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Games for Apple's iPhone are quickly advancing in sophistication, moving beyond mere find-a-words and Sudoku boards and onto the brink of what some might consider hardcore games. We've got a Halo clone in Gameloft's N.O.V.A., fully-fledged EA Sports titles and now Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars which was originally developed for the Nintendo DS.
You play as Huang Lee, the son of a recently murdered gang boss and the heir to a lot of misery in the seedy underbelly of Liberty City. Lee's goal is restore honour to his family and avenge his father's death, but doing this requires him to first earn the respect of his father's peers, a motley mix of egocentric low-lives who immediately put Lee to work running errands of murder, terrorise and peddle drugs — standard Rockstar fare.
The excellent story of Chinatown Wars is told in stills.
In terms of tone, language and explicit themes, Chinatown Wars loses nothing in the transition to the small screen. The characters are a dark mix of flaws, there's plenty of humour and the music is a real highlight. The 3D animations of Grand Theft Auto 4 are replaced by colourful still images and subtitles, but this doesn't detract from the game's ability to tell a story: a testament to the game's direction.
After the game's lengthy opening sequence there is the game itself to play; a mix of running, driving, killing and negotiating a fairly complex in-game GPS-cum-PDA system. As with its original incarnation on the DS, Chinatown Wars for iPhone assumes a top-down view for the player, reminiscent of the first handful of titles in the GTA series. This view trades complex visuals for speed in gameplay and the result is a lightning-fast frame rate but not an always coherent gaming experience. Jump in a fast sports car and you can all but forget about where the next turn is as you plough through oncoming traffic at break-neck speeds.