Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hanging on the iPhone: GTA: Chinatown Wars

Micro Reviews for micro games.

GTA: Chinatown Wars

The GTA series has come a long way since it's 2D top down origins on the PC, and with each step forward it can sometimes be hard to look back. However not all platforms were created equal, and the graphics, euphoria physics and scale of GTA IV isn't easily replicated on smaller screens. This is why Rockstar returned to the well for GTA:CTW, opting to present a more traditional GTA for it's debut on the DS. This was then ported to the PSP and given a touch up graphically to keep the title in line with the more powerful system. Now about 6 months after the original DS release the PSP version of the game has been ported to the iPhone.

Visually the game looks great, the extra power the iPhone and PSP have over the DS allows for more detailed textures, some quite nice lighting effects and an all round more engrossing experience. The level of detail is impressive given the top down perspective, billboards are readable for example, and the quasi cell shaded look the game sports doesn't feel like it's only purpose is to excuse the non photo-realistic graphics.
There are a few flaws however such as the picture in picture moments for certain actions looking really pixilated. But overall it's by no means an unattractive game.

Things start to get a little less polished as far is gameplay is concerned however. The obvious area the game suffers in is controls, it almost feels wrong pointing it out as the fact that the iPhone struggles as far as input for games goes is no secret. GTA is far from the worse handing game on the system, the virtual joystick is responsive, as are the buttons, but they simply don't make for a fun experience to use. Driving is a chore and requires the player to relearn how to control vehicles in games as the cars are way too sensitive to the button inputs and tend to swerve dramatically between lanes while you attempt to straighten them up, the game locks the cars onto a track to make things easier, but when you have to manoeuvre out of the way of another vehicle the swaying side to side beigns again while trying to reconnect with the 'track'. Combat is a similar problem, there is no manual lock on option and the fire button is so near the flying kick and jump button that on many occasions you'll end up breaking cover and rolling towards the enemy.

All in all GTA is a worth while purchase if you haven't played CTW before, and the fact that it comes at such an impressive reduction compared to the PSP and DS versions makes the fiddly controls a little easier to swallow. There's a lot of depth to the game with plenty of side missions and innovative use of the touch controls in places meaning there are literally hours of gameplay to be had from this little game.

Chinatown Wars is available for download now
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

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