I don’t often get the time to play games anymore as most of my days (and nights) are spend reviewing hardware, however I still make sure that my iPad gets a good work out in the early hours of the morning. With the recent release of Grand Theft Auto ChinaTown Wars on the iPad I just had to pick up a copy and see how they could manage to translate such a demanding game to Apple’s high selling mobile tablet.
I only briefly played the DS version of Chinatown Wars and I will be honest, I quite enjoyed it. My kid brother never let me spend much time with it however, so I came into this review with a pretty fresh perspective of what to expect. Basically I had no idea how it was going to look, run, or play.
The iPad is pretty big, with recent rumours of a 7 inch version it may very well propel Apple firmly into the mobile gaming market. I wouldn’t say their games are selling badly, but after speaking with the younger gaming audience at the recent i40 event held by Multiplay I found that the current iPad wasn’t that interesting a platform. Perhaps with a lighter weight with increased portability and faster CPU it may sway the tide a little.
GTA Chinatown Wars on the iPad is a hell of a lot of fun, once you get used to balancing the unit on your knee or a table and using the control areas bottom left and right, the interface is reasonably intuitive. I did get a little bit of wrist strain after a few hours, but I will put this down to increasing age. I would like to be able to move these locations to central areas for a more natural hand resting position, but right now we have to make do with what we have.
The user interface in general is quite appealing, there are various buttons for mail, GPS and while they are small I didn’t run into any issues accessing them. There will always be limitations with this platform and I think most people expect that compromises will be made to fit everything into such a confined area. The GPS has been improved as it appears inside a full screen, pausing the game in the process.
The graphics are quite good, and while there is a heavy amount of aliasing in various locations, I found it attractive looking – the colours are vibrant, the detail is high and the Apple screen quality helps to sell the Chinatown world. The animations however are a little ropey in parts and I found the way the characters moved on screen looked a little shoddy. I may sound like im picking holes, but i would have expected a slightly higher level of quality with the characterisations. This unfortunately carries over into the cut scenes, which while very stylish in design look like they have been rescaled in size without being redesigned. I don’t have the DS version at hand with to compare against, but I would make an assumption that these have been ported across with a slight amount of anti aliasing applied.
It isn’t all bad however on a graphic level as the main city and top down view is very impressive – Liberty City has an addictive personality and there are locations which will immediately be recognisable on your journey. I noticed a few frame rate issues as the hardware struggles to cope with everything on screen, but it does little to ruin the flow of the missions.
The dialogue, as with all Rockstar games, is sharp, witty and quite often close to the knuckle. This isn’t a game for a young kid, but more for the teenage or older Apple audience who want something meaty to sink their teeth into. The asking price is high, but i have been playing it for about 5 hours now and I still haven’t completed it. With the limited free time I have on my hands, it may be some while before I reach the climax.
The audio elements are impressive as when you walk around there are ambient city noises and other miscellaneous enhancements to the mobile franchise. People now shout at you for instance if you do something stupid to annoy them (like running them over) and it adds to the fun factor significantly.
As with all Rockstar games this is fiendishly addictive, the mission structure will be immediately familar to anyone who has played a Rockstar game. There are a vast array of car chases, fire fights, delivery, run and gun missions and conversations between the characters to build up a full back history and to immerse the gamer into a thriving virtual world.
If you already have an iPad then be sure to check this out – it is a little more expensive than the majority of games on the store, but you are getting a quality title from a professional design studio, renowned for this franchise and developing titles that last a very long time.