Game Review: Grand Theft Auto – Chinatown Wars (DS)

gtactwI’ve always felt the GTA series was wildly overrated. The gameplay gets repetitive and the driving model is ridiculously spongy. I once described driving in GTA IV as ‘driving a sponge car with loose springs on a rubber road’. Not that the games are bad, but I just never felt they were as great as the general consensus.

Maybe it’s just a bad break that I get to review DS titles for Bag Of Mad Bastards, but it fell to me to let you know what’s up with Chinatown Wars.

With that bit of background, you may be surprised at my reaction to this game.

Full review inside.

It’s more than a little surreal to see an M-Rated game on a Nintendo platform. Maybe that’s the initial charm of Chinatown Wars.

All the things you’ve gotten used to in a Grand Theft Auto game are here: sex, violence, drugs, language. All of it in an open world ‘sandbox’ environment. You can insert any number of marketing buzzwords, but in the end, it’s the same GTA game you’ve played before, but with some important differences.

First up, it’s not a true 3D environment, but more of an isometric 2.5D view. Think Diablo with heroin and hotwired cars.

This works VERY well for most things, although driving at high speed introduces some problems. Most¬†egregious? You view distance is extremely limited. This means it’s easy to run into other cars, blow through toll booths (which mean an instant +1 to your wanted rating) and a lot of missed turns.

Fortunately, the driving model has been simplified for handheld controls, and it’s the best driving GTA game since GTA II. You can get away from the cops… but you’re going to need to destroy police cars to get away from them. I like this addition. Good for Rockstar.

The obligatory touch screen mini-games actually add to the game (for the first few hours), and are a nice addition, but you WILL get tired of running your stylus in a circle to hotwire a car or coming up with a key combination to disable an alarm.

From a story standpoint, I found the game more engaging than GTAIV, and in fact I was MORE entertained by this title.

In a nutshell, there are some weird little things that you’ll find annoying (especially limited sight distance), but… get ready for it… this is my favorite game in the series.

Rather than overwhelm you with a ridiculous amount of choices and a driving model that’s nearly unusable, Chinatown Wars scales the world back without giving you the RIGHT balance of options… and you can drive the car without wrecking.

In a game named ‘Grand Theft AUTO’ I find that an important thing.



Buy Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

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