This is going to sound a little crazy, especially if you’ve been keeping up with my hate-limned posts about that masochistic beast Grand Theft Auto IV, but I’m absolutely having a blast with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Yes, I’m actually enjoying a GTA game, and even more surprising is that it is one made specifically for an underpowered system like the Nintendo DS. Let’s all take a moment to let that sink in.
Dipping even further into the pool of insanity is the fact that GTA: Chinatown Wars shares a whole lot more with GTA IV than the first iterations in the series. Sure, it’s got a bird’s eye view/top-down camera to it, but that’s kind of it in terms of comparisons to Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2. Otherwise, you’re back in Liberty City, a world instantly recognizable if when it is presented in a completely different medium, and you take control of Huang Lee who arrives with an ancient sword to discover what happened to his father. Alas, he takes a bullet and gets dumped in the river by his assailants. The story is basically about a bunch of Triad gang members all trying to become Top Dog with Lee helping out where he can and digging his grave deeper. It’s pretty good so far, even if it still relies too much on dick jokes.
Drugs play a big part here, and I was instantly transported back to math class in high school when everyone had that drug-selling game on their fancy, hi-tech calculators. Well, everyone but me. But I borrowed a friend’s copy every now and then to help survive study hall. So, in GTA: Chinatown Wars, you acquire drugs, and then seek out the best deal for selling/buying more. This is the best way to make money as missions only pay out around $25 to $200; not enough to get by for too long in dangerous Liberty City. Cops might also randomly bust in on a hot deal you’re making, but you can safely store excess drugs in your apartment. I will admit to, at first, being a little put off by the drug dealing as I’ve never played anything so adult-like on the Nintendo DS, but now I’m right at home with the crooks and creeps in the alleys, buying low and selling high.
One of my favorite changes to gameplay involves the cops. In Grand Theft Auto IV, if the cops saw you hijacking a car or shooting a man on his cell phone in the face for just annoying you, they’d come after you. You had two options then: fight back or flee. Fighting back generally only made things worse as you would in turn just get a higher star rating and bring about more cops. So you’d flee, driving desperately down streets and flying through alleys in hopes of losing those men in blue. In GTA: Chinatown Wars, you’re better off fighting back. That’s the main way to lower your wanted star rating, and it’s devilishly awesome to swerve one way and force a cop car to crash itself into a wall, its siren dying out with a whimper. Makes the chases really exciting and nerve-enducing, especially when trying to complete a mission or make it home to your HQ.
There’s actually a lot more to talk about here, like how awesome the PDA is and how much better it is than a cell phone, but I’ll save it for another day.
Usually there’s one mission in every Grand Theft Auto game that gets me to quit. In Vice City, it was one that involved racing a boat. Gah. Hopefully one of those sorts doesn’t pop up here, but for some reason, even if it did, I suspect I’d eventually be able to overcome it and just keep on keeping on.
P.S. Bonus points awarded to anyone that can name the awesome human being that said those words in the pic above. Don’t Google it, ya bums!