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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Nintendo DS)

93
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.5
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Big John WV (25272)
Written on  :  Mar 28, 2009
Platform  :  Nintendo DS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Summary

One of the best DS' games to date!

The Good

OK, I will admit that when I first heard of Chinatown Wars was coming out my first thought was "Oh lord, now they are just milking it to death", but when I found out it was a DS game, I both laughed and sobbed at the same time. I laughed because the way Nintendo is, they would seriously censor this game to the point where it wouldn't be recognizable as a GTA game, that is when I sobbed a bit, afraid that the GTA franchise would be tainted. Now granted, they have had some controversial games in the past and they did recreate the original GTA on the GBA a while back, but still, I had my doubts that it wouldn't feel like a GTA game. So when the game finally came out, I bit the bullet and took a chance and man, am I glad I did.

To start off, the graphics in this game are gorgeous and detailed, the cell shading really adds the glamour to it and the little things blew me away such as small piles of garbage lying around to the cockroaches crawling out of the dumpsters when you search them. The storyline graphics are done in a nice comic-style presentation with some movement from time to time and they are very thorough, even though there are no voice overs for the story, the graphics really outshine it and makes you not care, though I am curious to find out how they would speak.

I also like how they incorporated the stylus pen for a multitude of tasks such as the searching of dumpsters for weapons among other things like using it to scratch off lottery tickets, hotwiring cars, smashing locks and even smashing the windshield of a car if you happen to drive into the ocean. There is even one mission where you are on a small boat and have to use the pen to pull start it with a cord like an old lawnmower engine or even lower a car from a tow truck and picking up cargo from the bay using a fishing trawler. I even like the fact that you can blow into the microphone to hail a taxi in case you don't feel like driving, now that is a nice little feature.

Some of the small things also blew me away such as toll booths you actually can stop at and throw money into, though you really aren't required unless you want to deal with the cops, but still that made me crack up laughing. There was even a point where I was goofing around and trying to find a ramp at the airport when suddenly the screen turned white. I was afraid I first thinking that I had come across a bad glitch, but low and behold it was a jumbo jet liner coming in to land and almost landed on top of me. I laughed so hard, I had to stop the game.

The GPS is very helpful since you can program to show you which direction to go by putting arrows on the street ahead of you instead of constantly having to look at the radar then back at the main screen, a real time saver and easy on the eyes as well. Eluding cops is also a nice change where you can easily crash them if you are that good and knock down your wanted level, now granted though the more stars, the harder it will be, just try crashing a tank. I also like how the Pay 'n Spray shops act more realistic than other games where this time you can't have any cops in the vicinity for them to even take you where as previous GTA's you can jump in there with six star levels and three tanks watch you go in and as soon as you come out, they go about their business like nothing ever happened. If you also want to have some fun, get a fast car and do a wicked burnout and release the brake and fry anybody behind you with some Back to the Future fire tire tracks, very handy if you have a group of cops or thugs coming to wrench you out of the car.

The missions do come in a variety, some of which are very unique such as throwing Molotovs from a moving helicopter, fishing for lost drug cargo with a fishing trawler using a sonar, steal a car and searching it for evidence afterwards burning it or attaching tracing bugs or bombs to cars manually. There is even another mission where you try to escape through a Chinese New Year's parade by dressing as a dragon and using the stylus pen to move your men around and blowing into the mic to breathe fire to try and fool the cops. Needless to say, there are some very fun missions to play in and thankfully they can be played anytime thanks to the replay feature at the safehouse, something I tip my hat off to Rockstar for including that feature into this game.

The drug trading aspect of the game can be very addictive and distracting at times since this is the real means of monetary gain in the game. It actually reminds me of an old game from a while back called Dope Wars where you would buy low and sell high while avoiding cops and bad deals, so this was a familiar feature to me and is very, very addictive. Many of times I been determined to start a mission, but before long I would get an e-mail informing me of a cheap sell or someone buying at a high price and off I go.

Hijacking drug vans can also be distracting since they are easy scores and really all you have to do is jack the van and run. The Ammu-n-ation trucks are also a nice touch, but are really hard to hijack since the doors are lock and you basically almost have to cripple the truck to the point before it catches fire, kill the driver before he can get two rounds of a shotgun off on you and limp it back to a safehouse and avoid any cops you have attracted. You can actually do better just buying weapons from your PDA which are numerous like assault rifles, hand guns, SMG's, shotguns, RPG's, tasers among many many more, but if you're in for a challenge, it is fun. There are also a warehouse raid where you can fight through a group of guards, steal a van and search it for drugs (if there is any), but seeing how this is essentially like hijacking a drug van, just with extra attention, I would say stick with just jacking them off the street.

