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Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars

Nintendo DS | PlayStation Portable
Genre: Action
Developer: Rockstar Official Site:
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars

Genre: Action
Developer: Rockstar
Official Site: http://www.rockstarga...
Publisher: Rockstar Games
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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review
Review By @ 06:47pm 18/03/09
Here it is. The best Nintendo DS game you'll ever play. Period. There are other games that deserved that statement, such as The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hour Glass or Animal Crossing: Wild World, but the various levels of achievement found within GTA: Chinatown Wars are so vast, it has elevated the bar for what's possible not only on the system, but for developers with vision, despite limitations, further than anyone who's tackled DS development since the machine's inception.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars continues the tradition of extended family and colourful people Rockstar and the GTA series have become known for. GTA: San Andreas saw players embodying a young African American, GTA IV an off-the-boat Russian immigrant and most recently, GTA IV: The Lost and Damned, a Jewish member of the biker club, The Lost – all different people with unique perspectives and outlooks, and all fitting because of the diverse face of Liberty City. There's no way you'd get all Rockstar have injected into the infamous town without unique characters to offer reflective (and relevant) insights.

With that said, it's fairly obvious what you're going to expect with GTA: Chinatown Wars. You play the game as Huang Lee, son of a former Triad boss who was killed running the Triads in Liberty City. Huang flies to Liberty City with the family heirloom, Yu Jian, a ceremonial sword Huang has always thought held serious significance within his family. However, upon his arrival, he is greeted with an immediate double-cross and finds himself dumped in a river after being thought dead by the gunmen who were waiting for him at Liberty City International Airport.

urther throwing his world into chaos is Huang's discovery the Yu Jian is a worthless item that was won by his father (who it turns out is not all he seemed to be to Huang) in a dodgy card game. Now, lost, broken and without the silver spoon in his mouth he's had his whole life, Huang must face the trials and tribulations of the harsh Liberty City and its plethora of shady underworld denizens.

Typically of a Rockstar game, the narrative throughout Chinatown Wars is riddled with interesting, quirky characters, double-crosses, love interests, honourable people and all the awesome bits in between. The scripting is tight, and while you're not necessarily privy to the same snappy social commentary and satire of the various Liberty City radio stations found in the console iterations of the series, there's still plenty of propaganda to read on your PDA from emails and more.

Character interaction and personalities of inimitable nature make for equally engrossing digestion, and despite playing the story out in graphic novel-style sequences of still drawings, you'll find yourself drawn in to the world of Chinatown Wars.

Huang himself is an excellent character with multiple dimensions you can bite into. In fact, with the opportunity to expand his personality more through text-based dialogue, Huang could be argued to be an even deeper character than the likes of GTA IV's Niko Belic.

What's important about all of this is you're playing this out on the Nintendo DS. Never has there been an opus like this on the system before, especially not with this much depth. And I haven't even mentioned the gameplay portion yet.

Awesome segue out of the way, Chinatown Wars plays out like a hybrid of the classic topdown GTA and the modern 3D versions. While it's a birds-eye viewpoint you interact with the game through, you are looking at a fully realised 3D handheld rendition of Liberty City. And it's damn impressive.

Vehicles in the game have weight and applied physics thanks to a specific physics system written for the game, and the AI and random streaming of everyday events is nothing short of uber-impressive. Driving from a start-point to a mission, I came across a police blockade apparently erected as a result of an overturned bus that caught on fire – and it had nothing to do with my current point of narrative or my designated mission. Brilliant.

Control is uber-easy and the combat system has been turned up to arcade 11 to keep things enjoyable and accessible, but there's still an incredible amount of depth. There are essentially two ways in which to fight: on foot, or from vehicles. And both serve a very different experience meaning you're constantly tasting in action-packed variety.

You'll encounter drive-bys, car chases, chopper grenade bombings, back alleyway shoot-outs, hide and seek, sniping and heaps, heaps more. And once again, I can't stress enough that this is all streaming flawlessly in the palm of your hand.

What's also great about most of the above is while you're playing the game through a fairly different viewpoint the pacing, mission structure, applied narrative and more, are all more than in keeping with the traditional GTA flavour. If you're a fan of the series one way or another, this is still going to be familiar and comfortable territory.

