Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is developed by Rockstar Leeds and is the first GTA game to appear on the Nintendo DS. The game has been built from the ground up specifically for the hand-held system. First announced at E3 2008, and was released in the US March 17th, 2009.
Due to hardware limitations, Chinatown Wars' presentation is quite distinct from the rest of the GTA series. Firstly the game utilizes an isometric view, something the developers had experimented with internally following the release of GTA2 but had never used previously in a released game. The graphics of the game are also a change from the usual GTA style, possessing an almost cel-shaded look, and being more reminiscent of the loading screens and artwork in previous GTA games rather than the in-game graphics themselves. This look, with its thick outlines and bold colours infusing it with a quasi comic book feel, was implemented in order to inject the game with character, something the developers felt would be lacking with a more traditional appearance.
Told in a graphic novel style using still images and text with the odd animated section scattered throughout, rather than the more customary in-engine 3D cutscene, the game tells the story of an all new cast of characters. In Chinatown Wars, players assume the role of Huang Lee, a Triad gang member. When his father is killed in Hong Kong, Huang is sent to America to join the Triads there. He arrives from Hong Kong, carrying an ancient ceremonial sword (the "Yu Jian") which belonged to his father. He intends to hand the sword over to his uncle, Wu Lee. However, upon arriving in Liberty City he is assaulted and, with the unidentified attackers having made off with the sword, left for dead. Huang Lee had a simple mission: deliver an ancient sword to his Uncle Kenny to ensure his family retains control of the Triad gangs of Liberty City. Huang is a spoiled rich kid who expects everything to run smoothly, but his trip does not go exactly as planned. After being robbed and left to die, Huang has been left with a vendetta. He vows to take revenge on his attackers, and all those who search to go against his family.
Completion of the Rockstar Social Club missions opens up Xin's missions where Huang helps Xin steal and dispose of a Rhino for him, after he gets ambushed by the cops. Huang attempts to take him to safety, although he succumbs to his injuries. Before his death, he makes the revelation that he is Ling's brother and Huang mourns for both of them.
Chinatown Wars takes place in Liberty City - the same imaging of Liberty City that recently appeared in GTA IV - though a necessarily smaller version of it. This is most easily noticeable by the omission of the Alderney area of the city, though the game does still include many features that made GTA IV's Liberty City feel so alive, including the passage of time from day to night, and back again, and changing weather. Navigation through the streets can be aided by the plotting of a waypoint on the map of your in-game PDA, which results in the appearance of the route to the place you are going plotted out on the mini-map, the same as on GTA IV.
Driving in the game is controlled via the D-pad and makes use of an automatic
driving assist system to help prevent budding criminals from totaling their stolen rides too frequently. The driving assist automatically "locks" the vehicle into driving on a straight line on the road when turning the vehicle preventing it from going of the road. The assist is not noticeable unless you look for it, but driving becomes much more of a challenge if you remove it. Players can turn the driving assist off in the options menu. The players Driving field of view can also be increased in the system settings to help cope with the DS's small screen.
Aiming of guns, such as pistols, is also controlled with the D-pad and uses a lock-on system that locks on to the closest enemy in the direction Huang is facing (the left shoulder button is used to switch between enemies if there are more than one), while the throwing of grenades and other explosives is activated with the touch screen. As well as these more standard weapons, Chinatown Wars also sees the return of some of the more outlandish weapons that were missing in GTA IV, with the inclusion of, among other things, a flamethrower, a taser, and even a minigun - items which should all help to facilitate rampages of destruction in one way or another.
Missions are as adrenaline filled as ever, with one mission seeing the player having to make his escape dressed as a dragon in a parade through Chinatown, having robbed a bank just moments earlier. In addition to the main story missions, the game contains many optional side missions, including old favorites like the Paramedic ones, should the player manage to successfully steal an ambulance.
However, as it is on a hand-held system, Rockstar have intentionally made the game's missions shorter than usual. This is in order to make the game easier to play in shorter sessions. An auto save function has also been put into the game to make it possible to get back into the action more quickly, should the player find themselves. Their will also be a feature that let's you replay missions in case you find a need to quit during a large shoot-out, for example. The game will have an epic storyline comprising of 60 missions, many side-missions, addictive mini games, and hidden collectibles in the form of 100 security cameras scattered throughout Liberty City.
Stylus based gameplay mechanics
Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars has numerous of short stylus based "microgames" that the player will have to do in order to execute certain actions. During these minigames the regular gameplay does not pause, stressing the player to do them as swiftly as possible.The different stylus based microgames are:
- Breaking back windshields of sinking cars
- Cutting upholstery in Enemy vans to reveal hidden drugs.
