Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Cover
Platform Nintendo DS
Genre Sweet and Sour Action-Adventure
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 9.5
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 8.5
Story: 7
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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is Rockstar's first game for the Nintendo DS and it joins the ranks as one of the few Mature rated titles for the handheld. Developed by Rockstar Leeds, the creators of the PSP GTA games, Chinatown Wars was one of Nintendo's biggest announcements at last year's E3. After the massive scope of the console GTA games, many wondered if the DS could accurately duplicate the experience. If Rockstar can pull it off, prepare to hear pleas for a GTA Wii for many months to come.

This first hour guest review was written by my good friend Grant. I never knew he was a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series so this was quite a surprise when he submitted the review to me. If you're interested in writing for the First Hour in this style or your own, send me an email. Let's get to the first hour of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - My character, Huang Lee, is on a private jet heading towards Liberty City. My dad has recently been murdered, and I have to deliver a ceremonial sword to my uncle.

02 - I land at the airport. Some people are here to pick me up, but we are ambushed and I'm shot in the head. Well that was a short game.

03 - The opening credits start to roll. The top screen has a rotating shot of a car while the bottom screen has the cutscene. The ambushers have me in the back of their car. They wonder if I'm dead, but one of them insists that the gunshot wound in my head is evidence enough. It actually just grazed me, but it's hard to tell with all the blood. I wonder if this is the first DS game with the f-word in it. They decide to dump my body, so maybe the game will continue after all.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Huang Lee

04 - By dumping, they mean hurling the car into the ocean. The game starts with me a few meters under water. I tap the stylus to break the back window of the car and escape. I swim to the shore and find myself at the docks. The game runs some tutorial information on the bottom of the screen and instructs me to get a car. One is close so I try to jack it, but punch it instead. The car rocks pretty hard, I'm stronger than I thought. I press X to get into the car. I have to do a stylus minigame in order to get the car to start up.

05 - I finally get to drive around. The city is pretty dynamic. I see people running around, cops chasing some cars, etc. It's surprisingly vibrant. Even though the route is easy I miss a turn and crash into some cars on my way to my uncle's.

06 - I have a conversation with my uncle, we don't seem to get along. My sword was stolen, and my uncle isn't too happy about that. The bad thing about the cutscenes is that the text advances on its own, which makes it hard to write this review and read what's happening at the same time.

07 - My uncle explains how the handing the sword to his boss would've given him a promotion. The main character references that it's 2009, which I guess makes it the most recent GTA game from a story standpoint.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Shootout

08 - The next objective is to head towards my apartment. Fortunately it's pretty close. The game explains how my apartment is basically my home base and I will start here every time I load the game. I also have a garage where I can stash a car.

09 - I get an e-mail from my uncle. He wants to see me. It looks like the first mission is underway.

10 - My uncle gracious gives me a nicer car. I take this time to check out the other buttons. Pressing Y next to a car allows you to hurdle it. I also notice that the people are disproportionately big when compared to the vehicles.

11 - The first mission starts. I have to pick up one of my uncle's spies who was spying on some cops that were trying to stop an adult film my uncle invested in. The game explains the GPS function. You can make your own routes or click on the missions tab to create a path to there.

12 - I drive to the mission point. I notice a few more interesting things about the game. It has day/night cycles like in the console games, and the location name flashes across the screen when you enter a new area. I nudge a cop car with mine, but he graciously lets me go.

13 - I pick up one of my uncle's spies, a young Chinese girl with messy hair named Ling. After a few f-words and insults, the cops surround us. The game gives a tutorial about the wanted level and how to reduce it.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Helicopter Explosion

14 - Two stars? That's pretty unfair for the first mission! I drive around frantically trying to avoid them. Cop cars come out of nowhere and ram me. I'm not sure where to go so I just drive around trying to lose them.

15 - I crash into a billboard and a cop yanks me out of the car and throws me to the ground while others surround me. I can't lose this quickly! I get back into the car and drive off as fast as I can, causing some police cars to crash and I send the cop holding onto my door flying to the pavement. The game rewards you for taking out cops if you have a wanted level as I lose one star after I make one of them crash.

