Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars App Review

iPhone GTA


Who would have thought that one day we’d be walking around with a full blown Grand Theft Auto in our pocket on a device that you make calls from?!

Well, it’s here, and it’s GTA: Chinatown Wars. We’ve been playing it for a while now, and we can honestly say that it’s pretty damn good.

Starting Out

It’s tough to know how and where to begin reviewing this game as there’s so much to it. It’s fair to say that this is no watered-down version of GTA, this is the full game on your iPhone or iPod Touch, that alone is a pretty impressive feat.

iPhone Screenshot

Let’s get straight into the game mechanics. When you first load up GTA you’ll be treated to a cutscene that starts the story off and soon you’ll be controlling the character you’ll play throughout the game. As with most games of this genre you’ll be led gently into the game with explanations on how to control your character. As you progress more controls become available. The image on the right shows a number of grey icons on the screen. The one on the left towards the bottom is effectively the equivalent of an analogue stick and you’ll mostly use this whilst on foot or in water. This is the very first control you’ll use in the game and initially it does take some getting used to. Unlike a real analogue stick where you can feel movement there is of course none of that sensation so initially it feels rather awkward. However, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you become used to it and after a little while it feels quite natural.

The bottom icon showing a car is as you might have guessed used for getting in and out of vehicles or stealing one and throwing the driver out as he/she drives by! The icon towards the right showing a gun is the weapon you are currently carrying which you simply tap to shoot. The icon immediately to the right of your gun is used for jumping over fences or walls, and the one immediately above this is used for hand to hand combat.

Grand Theft Auto

The Good

Full GTA game, not some watered down version
Great graphics
Good storyline
Lots of variety

The Bad

Controls take a bit of getting used to and can sometimes be a bit tricky
No voice acting, all subtitled

The developers have updated the game so that when you listen to your own playlist the songs will now play randomly, rather than in order.

Gameplay Variety

There are a plethora of things to do in GTA: Chinatown Wars. Without spoiling the storyline, Huang Lee (the character you play) needs to deliver an ancient sword to his Uncle Kenny. The sword belonged to Huang Lee’s father who was murdered. To cut a long story short Huang Lee never did manage to deliver the sword, and you end up trying to find it again, not only that but you are desperate to avenge your father’s killers.

Throughout the game, you’ll do everything you would hope to do in a GTA game. You’ll do drug deals, both selling and buying, you’ll steal cars, you’ll kill people, you’ll take fire trucks, you’ll blow up shop keepers premises, you’ll buy lottery scratch cards! You’ll meet a variety of characters, you’ll fix car races, you’ll do drive-bys on gangs, you’ll avoid the police by driving like a maniac! You’ll steal a large gas/petrol truck and drive it to a specified area and let it blow sky high! The list just goes on, if you’ve ever played a GTA game before you’ll know the score. Everything you do in a standard GTA, you’ll be doing in this as well. The more you progress the more people you’ll meet and the variety just keeps on coming!

There are sometimes framerate issues but it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall experience, and the framerate doesn’t drop very often.

Chinatown Wars Coming To iPad


Sound is not wrong in the game although there is no voice acting which seems a shame. There are different radio stations (there are no DJ’s or presenters) which play a variety of instrumental music whilst you drive around the city but none of them are commercial tracks. Why would you have commercial tracks when you can listen to your own? That’s right people, just create your own GTA playlist from the music on your iPhone or iPod Touch and as soon as you get in a vehicle you’ll be listening to your favorite tunes…nice touch by the developers.

The only real problem is, it won’t pick a random song from the playlist you create, instead it plays through all the tracks in order although it does remember at which point you got out of a vehicle and pauses the music, therefore the next time you enter a vehicle the music will continue from where it left off. The city itself whilst you walk around feels kind of busy with car, train, siren and rain sounds. Overall the sound works well and fits nicely within your surroundings and helps to immerse you into the game further. It would have been nice to have had some voice acting and also added some crazy presenters on the radio, this is one of the areas that could be improved in the game. Understandably there are memory constraints so perhaps this was the reason for not adding such things.


You’ll be playing this game for some time. You’re looking at approximately 12-15 hours of playing time to complete it! Whether you’ll choose to play it again upon completion will be determined by personal preference. However you look at it a full GTA game with 12 hours plus of gameplay on the phone and at a ridiculous price, really should be enough for you to get your credit card out immediately!

Chinatown Wars


GTA: Chinatown Wars doesn’t offer multiplayer.

Options & Settings

More options and settings than any other game we’ve played on iPhone or iPod Touch. We’re not going to list them all here as we’d end up going on forever but you carry around a PDA in the game, and this can be accessed at anytime by tapping the icon in the very top left-hand corner of the screen. This offers you the ability to check your in-game email, see your in-game contacts, access your GPS system, your game stats, your music player (allowing you to listen to each of the different radio stations) etc etc. Then there is the ‘System Settings’ icon, tapping this will give you access to loading games, deleting games, creating a new game, saving a match, changing your PDA theme, choosing your preferred radio station, music volume, SFX volume, steering assist, auto switching weapons and lots more. There are more than enough settings and options to keep you occupied!


Overall Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a fantastic game for your iPhone. The developers should receive enormous credit for porting GTA to this platform and making it work with touch-sensitive controls. It’s a game you can get totally engrossed in, there’s plenty of variety, the city is big and the graphics are superb. If you’re a fan of GTA then you’re going to love it. There is slight room for improvement by adding some voice acting and hopefully they’ll do this in the next version. It is one of the more expensive games on the app store but if you put it into perspective it’s cheap as chips in comparison to the cost of GTA on other platforms. If you want a game to get involved in, then GTA: Chinatown Wars is a must have and is easily worthy of its 5 star score.