- Welding open Ammu-Nation supply vans
- Breaking locks
- Circuit bending electric locks
- Hot wiring cars
- Digitally cracking car alarms
- Blowing open police vans with liquid explosives
- Breaking car engines
- Fixing car bombs to cars
- Plant tracking device on car
- Disable car bombs
- Remove trash bags from dumpster
- Make Molotov cocktails
- Assemble a Sniper Rifle
- Give Triad tatoos to recruit gang members
Unlike other games, Chinatown uses the DS's stylus option more as a way to break up the fast paced action. Many games for the DS have you controlling the game solely with your stylus. Using it for 'minigames' etc. seems to work much better than relying on it for sole control.
Microphone based game mechanics
- Blow scratch card dust off game card, by blowing into the DS mic
- Blow fire off you
- Whistle into mic when taxi is near to hail it. Taxis will take you to any place on map you pin-point, for a fee.
Most of the Weapons in GTA: China Town Wars can be bought online via the players PDA on the Ammu Nation website. Initially it is only possible to buy a small amount of the weapons and equipment from the site but as the game progresses the player will be able to purchase more diverse and powerful weapons from the site. Some weapons will require the player to posses the "Fully Cocked" license that can also be bought on the site for 10.000 dollars. Other more unique weapons can be found hidden in the back allies of Liberty city or can be given to the player during certain missions.
Also, sometimes when you wait long enough, some weapons can go on sale for an amount of time, making it a great advantage when buying for cheap.
Huang can only carry one of each category of weapons but it is possible to switch between weapons by holding the left shoulder button on the DS while walking over it however this is is only useful for the projectile, heavy and special melee weapons since the weapons of the other categories are upgraded versions and use the same ammo.
- Pistol: Costing only 100 Dollars at Ammu Nation the pistol is your basic medium range weapon, it requires about 4 shots to kill someone with it.
- Twin Pistols: Costing 450 Dollars at Ammu Nation the twin Pistols Just like the Pistol but with double the fire rate.
- Revolver: Costing 1200 Dollars the Revolver is a mush stronger variant of the pistol but with a slower fire rate as the twin pistols.
- Micro SMG: Costing 350 Dollars at Ammu Nation the Micro SMG is a small submachine rifle that shoot bullets ar a rapid fire rate with a medium range it can also be used to shoot out of cars, from motorcycles or from boats.
- SMG: Costing 1.500 Dollars at Ammu Nation the regular SMG is stronger version of the micro SMG that can also be used in to shoot from vehicles.
- Shotgun: 600 Dollars at Ammu Nation the shotgun is you standard heavy short range weapon.
- Stubby Shotgun: 800 Dollars at Ammu Nation.
- Double barreled shotgun: 1.000 Dollars at Ammu Nation.
- Assault Rifles: $2500 dollars at Ammu Nation
- Carbine Rifle: $3500 dollars at Ammu Nation
- Sniper Rifle: The sniper rifle is a mission specific weapon that the player can only use a few times throughout the game. IN order to use the Sniper Rifle the player will for have to assemble it in a minigame using the touchscreen. Once assembled the player will be looking through the scope of the gun and will have to use the D-pad to move where the gun is aiming, the left shoulder button allows the player to zoom in and the "A" button too shoot.
- Flame Thrower: Costing 6.000 dollar at Ammu Nation the flame thrower sets ablaze every enemies in sight. Beware though that burning enemies will run around and might set the player on fire.
- RPG: Cost 8.000 Dollar at Ammu Nation.
- Minigun: Costing 10.000 Dollar at Ammu Nation the Minigun is the the most effective gun in the game to mow down incoming waves of enemies. The minigun does require a second or two to get its fire rate to the maximum, also when having the minigun equipped Houang can not run.
- Flashbangs: $150 dollars for 8 at Ammu Nation.
- Molotovs: Sold for 300 Dollars (buy 8) at Ammu Nation the Molotov is a useful crowd control explosive that does moderate damage to vehicles and most of the times set them on fire. Molotovs can also be made manually by playing a minigame at the gas station in which you fill empty bottles with petrol by aiming the variable stream of petrol coming out of the hose at the bottle, the player can chose between 3 amounts of gaz which he wants to pay for to create Molotovs.
- grenades: $350 dollars for 8 at Ammu Nation.
- Proximity Mines: $500 dollars at Ammu Nation.
Special Melee weapons
- Teaser: Sold for 300 Dollars at Ammu Nation.
- Baseball bat:
- Chainsaw: Found spread out in the industrial zones of Liberty city the chainsaw will let the player cut enemies in half in a single blow, it does however require a certain time before the enemy is actually cut in half making its reflectivity debatable when surrounded by many opponents.
