car_jack_streets_titleA long time ago, in a casino far, far away gambling addict Randal Meyers gets a harrowing wake-up call.  Italian Mob boss Frankie has finally called in his million dollar gambling debt--it's payback time for Randal.  It's either $50,000 a week in Frankie's pocket or blood on the asphault.  And the worst part of it all?  Randal is you.

Thus begins Tags Games' just-released iPhone version of Car Jack Streets [App Store], an urban role playing game that strives to bring the Grand Theft Auto formula to mobile devices in a way that makes sense for the gamer on the go.

car_jack_streets_wakeup_callAt the start of the game, Randal finds himself standing in northwest Jack City next to his flaming sports car, courtesy of Frankie's car bomb.  Helpful uncle Murphy sets him up with some wheels, a place to lay low, and $5,000 cash for a first, good-will payment to Frankie.  Murphy puts the word out that Randal needs to make some fast dough to keep the bullets away.  In no time, jobs of all sorts start popping up and the task at hand is get to work -- and fast -- because $50,000 a week is no small sum to earn in Jack City.

Randal's money-making options are many and fall on both sides of the law.  While, as one might expect, money can be earned by jacking cars for chop shops, helping with bank robberies, delivering "merchandise," and knocking off or protecting thugs, there are also legit ways to bring in the cash, such as driving taxis and buses and delivering pizza.  A pizza pays a bit less than a hit, however...  Additional mini-missions pop up from time to time, as well, such as causing $25,000 city property damage in 30 second or gathering a cult of 10 people to perform a suicide pact in under a minute.  (Good wholesome fun, really.)  In all, there's enough variety to the jobs and locales involved, helped by the peppering of mini-missions throughout, that I don't see the action wearing thin as players wrack up hours of gameplay in an effort to pay back Frankie's million.

jack_city_map_525


Jack City, pictured above, is a large play area that's host to a variety of venues, such as the busy grids of business districts, a dockyard, parks, a marina, and residential areas.  The game presents a top-down view of the action on the streets.  Certain features of the city, such as buildings, lightposts, and bridges, are represented in 3D models while other objects in the game, such as people, vehicles, and weapons badges are 2D sprites, derived from 3D models.  The result is a colorful game world that feels not-fully-3D, but well beyond what one would call a 2D experience.  The iPhone version of the game, thanks to the device's hardware capabilities, utilizes true-color and offers an improved visual experience as compared to the original mobile title.

car_jack_streets_1

Rather than setting out to create an exact GTA clone, the developers wanted to make Car Jack City particularly well suited for pick-up, mobile play.  Play sessions of 15-20 minutes were the target when creating the game.  One way they sought to make it manageable on this level is by delivering a real-time game experience.  Frankie demands $50,000 per week.  That's seven real days, to you and me.  Neglect the game too long and it's curtains for Randal.  When you play at night, it's nighttime in Jack City--headlights, streetlights and all.  You might be playing at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and see a job come up to lay down at hit across town at 2:10 PM.  Real time.  After spending many hours with the game over the past few days, I unreservedly applaud this approach.  It's great to debate whether you've got time to make "a delivery" a few blocks away, realizing you've arrived too early to the site of a 4:15 bank job.  The time management component feels very real, because it is.

car_jack_streets_2Randal is able to jack any vehicle in town, and a significant array of vehicles there are: sports cars, touring sedans, SUVs, taxis, luxury cars, trucks--the list goes on. "Tools of the trade" are scattered about the city and can be freely collected. Machine guns, shot guns, grenades, rocket launchers, and flame throwers are among the available arsenal, along with ammunition, health packs and even disguises which help in evading local law enforcement.

