The Grand Theft Auto series has made its debut on the Nintendo DS with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. The new game is situated in the series’ fictional hub populated with the most GTA tales to date — Liberty City. But to keep things fresh, the storyline steers clear of the previous iterations and hosts a new cast.
A whole new tale
In Chinatown Wars, you step into the expensive shoes of Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a recently-murdered Triad Boss. He’s been given a straightforward task — to deliver his family heirloom, a sword named ‘Yu Jian’, to his gangster uncle Wu ‘Kenny’ Lee. Of course, things are never that simple. As soon as he reaches the airport, Huang’s crew is hit by a group of thugs who kill his escorts and leave him for dead. What follows is a series of missions to trace his father’s killers, help Kenny recover the sword and help him run all his shady operations.
A beautiful world
The playground offered is a lot like the first two GTA games (because of the top-down view), but with the detail and scale of GTA 3 and 4. You have access to two of Liberty City’s four islands. With bright red dumpsters along a gloomy building or the orange and yellow canopies of a hotdog stand, the game offers a visual treat. The wealth of detail are fascinating — when it rains, pedestrians open their little umbrellas, and if you run over a dustbin, waste paper flutters in your wake.
The control’s designs are ingenious — they’ve used the touchscreen as a fully functionally PDA with everything from GPS to e-mail access. When you try to steal a ride, the touchscreen’s used to hot-wire the car, and depending on the how old the car is, you get simple locks (that you can use a screw-driver to start-up), slightly more complicated locks that you need to hotwire manually, and electronic number locks, where you must time your clicks to get a certain numeric code. If you don’t hotwire the car in time, the car’s alarm kicks in, alerting nearby police patrol vehicles and throwing them in pursuit of you.
The touchscreen’s used to do everything from playing a scratch-card minigame which allows you to win cash, to letting you assemble a sniper rifle before an assassination mission — clearly well though-of core-feature of Chinatown Wars’ gameplay.
You control the movement of Huang and you drive around using the D-pad and face buttons. The cars controls are really responsive, and you can re-align your ride after making steep turns, dodge traffic and ram into cop cars with ease. You also have to earn your freedom in Chinatown Wars. The game’s littered with cop cars, so sneaking past them is not an option. If you wish to lose the heat, you’ve got to ram into and disable cop cars.
But remember the cops are extremely persistent and fast and can have you spinning wildly once they sink their talons in your car. Getting busted during a long, multi-objective mission can be extremely frustrating, as the game’s checkpoint system fails miserably at such times.
To sum up, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is one of those rare games that excels in both design and implementation, while giving you access to a plethora of content. It’s without a doubt, a must-buy for DS owners. It costs Rs 1,699 and is available locally.