- Sword: Obtained in one of the missions mid game in China Town Wars the sword is the ultimate melee weapon cutting down enemies (and pedestrians) in a single swift movement. Can also be found in some dumpsters.
There has not been too much revealed about multiplayer, but a flyer at the New York Comic Con revealed that GTA: Chinatown Wars will feature "head to head" as well as cooperative "multiplayer mayhem" over Wi-Fi. There will be leaderboards as well as stats tracking of your criminal career. The game will have multiplayer over local play but Wi-Fi will only be used to chat with friends, share favorite locations, and trade in-game weapons.
Whilst the DS's lack of horsepower means the graphics have had to be scaled back from the detailed level of realism found in other iterations of the franchise, the system's unique features, such as the touch screen, open up the possibilities for activities not seen before in a GTA game. Here are just a few examples of some of the implementations of touch screen in the various minigames to be found in Chinatown Wars:
Liberty City Ink
Having recruited potential gang members earlier in a mission, it then falls to you to brand these initiates with intricate ink decorations to establish them as legitimate members of the Triad organization. This is done by tracing over outlined tattoo patterns on the lower screen with the stylus. Just make sure you don't screw up - gangsters with tattoos of knives and guns that are smudged and misshapen so much they look like flowers and horseshoes don't tend to inspire much fear in their rivals.
Grand Theft Auto
After breaking into a car you'll need to get it started before you can make your getaway; a screwdriver in the ignition should do the trick. Just follow the on screen directions to rotate it correctly, then put the pedal to the metal and get out of there. Some cars, however, will be harder to steal, so they'll need hot-wiring - a process players will find is a little more complicated.
You may think that dumpsters only contain old newspapers, rotting food, and the occasional hypodermic needle, but in Liberty City they can also be a great place to expand your arsenal. Simply drag the trash bags out of the way and a not-so-well hidden sub-machine gun could be yours.
Fed up of running people over? Bored of making your enemies eat lead? Looking for something slightly more "explosive"? Then head down to the nearest filling station and mix yourself up some tasty Molotov Cocktails. All you need to do is carefully aim the pump's nozzle so that it fills a bottle with petrol and then shove a rag in the top. Light, throw, run, and enjoy the resulting carnage.
Supply and Demand
Though less gritty than previous installments visually, Chinatown Wars pulls no punches with its content and most definitely deserves its M rating, packed as it is with theft, violence, and an assortment of other acts of varying degrees of legality. Perhaps the most immediately obvious example of this is to be found in the game's drug dealing minigame, which is considerably more involved than the other minigames.
Over the course of the main game, players can make themselves some extra cash through the buying and selling of various illegal substances. By purchasing a specific narcotic in an area of the city where the going rate is cheap and then peddling the merchandise somewhere people are willing to pay a higher price, a calculating player can turn a tidy profit.
There are exactly 80 different dealers spread across Liberty City however the player will first have to find them before business can made. Dealers show up as a blue dots on the radar and it is only once the player talks to them that they will be added to the address book in the PDA, dealers already in the address book are displayed by a blue briefcase on the minimap.
There are six drugs available to trade:
- Weed - avg. market value of 15 per unit
- Downers - avg. market value of 20 per unit
- Ecstasy - avg. market value of 175 per unit
- Acid - avg. market value of 190 per unit
- Heroin -avg. market value of 650 per unit
- Coke - avg. market value of 725 per unit
Sometimes it might happen that dealers want to get as much or get rid of as much possible drugs of a certain times, when this happens the player is given to either sell the drugs for an extremely high profit margin or buy it at a very attractive price. Hoang will receive an e-mail from the dealer if he is looking to stock up or get rid of a certain drug. Only dealers that are in Hoang's address book will send him e-mail about such opportunities.
After trading a certain amount of each drug the player will be awarded with a trophies that will be visible in every one of the safe houses, one for each type of drug, one for making $2000 in a single deal, and one for obtaining every safehouse in the game (21 in total), to make a total of 8 trophies).
It might happen that after a trade the police catches wind of your actions and will send a level 2 star police squad at you.
- There are 2 hours of cut scenes, most of them in-game.
- The game contains more lines of code than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- The Satellite navigation system is almost identical to GTA: IVs in appearance and functionality.
- You can replay any mission by selecting it from a menu in the safe house.
- When ever you reopen the DS when the game is running a citizen of Liberty City will "welcome" you back with a random audio quote.
- People with the iPhone version of the game can have the music on their device play on the in-game car radios (on a station called Independent FM) by creating a playlist called GTA.