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Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars

01 May 2009

Shooting sprees, hot-wiring parked cars and screaming pedestrians are all part of the sadistic charm of Grand Theft Auto. And for a console that has been dominated by nauseating puppy rearing and tween movie offshoots, serious gamers who’ve never considered owning a Nintendo DS may now want to cross over. This kind of game play is worth it.   

After his father’s murder, Huang Lee has a mission: hand over a sacred family heirloom - an ancient sword - to his dodgy Uncle Kenny to ensure his family retains control of the Triad gangs of Liberty City. Huang’s trip goes haywire as soon as he steps off the plane. He’s seized by rival mobsters, shot in the head and biffed in the harbour to drown. After recovering, he embarks on a quest for revenge in the criminal underworld of the cesspit we know (and love) as Liberty City.

The trademark bird’s-eye view, cartoon visuals and dark comedy are all there. Only now you can do cool new stuff like whistling for a cab via the inbuilt microphone, hotwiring an old banger with a screwdriver and dealing drugs to turn a profit. It’s all high-risk stuff that is in no way morally sound, but that’s what makes it so much fun.

It’s the touchscreen that really makes Chinatown Wars stand out. In the mini games you get to tattoo the new gang recruits with a dragon stencil ,defuse a bomb and assemble a rifle amongst other things. The new use of comic stills instead of 3D cut scenes works very well; it’s kind of like reading a gritty comic one minute and then living the action the next. There’s an auto-correct function while driving and GPS map plotting to make navigation that little bit easier. However, there are security cameras installed all around the city and once the feds are hounding you, barging them into barriers is the only way to make a clean getaway. The only problem I encountered was that sometimes spotting cops when nicking cars can be tricky. Overall though, there’s not a hint of staleness in the GTA franchise. This is Grand Theft Auto at its finest.

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