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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD


Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has seen a variety of releases over the last year and a half; first on the NDS, then the PSP with added multiplayer and then on the iPhone. Now Rockstar has brought a new version to the iPad on the App Store. The iPad version holds many similarities to the iPhone version, but with higher resolution graphics and a few other additions. It is priced identically to the iPhone version, $9.99. If you are unfamiliar with the narrative, the story follows the trials and tribulations of Huang Lee, the son of a murdered Triad. Huang is making his way to the United States to deliver a ceremonial sword to his uncle to gain favor in the crime world. After a botched assassination attempt, Huang loses the sword and has to return to his uncle empty-handed, thus is required to work in the crime family to retain the familyís honor.



Rather than the 3D version that we have grown used to since GTA3, Chinatown Wars HD takes the overhead 2D approach to controlling young Huang. The game is certainly true to Rockstarís previous level of violence and vulgarity, rife with police chases and murdered pedestrians. Missions range from collection tasks, recruiting gang bangers or assaulting rival gangs to defend your territory. Missions arrive via email often and can be mapped out via the in-game GPS. There are more than 50 missions to burn through if you are really interested in the narrative.

Of course, you can just run around the city and cause mayhem as well. Carjacking a moving car is pretty simple, but stealing a parked car is more complicated. Depending on the quality of the car, it requires using the touch controls to unscrew and hotwire the car or perhaps using an electronic tool to isolate a code to start the car. These mini-games are relatively simple to complete, but do require a bit of time over just taking a moving car. Thereís also a variety of side activities you can participate in, drug dealing, racing, rampages, taxi service, etcÖ Drug dealing is an interesting way to make a fat stack of cash pretty quickly. Drug dealers send you texts when drugs go on sale and you can resell the drugs to other dealers in the city when the price spikes.



Unfortunately, the controls are difficult to handle on the iPadís large screen. While the buttons are larger than the oneís found on the iPhone version, you still have to constantly look down at the controls to reset the placement of your hands. Without tactile feedback, the glass causes more problems than it helps. I was ripped out of my car by the cops more times than not due to missing the acceleration button. Iím curious why Rockstar didnít include some clearer visual cue for pressing buttons, perhaps a slight shift in the color of the screen. Strangely, the other buttons on the screen are too small to press accurately most of the time.

Graphics

  • Visually, itís obvious that the gameís resolution has been increased considerably from the NDS or even iPhone version. Textures are sharper and the overall depth of the city landscape is more evident. Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of the framerate. You will notice considerable slowdown when driving through the city and smoke effects are present as well as the bright lighting effects at night. It can get so bad that it actually affects your ability to steer the car. All in all, you are getting a much more beautiful version of the game, just with more performance problems than other versions.



Audio

  • Just like GTA games of past, the carís radio takes forefront when it comes to variety and entertainment. The quality of the music selection is really quite solid and the ability to play your own songs from iTunes is phenomenal (the Independence radio station). When it comes to ambient noises, the cityscape is alive with honking automobiles, screeching police sirens and citizenís voices. While the cutscenes donít include recorded voices, the music does a good job of setting the mood for the upcoming mission.

Conclusion

For the purchase price, thereís a large amount of content to be found in the iPad version of this Rockstar title; hours upon hours of missions and a plethora of side quests. Unfortunately, the control issues and graphical slowdown problems keep this from being a must own iPad application. Still, thereís a definite value in picking up the iPad application over the PSP or NDS version for double the price. Pick up GTA: Chinatown Wars HD for the iPad if you are a fan of the grand theft auto series or just action-adventure titles in general.

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