Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Returning in somewhat 2D form, Chinatown Wars is the first ever handheld GTA. But how does it survive the transition?
Returning to the birds’ eye perspective could turn people away from Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars. However, as you play the game, you see it translates almost flawlessly from its 3D predecessors. Players take on the role of Huang Lee, a spoiled rich kid who has been tasked with delivering an ancient family sword to his uncle Kenny in Liberty city. Once Lee arrives, he is ambushed and left for dead. What follows are hours and hours of missions, drug deals, mini games and multiplayer game modes.
As in all GTA games, the characters are weird and witty and the same is delivered here. Yet the lack of speech really takes away from their personality. Lack of dialogue and hand drawn cut scenes really are China Town Wars’ only flaws. This is understandable due to the limits of the DS hardware. The addition of dialogue and animated cut scenes could have been just another reason for DS owners to pick up this phenomenal iteration in the GTA series. The people who worked on the camera for China Town Wars should be given a medal. With the press of the L bumper the camera swings around and faces which ever direction you are facing. While this is standard for most games it is down right perfect on the handheld.
The newest game play aspect of China Town Wars is the option to destroy police cars in pursuit of you to get ride of your wanted stars. Depending on how many stars you have will determine how many cars you need to destroy. This is a game play mechanic that will surely be used in future GTA games due to it giving players the option to deal with police aggressively instead of evasion.
The most prominent new activity in GTA is the ability to sell and but drugs. Lee periodically gets emails from drug dealers offering a sale on their stock or expressing interest in a type of drug. If you buy or sell large quantity of drugs at one time, the police will raid the drug deal and you’ll have to evade them. Hours will be lost buying drugs for cheap and selling them for profit. There is a deep statistics tracking of what drugs you specialize in selling; your profit or loss of selling each drug. Depending on how much of one drug you buy or sell you will be rewarded with treasures like, golden bongs, silver needles or diamond encrusted pill boxes that will be on display in you house. It shows the depth in game play mechanics that is only a side activity that you could avoid altogether with the rare exception of key characters wanting drugs.
In GTA 4 there was the cell phone which kept you in contact with friends and associates. In China Town Wars, Lee is equipped with a PDA on which he receives directions, emails and can shop for weapons via the ammunition website. Instead of visiting numerous ammunition weapon stores around Liberty city you can browse and purchase and have them shipped to one of your safe houses. Much like in GTA games of the last generation you can buy safe houses on all three islands for a considerable sum of cash. You can finance these homes with a remarkable number of new and classic mini games such as earning fares by driving a taxi, saving lives by responding to 911 calls in an ambulance, driving a dragon noodle delivery van, street racing, raiding gang warehouses, and stealing certain gang vans to search for drugs. There is the option to replay any missions you have completed previously which adds even more replay ability.
While the amount of missions and replay ability are great the variety of story missions grows tedious. Most missions amount to you finding some one and killing them or stealing a vehicle and bring it back to your base while avoiding the authorities. There are only a handful of memorable missions, one in particular were you have to transport a dieing ally inside. Every few seconds his heart stops and you must tap the lower screen to restart it whilst driving and evading the police.
The stylus is put to good and creative use during the course of China Towns Wars. You periodically run into cars that require mini games to initiate either by using a screwdriver to start the ignition or using a computer to de-code a car’s security. If you drive your car into the ocean, you must tap the windshield to break the glass to escape. These minor game play mechanics really add the sense of detail you usually don’t associate with a DS title.
Graphically, this game is in a league of its own on the DS. The first time you see a car flip over and realize that the game has 3D effects, you understand the talent of the people at Rockstar. While there is no real model detail to speak of, the graphics are crisp and animated cut scenes are well drawn. There is some motion blur when turning corners at high speed yet otherwise there are no other frame rate or graphical slow downs.
If you have a friend who owns the game, the two of you can either compete or work together in three multiplayer modes. In stash dash, you and a friend try to beat each other to a van containing drugs and the first to hijack and deliver the van to your safe house wins. In defend the base you defend your base from waves of increasingly harder enemies. You can also include a friend in head to head street races with the option of winning the race by killing off the competition.
All in all, China Town Wars sets the bar for the quality and longevity of games on the DS. The game would be perfect if there was more variety of story missions but with the amount of other activities you’ll be able to forgive its shortcomings. If you’re looking for a quality DS game that will last you for weeks and quite possibly months, China Town Wars delivers on all fronts.