch-screen and provides a very satisfying element of gameplay. Driving feels a little flimsy at first, however, the controls quickly prove to be effective.
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Graphics & Audio
The graphics and audio in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars are of an exceptional quality for a mobile game. While they may appear to be simple 2D graphics at first glance, you will quickly realize they are a clever mix of 2D shading and full 3D graphics, creating a beautiful pseudo-3D landscape.
Weapons models are fairly simple and so are the models of other people, cinematics are simple slide shows with text, but they really aren't necessary. Vehicles and buildings are well rendered with clearly distinguishable traits, and the text on road-signs is incredibly clear and not at all pixellated.
Fire effects and sparks, water and even rain are all drawn very well and push the iPhone to its limits. Sound is also beautiful with a solid mix of music, true to the GTA style. Sound effects are perfect and the voice acting is the same as the console series of Grand Theft Auto, which means it's satisfactory to good. While all of this is taking place, the iPhone handles the graphics extremely well. Never does a moment come where the game lags or slows down, making it an incredibly enjoyable experience.
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Conclusions About Grand Theft Auto
There is not much left to say regarding Grand Theft Auto after this review. The game is very impressive and brings a true gaming experience to the iPhone.
Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the series, Grand Theft Auto is an excellent purchase, and will likely allow you to see the true gaming potential of the iPhone. While the game is a mobile edition, it does not lack substance like many mobile games. In fact, Chinatown Wars is just as complete as any console version of Grand Theft Auto, providing tons of missions, unique gameplay elements, sandbox style gameplay and just downright fun.
Rockstar Games deserves mention, as they have created what very well may be one of the best mobile games of all time. If you find yourself believing that it is impossible to enjoy a mobile game as much as a console game, pick-up a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and your opinion will likely change.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has a fair price of $9.99, which makes it cheaper than a console game, yet just as complete as one. It can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store. (Download Here)