The one-liners on the street really crack me up, ranging from the angry F-you, or A-hole, but the funniest I've heard is "Stop, I'm just a virgin", but the funniest part of it is that the voice sounds like Pinocchio from the Shrek movies. Also you can put your DS on sleep mode and when you open it back up you are greeted with a response, the best is a voice that sounds like Wanda Sykes asking, "You want a piece of my pie". I laughed so hard, I nearly cried just from that.

The story is also of GTA caliber, but it does have it's faults which I will get to in a bit, but when I mention GTA caliber, I mean the characters in the game, which are memorable and which mostly is Chinese, but they way they act, you can tell they are more American than anything else. You even Italians, Koreans, Biker gangs, each with their own unique characters some of which I won't say since I don't want to ruin the surprise, but some will make you crack up laughing.

There is also adult humour and language in this game, which is not in short supply with the F word prominent, two C-words that refer to both the male and female anatomy, MF'er, the S word (yeah, I know I sound like a five-year-old, but I don't want anyone to be offended). Plus there are times where you can search dumpsters and occasionally find a dildo, which doesn't really resemble one, but I can understand if they didn't want to go into detail, plus you can't use it as a weapon in the game and even a used condom....yes, nothing says GTA like searching through roach infested dumpsters to find a used condom.

Plus, there are some that could be considered, ethnically insensitive such as referring Italians to grease balls, the N-word (granted though the word is not the white word, but the black word with an "a" at the end, but I digress) and even a reference to what American's referred to Korean's during the Vietnam War. Now I wasn't really offended (which really doesn't really count since I'm a white guy) but I do understand if others do get offended, however, it shows that Rockstar pulled no punches in this game and there are times I shook my head and wonder if it really just said and did that, especially with the gore factor and even a scene where you can see a freshly ripped out heart.

I applaud Nintendo for not wussing out and allow this content to be included since it really adds to the game and makes it a true Grand Theft Auto game.

The Bad

Some things did bother me about this game, some are technical while others are suggestions. One thing I would have liked to see is the export car business from GTA 1 where you can steal cars and sell them off to make money or the home invasion's from San Andreas, it would have been neat to see how they would incorporate that into a stylus mini-game, hopefully they will be in any future games.

There is also a part of the game where you have to kill certain targets and then search their wallet for some ID, along the way collecting some money. I would have loved to see this applied in the game, perhaps as a pickpocketing mini-game, yet again maybe something else they will address in a future game. I do wish that searching drug vans were just a little bit more convenient since you have to find a secluded safehouse which at times could be half a map away, it would have been nice to find a secluded spot just anywhere and search it that way.

The rest are technical issues, mainly concerning the lock-on feature which is very, very erratic. Sometimes it doesn't even work right since you have a group of thugs heading your way and instead of the lock on focusing on them, it sometimes can target any nearby pedestrians or even cars and it doesn't help that the camera can be very erratic at times, luckily it can be fixed by centering the camera, but it's still a bothersome issue.

The game is also very short concerning the storyline, not withstanding the side missions and the diversions with the drug trade you can easily blow by the story in a matter of time and the story, well, even though it is good and all the characters in the game are tied to each other and pieces it together very well, it's kinda predictable. In fact, I actually figured it out at the beginning, but did have my doubts about midway through, however at the ending I was right and a little disappointed.

Luckily, the last mission is insane, yet fun involving cops, the FBI, about a thousand goons, a boat chase, a car chase and ultimately the final battle.....which is the most anti-climatic I have every played, in fact it was over in less than five seconds. Even though the ending is a little disappointing, it doesn't detract from the overall experience of the game.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Chinatown Wars is one of best games I have played for a long time, in fact I haven't been so hooked and stoked playing a game since San Andreas. With all the little nooks and crannies still to be explored in Liberty City, the crazy dialogue, insane characters, fun mini-games, addictive drug trading feature along with the beautiful graphics really counteracts the small disappointments in the game.

If you have a DS and haven't played this game yet, you don't know what you are missing. This game truly deserves to be called DS Game of the Year if not overall Game of the Year.