Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - DS/DSi

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Also for: PSP
Viewed: 3D Isometric, Scrolling Genre:
Adventure: Free Roaming
Media: Cartridge Arcade origin:No
Developer: Rockstar Leeds Soft. Co.: Rockstar
Publishers: Rockstar (GB)
Released: 20 Mar 2009 (GB)
Ratings: PEGI 18+, BBFC 18
Accessories: Wireless DS multi-card play


A Rockstar game on the DS? A Grand Theft Auto game, of all things? Surely the DS is for kids, old people and girls? That might be the general consensus, but Rockstar's gone all-out to change it, clearly pumping a lot of time, money and effort into this latest instalment in the GTA franchise. Chinatown Wars is not a port of any previous GTA game (indeed, how could it be?) and the game has been lovingly created, as they say, 'from the ground up'.

The game has taken a surprisingly large chunk of Liberty City (all of it bar one island) and plonked it onto your DS. While having the feel of the cartoony, top-down, 2D GTA games of old, the city is kinda-sorta 3D - 2.5D.

Naturally, for a GTA game, action and violence abounds. Still, it's comic, over-the-top violence that engenders laughter and fun, as opposed to the slightly too questionably real violence of Rockstar's Manhunt series, for example.

The storyline, characters and dialogue are all written with customary Dan Houser flair. You play as lead character Huang Lee, whose Chinese Triad dad has just been offed. So, the overarching storyline is the old Hollywood staple of feckless son determined to avenge the wrongful death of his father. In the process he finds himself - or not.

Huang Lee's PDA, displayed on the bottom touchscreen, is vital to the entire experience, performing a similar function to the phone in GTA IV. It gives you access to maps of Liberty City, emails, weapons and an online version of the Ammu-nation store, via which you keep your ammo and weapons stash at your safe-house topped up.

While the Rockstar-composed funk, soul and jazz soundtrack combines with the perfectly created missions and cool little mini-games (car-jacking, safe-cracking, Molotov-cocktail making) to create an almost perfect just-one-more-go game, while the need to deal dope, acid, coke, heroin and so on to make money fills in the cracks, being a necessity to your progress.

The quick-to-grasp controls are a joy, the driving is quick and smooth, the combat is hectic, there is a real feel of a living city around you (with non-player-characters chattering away to one another and moaning that you've been so rude in running them over).

Basically, it's GTA shrunk down with incredible DS savvy to fit on your handheld.


Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - DS/DSi Artwork

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - DS/DSi Artwork