Yet the sheer point of demarcation in controls sees this "familiar" game refreshingly unique. The stylus and touchpad serve up various contextual control options that never once feel like a tacked on gimmick with motions ranging from scratching Big Shot Burger "scratch n win" cards, to turning screwdrivers when hotwiring cars. There's a plethora of advanced motions involved with the incredible manifest of Liberty City DS interactions, and even the idea Huang manages his life through a PDA (as opposed to a mobile phone ala GTA IV and The Lost and Damned), lends itself perfectly to the DS user interface.

Usually around this point in a game's review it's time to start saying "but" or "however" to switch from the positives to the negatives, but with Chinatown Wars, there really are no negatives. Beyond people potentially nitpicking the size of the DS or the like, Chinatown Wars really is the DS's finest gaming achievement, and it's likely GTA has found a new home here.

So if you're a GTA fan pick this up. If you own a DS, pick this up. And if neither apply to you, pick this up (and buy a DS in the process – you won't regret it). It really is that good, and needs to be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated.

I love that in an industry obsessed with processing power and HD, a game like Chinatown Wars can come along and remind us big ideas aren't always confined, and where there's ambition and will, there's a way.

What we liked
  • GTA on a handheld!
  • Great story with excellent scripting
  • Liberty City literally in the palm of your hand
  • Amazing technology
  • Excellent, relevant use of the touch-screen and stylus interface
  • Wi-Fi connectivity for co-op, multiplayer and stats uploading
What we didn't like
  • Limitations of the system mean no actual music or talking for the radio stations, but it really isn't a huge deal
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 01:35pm 19/3/09
What's with the no actual music comment? The radio stations are simply instrumental tracks.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 01:53pm 19/3/09
yeah, it's all instrumental - so no actual songs - it's all midi-based. But works fine because there's no other speech in the game anyway
Posted 02:07pm 19/3/09
But it's not like they're in-house productions, they're by artists like Deadmau5, Prairie Cartel and Ticklah.
Posted 04:12pm 19/3/09
With a review like that I think I will have to fire up my borrowed ds and give it a go.
Posted 07:05pm 19/3/09
I actually want to buy this now.
Posted 07:24pm 19/3/09
I played it very briefly yesterday - looks good. A lot of cutscenes, but you can skip through them. It's a top down view like the original GTA's, and the touch screen isn't in use all the time. When it is required though it's quite fun. Again have only played it for a few minutes so far, but it's already one of the best games I have played on DS.
Posted 09:51pm 19/3/09
That actually looks like fun, and looks good graphically as well.

Greazy, you know what do!
Posted 10:23pm 19/3/09
they're by artists like Deadmau5, Prairie Cartel and Ticklah.

Posted 10:28pm 19/3/09
Deadmau5 and Prairie Cartel were both on the GTAIV soundtrack. Ticklah is part of the Easy Star All-Stars who made Dub Side of the Moon and Radiodread.
Posted 10:56pm 19/3/09
Ive been playing it myself over the past week. It's a bit rough on some edges, but that's almost totally forgivable because it is a great game; sits right up there with Mario Kart DS.
The lack of decent audio tracks is a non issue. What music there is, does well enough, and you wouldnt get good enough audio quality out of the DSs speakers to do songs justice anyway.

Gripes: Some slowdown and texture pop-in. Cut scenes are boring.
The AI of humans who need to follow you is quite annoying; they often get stuck behind walls, etc, and cant figure a path around the obstacle.
There is no clear way to know what you can climb over and what you cant. Money you get for completing missions seems pointless compared to other ways of making money.

Pros: Physics are surprisingly good. GPS is as good as GTA IV's, and sometimes better.
Touch controls are used well and not over done and gimmicky. Very little of the important things from the console GTAs seems lost on the conversion to portable.
Driving feels great and the new way to lose cops is actually fun, though a bit time consuming; very burnout like.

last edited by Lynx at 22:56:34 19/Mar/09
Posted 11:26pm 19/3/09
im about 7 hours / 35% into it. i'm enjoying it more than i did gta4. i think it will have a longer lasting appeal too, i haven't really touched gta4 since i beat the main story line

i love the return to the style of the first 2 games, but still mixing in a lot of new things so its still a unique gta experience. the way you lose the cop is definitely the most fun out of any gta game

their isn't really any depth to the story, but the characters and humour are really well done
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