GTA: Chinatown Wars Review

Posted: August 8, 2009 in Review
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GTA: Chinatown Wars Review

Rockstar’s last attempt at the world of handheld car stealin’, drug dealin’, civilian killin’ fun was the technically-brilliant-if-far-too-short PSP (and later PS2) Vice City Stories. Continuing the theme of big console releases making playtime for their smaller counterparts comes GTA: Chinatown Wars.

While not initially as impressive as the PSP releases, it is definitely in a league all on its own in terms of Rockstar’s mastery of the DS hardware. The Liberty City familiar from the massively overhyped GTA IV serves as the main hub for all your criminal doings, while the perspective has changed the classic bird’s-eye-view as seen in the early GTA games. The scope of the city is incredible – individual locations memorable from the last tour are all present and correct (save for the ‘haunted swingset’) and the entire premise has been completely redesigned around the DS’ touchscreen capabilities.

Cars can be hotwired in any of three different ways – unscrew the dashboard and connect the wires, stick a screwdriver in the keyhole and turn it on or even by connecting a computer to the security system and stopping the numbers as they flash by to hack the alarms. Explosive weapons can be thrown by tapping the icon and flinging it away with the stylus. Tattoos can be drawn on, cards can be scratched, Molotovs filled at gas stations, the list goes on. Just about the only thing you can’t do is chop up crack with a credit card and inject it directly into your character’s eyeball.

You play as Huang, a Chinese immigrant on the way to deliver a sacred family heirloom (a sword won in a card game) to Uncle Lee, who has taken over the Triad family in the wake of Huang’s father’s recent assassination. Unfortunately for Huang, he is robbed, shot and left for dead in the worst place in America… Liberty City.

From there the game delights in giving you an outlandish number of absurd missions and, while most of them involve driving, none of them are ever dull or repetitive. This is a massive contrast to IV, where seemingly every mission required ten minutes of driving to the opposite end of the map for one gunfight, followed by another lengthy drive home. This time, it’s all about the game and the fun. One moment you’re gunning down a drug lord on his boat, the next you’re dropping bombs on groups of suspected informers from a helicopter. The only real flaw to the game is that the gun’s aiming scheme chooses to aim at the closest person to you, even if that means you’re firing into a wall while a goon blows off the back of your head from a few feet away.

The world is so vast and stuffed with so many things to do that you’ll be playing long after the credits roll. In fact, the moment the game does come to its close is a real downer – the story is so good and the characters so brilliantly scripted it feels a massive shame to let it end. But end it must, and if there’s any justice in the real world, the DS will get many more truly excellent GTA games.

95%

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