The game utilizes touch controls for movement around the city. When on foot, a virtual D-pad at the lower left of the screen controls movement with on-screen buttons at the lower right for firing weapons and jacking vehicles. When driving, a lower-left control is available for steering, with forward, reverse, and boost controls at the lower right of the screen.  The controls take some getting used to, but even after a few days of play, the driving controls in particular feel a bit hard to handle.   There is a setting for choosing "digital" or "analog" control modes, which may help some players, but in the end I think larger control areas would make for a better gameplay experience.  I've gotten busted by the cops a number of times while fumbling to get my vehicle turned around and on the way out of there.

car_jack_streets_2At the top of the screen is a health bar and a note that indicates money owed Frankie as well as the current cash level, and a four-star indication of your Police "wanted" level (in this case, the fewer stars, the better).  An onscreen GPS button brings up a list of of relevant locations, such as Murphy's safe house, Frankie's place, and target locations for the various jobs that present themselves, which can be tracked by Randal's GPS unit.  The game uses the GPS system and directional arrows in lieu of an on-screen mini map.  A minor gripe I have with the game is the fact that, upon quitting out to the home menu and reloading, only the core items remain in the GPS list (such as the safe house and Frankie's place); recent job-related items are gone and Randal ends up back at the safe house.  Granted, given the real-time nature of some of the jobs, it wouldn't make sense for those to remain, but starting back at the safe house at the beginning of each session, I find a bit tedious.

On the audio front, Tag Games did not skimp.  The studio rounded up a variety of unsigned artists from the US and the UK to assemble a mix of audio tracks across a variety of genres for in-car playback on Jack City's rock, pop, country, and hip hop radio stations.  (They player can, alternatively, listen to tunes from his or her iTunes library, instead.)  It's an impressive mix of great sounding tunes that add much to the excitement of a police chase through Jack City--not to mention the amusing DJ banter and radio ad spots smattering the broadcasts.  When the player is on foot, enveloping "city sounds" (horns, engines, dogs barking, etc.) help bring the scene to life.

car_jack_streets_4 screenIn evaluating Car Jack Streets for the iPhone, one can't help but draw a comparison to GTA-like Payback [App Store] from Apex-Designs.  As a fan of Payback in its pre-iPhone, GP2X days, I can say that it definitely has a lot going for it.  It offers intense action across multiple city venues and its top-down rendering is fully 3D (with a particularly impressive lighting model).  But comparing the titles side-by-side, Car Jack Streets stands out as the more polished title, with greater play variation -- or, perhaps, flexibility -- thanks to the rapidfire arrival of jobs from which the player can pick and choose to best meet the available play time.  Car Jack Streets is the more enjoyable game, on the whole.

Car Jack Streets Managing Director Paul Farley and Creative Director Jamie Bryan both worked for DMA Design (which became the Rockstar North studio) in the mid '90s and were involved in the creation of the original Grand Theft Auto.  The GTA franchise is a phenomenal success.  Every installment has garnered near-perfect reviews and, as of March 2008, has sold over 70 million copies worlwide.  The fact that the Car Jack Streets team had a hand in the genesis of Grand Theft Auto is evident in Tag Games' iPhone offering.  GTA fans cannot go wrong with Car Jack Streets for the iPhone.

And the most telling part?  While I've had casual fun enough with GTA and its ilk, it was only during the research for my review of this game that I became a real fan of the genre, despite the issues I note.  Take that for what it's worth.

See our gameplay video for a closer look.


[ Full HD version | Low Bandwidth version ]

Tag Games has posted a series of Developer Diary videos that give a look at what went into the creation of Car Jack Streets.

Game Details
Name: Car Jack Streets (v1.0) Price: $4.99 [Buy]
Developer: Tag Games Size: 102 MB
Device: Tested on iPhone 3G
Car Jack Streets is a solid iPhone take on the top-down Grand Theft Auto (GTA) formula.  The real-time play mechanic makes gaming on the go, in small sessions, very enjoyable and quite manageable.  Despite the sometimes cumbersome controls, this is the king of the iPhone GTA-alikes.  GTA fans cannot go wrong with Car Jack Streets for the iPhone.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Felipe

    FIRST!!!!
    HAHAHAHA finally! Downloading now!

  • Felipe

    FIRST!!!!
    HAHAHAHA finally! Downloading now!

  • Kita

    I couldn't stand payback. The controls were horrid and the graphics and gameplay seemed to clunky to play on the iphone. I'll probably give this game a shot though after I hear about a few more impressions :)

  • Kita

    I couldn't stand payback. The controls were horrid and the graphics and gameplay seemed to clunky to play on the iphone. I'll probably give this game a shot though after I hear about a few more impressions :)

  • Spek

    Agreed, after payback being a let down I'm going to have to wait for some impressions

    • f e a r l e s s

      ... or a Lite version...

  • Spek

    Agreed, after payback being a let down I'm going to have to wait for some impressions

    • f e a r l e s s

      ... or a Lite version...

  • Rohan Dalal

    although this game seems to have more features than payback i personally think the graphics in payback were a bit more mature
    :P im still getting this game though xD downloading now

  • Rohan Dalal

    although this game seems to have more features than payback i personally think the graphics in payback were a bit more mature
    :P im still getting this game though xD downloading now

  • Bob

    Game looks Dope...

  • Bob

    Game looks Dope...

  • currymutton

    Hum...can't help but notice:

    1. there is a race track
    2. and the whole city is surrounded by water == an island

    Would a tilt-control suitable for driving in this one also?

    Anyway, would wait for more impressions -- and better a lite version -- to decide.

  • currymutton

    Hum...can't help but notice:

    1. there is a race track
    2. and the whole city is surrounded by water == an island

    Would a tilt-control suitable for driving in this one also?

    Anyway, would wait for more impressions -- and better a lite version -- to decide.

  • Oliath

    I hate the controls. Driving is horrible especially if you are under any pressure. The content an presentation is nice but I really hope they patch up the controls.

    Worth the wait???????

    Well it's a big game. Not sure just how much I'll play it to be totally honest but that is just because I prefer quick games on an iPhone. I got a console for propped games.

    Worth the ???!

    Hell yeah.

  • Oliath

    I hate the controls. Driving is horrible especially if you are under any pressure. The content an presentation is nice but I really hope they patch up the controls.

    Worth the wait???????

    Well it's a big game. Not sure just how much I'll play it to be totally honest but that is just because I prefer quick games on an iPhone. I got a console for propped games.

    Worth the ???!

    Hell yeah.

  • http://www.tag-games.com Paddy

    The updates will have new control systems.

    Paddy

  • http://www.tag-games.com Paddy

    The updates will have new control systems.

    Paddy

  • ringring

    Great, great, GREAT!!!

  • ringring

    Great, great, GREAT!!!

  • http://www.polity.ca timekeeper

    Payback was seriously hard to play due to the controls. It had a very impressive graphics engine though.

  • http://www.polity.ca timekeeper

    Payback was seriously hard to play due to the controls. It had a very impressive graphics engine though.

  • David

    after waiting for so long, i wish they had improved the game before releasing. the controls are horrible!
    if you wish to lose your money just download it, i definetely prefer payback after playing this for 10 minutes..

  • David

    after waiting for so long, i wish they had improved the game before releasing. the controls are horrible!
    if you wish to lose your money just download it, i definetely prefer payback after playing this for 10 minutes..

  • Dan

    I will definitely wait until the update with new controls comes out before I purchase, unless I cave before that (which I probably will). :D

  • Dan

    I will definitely wait until the update with new controls comes out before I purchase, unless I cave before that (which I probably will). :D

  • http://trylleklovn.net trylleklovn

    I think people are too negative about the controls in payback. I found them joyfully accurate and i actually forgot that i was playing a game on an iphone, and concentrated on the gameplay. I quickly was able of making hard and precise turns and car chases was a joy.

    For me a similar control system for Car Jack Streets would be perfect.

  • http://trylleklovn.net trylleklovn

    I think people are too negative about the controls in payback. I found them joyfully accurate and i actually forgot that i was playing a game on an iphone, and concentrated on the gameplay. I quickly was able of making hard and precise turns and car chases was a joy.

    For me a similar control system for Car Jack Streets would be perfect.

  • David

    @trylleklovn:

    you're absolutely right! i don't understand people complaining about the payback controls, the control was great, imo..

  • David

    @trylleklovn:

    you're absolutely right! i don't understand people complaining about the payback controls, the control was great, imo..

  • benji

    MY BIGGEST CONVERN IS THE MISSING OF THE OVER THE SHOULDER 3D ANGLE PAYBACK HAS. I DON'T LIKE THE 2D TOP DOWN VIEW AT ALL!

    • benji

      I MEANT "CONCERN"

      • Anonymouse

        Just because you're concerned doesn't mean you have to SHOUT.

        I actually prefer the cartoony look. Reminds of the the good old days of GTA 1.

      • Greg

        Caps-lock is cruise control for cool

  • benji

    MY BIGGEST CONVERN IS THE MISSING OF THE OVER THE SHOULDER 3D ANGLE PAYBACK HAS. I DON'T LIKE THE 2D TOP DOWN VIEW AT ALL!

    • benji

      I MEANT "CONCERN"

      • Anonymouse

        Just because you're concerned doesn't mean you have to SHOUT.

        I actually prefer the cartoony look. Reminds of the the good old days of GTA 1.

      • Greg

        Caps-lock is cruise control for cool

  • http://www.mobstarentertainment.com/drafternoon mek

    after buying payback and regretting it, i know this is a different game, but i found i dont care for the genre on the iphone...and prob. wont pick up another gta...actually thanks for reminding me, i have to delete payback from my device cause its taking up space cause i dont play it

  • http://www.mobstarentertainment.com/drafternoon mek

    after buying payback and regretting it, i know this is a different game, but i found i dont care for the genre on the iphone...and prob. wont pick up another gta...actually thanks for reminding me, i have to delete payback from my device cause its taking up space cause i dont play it

  • Geo

    Got this and its awesome!!! Control system lends itself really well to this style of game. Reminds me so much of the first gta. Playing this hiding in the server room at work.. should probably go and get on with it but i'm trying to finish a mission! Any original GTA fan should DEFINATELY get this!!

    • Benno

      totally disagree!!!

      payback was ok, definetely
      cjs is ok, i don't see why it was hyped that much, anyone that considers buying cjs..stick to payback, really!

  • Geo

    Got this and its awesome!!! Control system lends itself really well to this style of game. Reminds me so much of the first gta. Playing this hiding in the server room at work.. should probably go and get on with it but i'm trying to finish a mission! Any original GTA fan should DEFINATELY get this!!

    • Benno

      totally disagree!!!

      payback was ok, definetely
      cjs is ok, i don't see why it was hyped that much, anyone that considers buying cjs..stick to payback, really!

  • asd

    no way i prefer a lot car jack streets instead payback!! my 2cents

  • asd

    no way i prefer a lot car jack streets instead payback!! my 2cents

  • ol3s

    Payback is better, camera is better (and actually turns to your point of view), controls are much better and you're not limited to one weapon.

    • Benno

      +1

  • ol3s

    Payback is better, camera is better (and actually turns to your point of view), controls are much better and you're not limited to one weapon.

    • Benno

      +1

  • sticktron

    Guys, this is a GTA1/GTA2 inspired game... of course it's rendered in 2D top-down view, and of course the camera doesn't rotate. That's how the originals were.

    If you can't handle the relative controls, then you are seriously lacking in hand-eye coordination or something. Don't complain about it, practice a bit.

    I won't say they nailed the responsiveness, or the handling... but the control mechanism itself is standard for top-down driving games.

  • sticktron

    Guys, this is a GTA1/GTA2 inspired game... of course it's rendered in 2D top-down view, and of course the camera doesn't rotate. That's how the originals were.

    If you can't handle the relative controls, then you are seriously lacking in hand-eye coordination or something. Don't complain about it, practice a bit.

    I won't say they nailed the responsiveness, or the handling... but the control mechanism itself is standard for top-down driving games.

  • justin knight

    i think this game is much better than payback... this game is not perfect but it is deffinetely more of a GTA type game. i did not like the controls or camera in payback

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      I am impressed with the 3D rendering of Payback, but this is just a more enjoyable game.

  • justin knight

    i think this game is much better than payback... this game is not perfect but it is deffinetely more of a GTA type game. i did not like the controls or camera in payback

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      I am impressed with the 3D rendering of Payback, but this is just a more enjoyable game.

  • hazmat95

    im loving this game, the only real problem ive been having, is the vehicle collision detection, ill sideswipe a sports car with a fire truck, and itll completely stop me

  • hazmat95

    im loving this game, the only real problem ive been having, is the vehicle collision detection, ill sideswipe a sports car with a fire truck, and itll completely stop me

  • Jack

    This game is horrid. The controls make it almost unplayable, the annoying police that basically trap your car are obnoxious, the map design is terrible (too many things in the way, not many routes to get to the destination). I play a ton of games and recently beat GTA:CW with a play time of over 20 hours. Payback is the real winner in iPhone GTA clones. It has better controls, and smoother frame rate.

  • Jack

    This game is horrid. The controls make it almost unplayable, the annoying police that basically trap your car are obnoxious, the map design is terrible (too many things in the way, not many routes to get to the destination). I play a ton of games and recently beat GTA:CW with a play time of over 20 hours. Payback is the real winner in iPhone GTA clones. It has better controls, and smoother frame rate.

  • rich_952000

    I've had some time with CJS, it will take alot of work for any other developers to come out with anything to top this. I am annoyed with the steering and crash physics, butstill in no way have I played any better game on my iPhone. Paul and the boys @ Tag Games already have the first update in the works which will include a "touch steering wheel", I'm hoping it will be similar to the driving control found in Ferrari GT.

    BTW, the app icon is awesome too.

  • rich_952000

    I've had some time with CJS, it will take alot of work for any other developers to come out with anything to top this. I am annoyed with the steering and crash physics, butstill in no way have I played any better game on my iPhone. Paul and the boys @ Tag Games already have the first update in the works which will include a "touch steering wheel", I'm hoping it will be similar to the driving control found in Ferrari GT.

    BTW, the app icon is awesome too.

  • Darryl_Holmes

    Car Jack Streets is a really impressive game and after being heavily let down by Payback im very happy with Car Jack indeed, at first the car controls are annoying and sometimes your car will spin out for no reason, but after getting used to it you can really pull off some tight maneuvers, all you have to remember is when you let go of left or right your car will go to the nearest angle in gaps of 45 degrees, start using that to your advantage and the games controls become incredibly easy to use.
    I personally don't see how Payback can be better then this though, i own both and Payback has nothing on this.

  • Darryl_Holmes

    Car Jack Streets is a really impressive game and after being heavily let down by Payback im very happy with Car Jack indeed, at first the car controls are annoying and sometimes your car will spin out for no reason, but after getting used to it you can really pull off some tight maneuvers, all you have to remember is when you let go of left or right your car will go to the nearest angle in gaps of 45 degrees, start using that to your advantage and the games controls become incredibly easy to use.
    I personally don't see how Payback can be better then this though, i own both and Payback has nothing on this.

  • http://trylleklovn.net trylleklovn

    Finally bought it. The controls are absolutely ridiculous!

    Don't waste your money on this game until they release some other steering method. After a half an hour being annoyed with this game, I went back to payback and enjoyed the extremely much better controls.

  • http://trylleklovn.net trylleklovn

    Finally bought it. The controls are absolutely ridiculous!

    Don't waste your money on this game until they release some other steering method. After a half an hour being annoyed with this game, I went back to payback and enjoyed the extremely much better controls.

  • http://playstationlifestyle.net Paulmichael

    The price is actually $2.99. Just bought it, haven't yet played it but at that pricepoint it's a steal!!!

  • http://playstationlifestyle.net Paulmichael

    The price is actually $2.99. Just bought it, haven't yet played it but at that pricepoint it's a steal!!!

  • sam

    best game every if u like grand theift auto then u will love it!!!

    buy now!!

  • sam

    best game every
    !!!!!

    if u like gta then u will love this!!

  • sam

    best game every if u like grand theift auto then u will love it!!!

    buy now!!

  • sam

    best game every
    !!!!!

    if u like gta then u will love this!!

  • sam

    in 1 week they hav an update on steering and tanks helicopters and so much more!!

  • sam

    in 1 week they hav an update on steering and tanks helicopters and so much more!!

  • rich_952000

    @Sam, I bet Paul likes your enthusiasm;)

    If you don't have CJS you are doing yourself an injustice by not getting it NOW. It was a steal at the $5 I got it for and at $3 you are absolutely "jacking" Tag Games. Seriously this is my favorite App so far.

  • rich_952000

    @Sam, I bet Paul likes your enthusiasm;)

    If you don't have CJS you are doing yourself an injustice by not getting it NOW. It was a steal at the $5 I got it for and at $3 you are absolutely "jacking" Tag Games. Seriously this is my favorite App so far.

  • sam

    by far my favourite as well =]

  • sam

    by far my favourite as well =]