Big Visuals in Little China

Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is an interesting “back to the roots” –type of thing. It throws away now familiar third-person perspective, just to go back to the bird-view found in the first Grand Theft Auto from 1997. I had a privilege to come across with the iPhone version of the GTA:CTW, and it nevertheless exceeded my expectations (if I had any). But still, since it was originally developed for Nintendo DS which has a far more sophisticated hardware than iPhone, I knew constantly in the back of my mind that there was a better version out there: a definitive version. Therefore, I made an early decision to not look at the DS –version before I had my time with the version I possessed and I’ll reflect later why.

iPhone’s GTA:CTW is one of the greatest looking games on the platform, Zen Bound being the best at the moment, in my opinion. What amazed me was how detailed the world is: cars have working turn/reverse/headlights, there is a dynamic time-of-day –lighting (which works fine and is well justified on this one) and weather effects with credible lightnings and so forth. Additionally the performance is excellent with little to none hick-ups with the frame rate.

As said, the perspective is now similar with the first GTA, but still not quite exactly the same. In GTA:CTW the view is little tilted and therefore perhaps more three-deey. What’s interesting is how well sprites work with a tilted view, which is rather counter-intuitive. And thanks to the perspective, there is practically no pop-up to be seen, like in GTA IV in which pop-up is constantly rubbed in your face. So in fact, GTA:CTW‘s visuals are more coherent in that way.

Notice how the light beams react accordingly to the walls: there’s much more going on than simple decals there.

To be honest, the sole reason why I was so impressed with the game, was the platform. You always perceive things through a framework. With video games it’s the hardware which constitutes certain kind of expectation for the visuals. It’s funny how reluctant I still am to look at the superior sceenshots of the DS –version, because I know my iPhone –version is the compromised one, and I hate compromises.

In a way, it’s sad that it’s so hard for me to enjoy things that are not presented, as “they should (or could) be”. It really is. I think it’s deeply rooted in human nature, and it must be one form of “keeping up with the Joneses”: we’re not satisfied with what we have if there is a reasonable possibility to have things a little better.

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