Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars – hands-on

If you have some empty bottles and a bit of spare cash, you can pop to a gas station and pour your own Molotovs, directing the fuel nozzle with the stylus. Other weapons are found on dead bodies, inside the red dumpsters the Triads use to hide their stuff, or you can have them delivered to your hideout by ordering them from Ammunation via the PDA. Ammunation truckscan also be seen on the streets and hijacked for free ammo.

There are several gangs in Liberty City, with their territory clearly marked on the map. In the parts of the game we played, gangs are used to buy and sell drugs, which appears to be one of the main ways to earn money. A handy PDA function tells you what types of narcotic are in high demand or are going cheap in each area, and you buy low and sell high, dropping off any excess at a lock-box in your house, in case you get busted by the police.

Conditions can be made more favourable for drug dealing by shooting out the hundred CCTV cameras that watch over Liberty City. They’re the equivalent of the hidden packages from other GTA games, and you’ll see them mounted in hard-to-reach areas during your travels. As well as the story missions, which feature cartoon cutscenes with text captions, there are many side-quests and other diversions. Stealing a taxi, ambulance, police car or fire truck will activate a set of special missions – which weren’t included in GTA IV – and random characters will show up at various places during the game’s quick day-night cycle to offer odd jobs.

We didn’t see any races, but the quality of the cars’ handling and the way you can do a tire-flaming wheelspin from a standing start (it actually sets pedestrians alight) suggests they’ll be in here somewhere. Chinatown Wars is an epic piece of work on DS, with sky-high production values and some of the most impressive graphics on the system. If the variety of missions and the quality of the script can match the obvious technical achievements, it’s probably going to be an essential purchase for mature DS gamers.

Nov 7, 2008