Same Big City, Bite-Size Gameplay in GTA: Chinatown Wars

gtacwboxart Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars came out for the Nintendo DS this week, and I was blown away.  Let me start by saying that the game is set in the Liberty City of GTA IV.  While it's not COMPLETELY street for street, it IS an amazingly accurate portable version of the city.  I was laughing as the opening scenes showed the main character being driven around town, and I could figure out where they were!

Then, as the city opened up for me to explore, I grabbed a car and started exploring, only instead of finding new places, I was just visiting familiar places within the city I knew.  Packie's place, the diner by Roman's taxi shop and the Cluckin' Bell in Schottler were a few of the places I was getting some tiny deja vu. The only island not included in CW is Alderney, the GTA version of New Jersey.

The next thing that really impressed me was the PDA.  Like the cell phone in GTA IV, but with more features, the PDA becomes the bottom screen of your DS.  It has a contact list, a GPS, email, settings and a music player, among possible other things I haven't yet discovered.  Once in your apartment, you can use your "Fruit" computer to access multiplayer, which I haven't yet tackled, as well as sync your stats to Rockstar's Social Club website.

The graphics are definitely reminiscent of GTA 2, with a top-down look, but also cell-shaded with hard black line outlines around edges.  The missions have been somewhat varied, and fun with a bit of challenge.

Controlling your character seems to have a bit of a learning curve but I'm getting comfortable with it now.  There are some interesting mini-games that take use of the touchscreen beyond the PDA, like when you hotwire a car, or assemble a sniper rifle packed in a suitcase.

If you can consider this a weak point, probably what I liked least was the music.  Though it's not bad, and there are several stations, I can't find any with vocal tracks, and they all just kind of sound 'meh'. Maybe I haven't heard everything yet, though.

All in all, for $35, this is the kind of game that really justifies the DS purchase.  It's not a game with a non-existent or (sometimes worse) gimmicky touch component every 10 minutes.  Both screens are EXCEPTIONALLY useful and contextual in the setting of this game.  It's on par with Animal Crossing and Mario Kart DS for making you feel like the DS can be and sometimes is more than just a kiddie system.  The fact that it's in a handful of DS titles with an M rating also shows that.

Has anyone tried the multiplayer?