Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
At first glance Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars looks like a “dumbed-down” GTA game for the DS. This is far from the truth. The top down perspective will remind you of Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2, but the one key difference between those titles and Chinatown Wars is the fact that almost everything in the game is rendered in 3D. Such as buildings, cars and other miscellaneous objects in the environment. Rockstar has done something that not many other developers have; they have bested Nintendo on their own turf.
Chinatown Wars is easily the best-looking DS game to date. The art style makes it feel like a Grand Theft Auto graphic novel or a cartoon movie based on GTA. Not only is it impressive graphically, but there is also a lot going on in the city. For instance, you have the same amount of traffic and pedestrians on the streets that you would expect from a console GTA game. Chinatown Wars takes advantage of the DS hardware and appears to get more out of it than any Nintendo game on the platform.
Rockstar didn't give DS owners a dumbed-down story either. The story is just what you would expect from a GTA game, which can be good or bad depending on your opinion of GTA story lines. The main character of Chinatown Wars is Huang Lee, a member of the Hong Kong Triad. He comes to Liberty City to bring his Uncle the sword Yu Jian, a family heirloom. Things go bad for Huang, he gets ambushed, the sword is stolen and he's left to die, which starts the game.
Also, this is the start of Rockstar’s fantastic use of the DS touch screen. Huang is trapped, he is in a car that was driven into the water and to escape you tap the back window with your stylus to break it and swim to the surface. This little “mini-game” will be triggered each time you drive into the water. The touch screen is also used in other instances such as filling bottles with gasoline to make a Molotov cocktail. Rockstar knew what they were doing here. None of the touch screen elements feels forced. It has the perfect mix of touch screen mechanics and traditional buttons + D-pad game play.
One of the features of Chinatown Wars is a drug dealing mini-game. However, it is not as bad as it sounds. The drug deal is similar to trading stocks except instead of shares of a company you are trading weed and acid. Okay, so maybe that's not a good comparison, but that's all I got. You buy drugs from dealers at low prices (if you're smart) and then sell it back to other dealers in order to make a profit. The game also sends you emails via your PDA, complete with graphs that show how profitable your drug trading has been. It adds something new to the franchise and it's a good way to make money in the game. Because let’s face it, driving people around in taxis to make extra cash isn’t fun.
Chinatown Wars is a great Grand Theft Auto game. The transition from console to handheld is nearly perfect and the “sandbox” style game-play is left intact, although the game pushes you to a more structured path for the story. If you only have a DS and want a well-made mature game then this is something you have to pick up. Nevertheless, even if you have a next-gen console and GTA IV, this is still something to check out. It is a fantastic game in its own right that pushes the DS hardware farther than I thought possible. Hopefully Chinatown Wars is a success and we’ll see more efforts in the future to appeal to the core gamer on Nintendo’s handheld.