Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD for iPad - app review

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars HD for iPad (GTA henceforth) is a great homage to its console brethren. Good story? Check. Good graphics? Check. Plenty of adult-themed action, adventure, and melodrama? Check. Check. Check.

You start off GTA on a flight back to the US, specifically Liberty City to transport your recently deceased Chinese Mafia Father's sword to the new leader. However, as soon as you arrive you are kidnapped and left for dead. Without spoiling anymore of the story, that's where you begin. I am not going to give away any more of what happens to you. Instead I am going to focus on the play mechanics, environments, etc.

GTA is structured in an isometric 3/4 view topdown action game. You are centered above Huang Lee's (the main character) head and move him around via a virtual d-pad on the bottom left of the screen. You can sometimes get turned around quite easily, so you can center the camera behind your character by double-tapping the d-pad. On the left of the screen you have your action buttons. These buttons are dynamic depending on what you are doing. You basically have some core functions; jump-kick, leap (over an obstacle such as a fence) and punch. If you acquire a weapon, the punch button is replaced with the weapon of choice. However, switching weapons is a little painful; you have to go to the pause menu located in the upper left and tap the weapon you want. This can remove you from the action in the middle of a fire-fight and is a bit disappointing.

The story is driven by mini-quests typically given to you by your uncle early in the game. You go to his house, some dialog ensues and you are then sent on your way. Examples might be to meet a family friend and escort them to a location, take out a rival gang and more. To do this you have to take advantage of your environment such as car-jacking anything from trucks to motorcycles to boats in the harbor.

The environment is absolutely huge. To help you get around you are given a GPS with map to get you to any destination. This is a very necessary tool. I couldn't tell you how big the city is in virtual miles, but it is quite large and with a lot of variety. You have everything in Liberty city including different burrows ala New York City style. You can go where you want, take people out for cash, play mini games all while time moves in accelerated time. Day goes to night and so on. The night effects are particularly nice as car, street and building lights all have neat effects on the environment which is quite impressive.

I think it's a fair statement that though there have been a few iterations of the game, the iPad version resigns supreme if for only having the larger screen. I absolutely love the gameplay and the fun uses of the touch screen from throwing out trash in a dumpster to manually having to hot-wire a car. Is the game groundbreaking? No, especially compared to other consoles. Is it fun? Oh yeah.

[$9.99- iTunes Link]

TiPb iPad 4.5-star rated


  • Great graphics- details, light effect, shadows, etc
  • Pedestrian back-talk
  • Robust mobile iteration of the consoles legacy
  • Easy to play with the iPad screen


  • Inconvenient means to switch weapons
  • Vehicle controls can be frustrating at times

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Software trainer, blogger and mobile technology enthusiast living in the suburban Midwest.