Monday, March 23, 2009

GTA: Chinatown Wars

The Grand Theft Auto series makes a return in the Nintendo DS game, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Developed by Rockstar Leeds, Chinatown Wars attempts to bring the notoriously controversial Grand Theft Auto series onto what many consider the kid-friendly DS. Has Rockstar Leeds kept the Grand Theft Auto gameplay intact?

GamePlay

In Chinatown Wars Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Warsyou assume the role of Huang Lee, a wealthy young member of the Chinese Triad crime syndicate in Hong Kong. Your original goal for coming to Liberty City was to deliver a family sword to your Uncle Wu. However, you are kidnapped and the sword is taken as soon as you arrive. The recovery of this sword is just a side-thought as Huang attempts to solve the mysterious murder of his father and take revenge on his killers.

The first question that was raised, since this was developed for the DS, was whether or not Rockstar Leeds had to filter out some of the content that is traditionally included within the series. This, however, is definitely not the case. Rockstar Leeds has managed to include every bit of profanity, violence and crude humor that has been prevalent in the series. Despite the level of vulgarity, it fits in with the overall idea that you are being absorbed into the world of organized crime.

This vulgarity is extended to the variety of weapons that players are given the opportunity to use. Everything from chainsaws to flamethrowers are available for players and each has its own delightful and chaotic use in the many in-game missions. These weapons help to provide a dynamic to the wide variety of missions that players must complete.

The in-game missions for Chinatown Wars range from having to defend an ally as he makes his way through the city to throwing Molotov cocktails from a helicopter. Many of these missions require the use of the touch screen and control the power and direction of your cocktail or have you complete a series of codes to arm an explosive that will be used to take out an enemies building.

The touch screen is also used in a variety of other tasks throughout the game. As you progress, you will find yourself stealing drug vehicles and then trading with a local dealer. The drug vehicles that are scattered throughout the map can be stolen and taken to a local safe house where you must cut open the dashboard with the stylus. Once the drugs are retrieved, you can then head to one of the many drug dealers through the map. Once there, you will open your bag with the touch screen and drag whatever drugs you are trying to sell over to the dealer’s bag. Of course, you can always just buy drugs on the cheap and sell them for profit once the price rises.

Despite the innovative use of the touch screen and the diversity of weapons, Chinatown Wars is not without its problems. The most prevalent of which is the in-game camera. As you wander around the city, you will find buildings constantly blocking your view. These moments aren’t limited to just your movement around the city, but also apply to missions which can be won or lost when your view is blocked. There were also moments when the game would get stuck on a mission. In one particular instance, you are supposed to destroy a helicopter; however this helicopter would not appear or would fly out of sight. This led to several frustrating reloads of the last saved game.

Graphics

Chinatown Wars has some of the best graphics on a handheld that I have seen thus far. Liberty City was drawn in painstaking detail with just about everything else seemingly getting the same amount of attention. If there were one benchmark for how action DS games should look, Chinatown Wars certainly sets a new one.

Sound

Rockstar held nothing back when it came to the in-game audio. Chinatown Wars sounds exactly the vibrant city that it is. People scream as you steal their car or proclaim that they are still virgins when you shoot at them. With the addition of some great music, players are given an audio treat.

PlasmaFactor

One of the most interesting aspects of Chinatown Wars is the city economy. As mentioned earlier, players can buy and sell drugs to various dealers and make huge profits as a result. The idea behind this is very reminiscent of Dope Wars and helps further push you into the dark underworld of organized crime.

Conclusion

Rockstar Leeds has managed to bring the look, feel and expansiveness of the Grand Theft Auto Series. There is no shortage of missions or things to do throughout Liberty City. The addition of the touch screen controls into the game further give the feeling that you are truly high jacking a car. Although this may sound terrible to some, it is necessary for a series that has been built on the dark, gritty world of crime. If you are looking for an escape to the dark side of life, Chinatown Wars is your avenue of release.

Thanks to Ryan Lodata

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