One step back, a giant leap forward.
Heading into GTA: Chinatown Wars on the Nintendo DS, i was initially quite sceptical as to how the game was going to play. I loved the old top down GTAs back in the day, but i simply thought that with the introduction of the 3D versions of the game, a throwback to the top down perspective was going to equal nothing more than a step back for the series. Thankfully, i was wrong.
The game begins with your character, Huang Lee, arriving in Liberty City from Hong Kong shortly after his Triad boss, father's death. Huang is coming to the city in order to deliver a sword, a supposed family heirloom, to his uncle Kenny. Shortly after landing, Huang is attacked and the sword stolen.
Rockstar realised that the top down perspective and the hand-held systems themselves have some weaknesses and the game plays in a way that negates these nicely. For example, the game relies on voice acting as little as possible by having all cut-scenes be text based and fairly short, almost like mini comic strips. The only voice acting you will hear is by people on the street. When compared to other GTA games of late, Chinatown wars takes itself far less seriously. Many of the characters act as comic relief and the cut scenes themselves can become down right bizarre at times.
The gameplay itself is a good mix of the ds' face buttons as well as the touch screen. The face buttons are used to control your character as they traverse the world whilst the touchscreen holds the GPS and PDA functions and is also used for minigames. It is clear when playing the game that many of Rockstar's ideas from GTA 3 onwards have been implemented again here. For example, failing to pay the $5 toll on a bridge will result in your wanted level increasing.
All in all, GTA: Chinatown Wars is a game that carries on the grand traditions of Grand Theft Auto. It is by no means a lesser game than any of its predecessors and any owner of a ds really owes it to themselves to pick it up.