Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review

The critically acclaimed DS and PSP game is now one of the best iPhone games to date at a mere fraction of the price.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has proven to be among the very best games on all three handheld platforms: the DS, the PSP, and now the iPhone. Even if you've played it on another platform, you'll still find the iPhone version to be very impressive, especially because it has been enhanced with extras that are only possible on the iPhone. Despite being a port, it's one of the very best games available on the App Store.

You play as an up-and-coming gangster on the dangerous streets of Liberty City.
You play as an up-and-coming gangster on the dangerous streets of Liberty City.

If you're new to GTA:CW, here's the lowdown. You play as Huang Lee, the son of a recently assassinated Triad gangster, and you've been flown to the infamously dangerous Liberty City to deliver an artifact to your uncle. However, Huang is promptly robbed, assaulted, and left for dead; thus, he must face both his irate uncle and a crime-filled city in which he must make a name for himself as an up-and-coming gangster.

Playing through the entire storyline will likely take you about 15 hours. Most of the gameplay involves stealing cars, driving through Liberty City, evading police, and warring with rival gangs, but a wide variety of missions keeps things fresh the entire time. These include helping a Triad boss win a street race by rigging the other cars to blowing up stores with Molotov cocktails (or preventing them from burning down with a fire truck). No two missions are alike, and most of them are challenging and enjoyable.

Completing the campaign doesn't mean you'll run out of things to do in the game. Side missions, extra jobs, and unlockables are at your disposal, and completing all of them will take days. Some of the available jobs include working as a policeman, taxi driver, ambulance driver, drug smuggler, and a tattoo artist, among others. And you can take a break from the campaign at any time to perform these side jobs.

The iPhone version combines the touch-based functionality of the original DS game and high-quality graphics from the PSP port to make the best version of the game yet. The minigames for carjacking, scratch cards, Molotov cocktail making, and tattooing work beautifully on the iPhone's touch screen. You might be skeptical about how the D pad controls work, but they work just as well as any other controller. You can even customize the controls to suit your preferences.

You might think that the profanity, drug dealing, and violence from the original version of the game would be cut or dramatically deemphasized in the iPhone version. Luckily, it all remains untouched. Fans of the series will still find everything they have come to love: witty writing, gritty violence, lots of profanity, and a cast of morally dubious characters. The game has garnered a 17+ rating for a reason and shouldn't be overlooked if you're thinking about buying this game for a younger child.

GTA:CW contains minigames for stealing cars, making Molotov cocktails, and inking tattoos.
GTA:CW contains minigames for stealing cars, making Molotov cocktails, and inking tattoos.

Rockstar has also revamped the five available radio stations that were in the DS version with tons of new music. However, in the iPhone version, you are no longer limited to the audio that's preloaded into the game. By creating an iTunes playlist named "GTA" and syncing it to your device, you can play your own music through the new "Independence" station. It isn't the first time we've seen this kind of iPod integration, but it's definitely a welcome addition.

If you haven't bought GTA:CW for your iPhone yet, you should. It's one of the most complete iPhone games to date, and its mature storyline and varied gameplay definitely offer one of the most enjoyable game experiences on the iPhone to date.

This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner

The Good

  • It's GTA as you know and love it
  • Very lengthy game
  • Great control scheme specific to the iPhone
  • Updated graphics
  • Create your own playlist.

The Bad

  • Mature content means this game is absolutely not for children.

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About the Author

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

First Released Mar 17, 2009
  • Android
  • DS
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • PSP

Grand Theft Auto takes it to the streets of Chinatown and onto the Sony PSP.


Average Rating

4726 Rating(s)

Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence