After taking a couple of months off, Rockstar is back at it with updating their existing library of iOS games for modern devices. Today’s subject: Grant Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars! This is an exciting day for me personally because this is probably the number one title I’ve been wanting to be updated to take advantage of the full screen of the iPhone X line and the iPad Pro line of devices, as well as just generally work at all, since at some point Chinatown Wars became nigh unplayable on newer versions of iOS. All of those problems appear to have been rectified with today’s update.
The main reason I was anxious for Chinatown Wars to get an update is because it’s one of the more unique Grand Theft Auto games around. Originally developed for the Nintendo DS and released just over a decade ago, Chinatown Wars harkened back to the roots of the GTA series with a top-down style and more simplistic cel-shaded graphics that worked better on the DS’s lesser hardware. In terms of gameplay though this was as robust as any console version of GTA, and in general Chinatown Wars received rave reviews upon release. In the fall of 2009 it made its way to the other dedicated gaming handheld of the time, Sony’s PlayStation Portable, complete with enhanced graphics and features that took advantage of that system’s more powerful hardware.
As for the iOS version, it has an interesting history. There were rumors all the way back in 2008, before the game’s original release even, that Chinatown Wars would be receiving a port for the iPhone. That prediction came true when Rockstar officially announced an iPhone version in August of 2009, with the release on the App Store coming several months later in January of 2010. We absolutely loved the game in our review, and although it translated quite well to the touchscreen in terms of controls, the only real disappointment was that the improved visuals and features from the Sony PSP version didn’t make it to the iOS version. However, in late 2014 alongside the long-awaited launch of Chinatown Wars for Android devices, a huge update hit the iOS version which did add those visual enhancements as well as support for iPhone 5 and up widescreens, Retina Display resolution, and full MFi controller support. Sadly, that was the last update for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on iOS until today.
Today’s update also leaves just one last Rockstar iOS game in need of a similar update: Grand Theft Auto III, the first fully 3D, open-world entry in the series and really the game that kicked off the entire open-world sandbox game trend that continues today nearly two decades later. The other Rockstar iOS games to receive modern device support have been Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas back in May of last year, Max Payne Mobile in October of last year, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City this past February followed by a Bully: Anniversary Edition update just a couple of weeks later, and finally Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories which was updated in early March. I have no doubt that GTA III will receive an update but with the timing of all the previous updates being kind of all over the place I couldn’t begin to guess when we’ll actually see it.
I also have had people asking if I think Rockstar will ever release any more mobile games, and my answer is that with them updating and maintaining their existing mobile games that at least means there’s somebody in the company working on mobile in some capacity, but I think there’s still a very low chance of any actual new mobile releases. While they do seem to sell super well I think they pale in comparison to the money Rockstar makes on their major franchises on other platforms, so even if a new mobile release would make them money it likely isn’t enough money to bother with, sadly. I hope I’m proven wrong though as even just the release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories would feel like it really completes the package of all their landmark open-world games that arose our of the sixth console generation being available on mobile.
For now though I’m just grateful for today’s update to Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on iOS and I’m excited to spend the rest of my afternoon slinging drugs to the seedy underbelly of Liberty City.