16 - I finally lose my wanted level completely. I drive back to my apartment for the next few minutes. I start to notice a few more things about Liberty City. There are weather effects, as it rains for a short time as I drive back to my place. The citizens are also a bit reckless as other cars bump into each other, and one even hits a pedestrian. I try to drive cautiously as my car is pretty banged up after the cop chase.

19 - I arrive back home and the girl I picked up infers that I have a small penis. Maybe Chinese culture has different customs for saying thank you. I'm awarded $50 for escaping the cops. Thanks uncle, I can't even buy an Xbox 360 game with this.

20 - Instead of going to the next mission, I decide to check out my place. Pretty barren, but I do have a computer, couch, and bulletin board. The computer is mostly for wifi options and checking my e-mail. The couch is for saving, and the bulletin board is for mission replays, which is a pretty awesome idea and should be incorporated into the other GTA games.

22 - Instead of going to the next mission, I decide to take advantage of the sandbox setting. I practice some attacks and break open nearby boxes. No rewards unfortunately. I hijack a car and punch a pedestrian, who runs off screaming. I find a vendor that will sell me a hot dog for $5, but I decline considering I only have $100.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Firetruck

25 - I decide to start the next mission. Apparently some punks are messing around with my uncle's business ventures and he wants me to do something about it. I am ordered to get some fight training at a place called Master-at-Arms. On my way there I see someone get killed, possibly by a cop. He drops $30. That was almost as much as I made from the last mission!

26 - The Master-at-Arms is none other than Ling from the earlier mission. A few flirtations/insults and then the training is under way. I practice my attacks on a dummy. I didn't know you could hold R and lock on, so that's useful.

27 - I finally get a gun and practice shooting the dummy. After it explodes, my uncle comes out and says that some punks are attacking his restaurant, so Ling and I head off to face them. There is a stylus minigame where I dig through a dumpster to find a gun.

28 - I find the restaurant owner and he is pretty upset that a girl and a 20-something year old slacker are his only protection. One of the thugs comes out and talks trash before shooting Ling. She looks pretty dead to me, but I have to continue with the mission. I chase down that thug and kill him.

29 - There are two other thugs hiding behind some fences. I have to lure them out and kill them off. One just runs at me, making him an easy target. I have to go behind the fence to take care of the other. The restaurant manager is getting beaten to death on the roof, so I head up there and kill another thug. He scolds me as the mission ends. An ambulance drives off where the girl was shot, so maybe she's not dead.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Hsin Jaoming

30 - A lot has happened in just a half hour. I mess around a bit more, trying to dig deeper into the game mechanics. The old trick of tapping the sprint button for infinite sprint still works thankfully.

31 - I try the next mission. This one is about taking out gangs that are trying to impede on my uncle's territory. On the way there I see a flaming semi truck with police cars surrounding it and a fire truck trying to put it out. They managed to cram a lot of cool little things into a DS cart.

32 - On the way to the new mission point I accidentally ram a cop. I get a one start wanted level and some cops start to chase me. They seem pretty aggressive in the game, even cops walking around try to latch onto your car. I make one of their cars flip to get rid of the wanted level.

33 - My car is pretty beat up so I steal something called a Hellenbach. It's pretty fast, but it's hard to tell if it's a sports car or not.

34 - I arrive at the mission point. I have to chase this gang member, so we both vault over fences Ferris Bueller style. On the way, I jack a car and accidentally hit a cop, so I have to evade him for a bit before I can go after the thugs.

35 - The thugs are on a basketball court. I try to run them over, but they're pretty good at dodging and I only get to kill one of the three. I get out and take care of the others.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Nighttime

36 - More gang members show up. I kill one, but the other one takes off in his car. I am supposed to follow him, but I opt for shooting at him instead. I eventually decide to get in a car and chase him, but I fail the mission since he gets too far away.

37 - I restart the mission. I can skip the cutscene which is nice. What's even better is the "skip trip" option, which allows me to warp directly to the mission point, meaning I don't have to drive from my uncle's to the mission. A really nice feature, it needs to be implemented into the other GTA games.

38 - I try this again. The game saves your ammo and money after you fail a mission, which is good if you earn some cash during it, but bad if you waste ammo. I am a bit low on ammo so I hope I can pull this off.

39 - I kill all the gang members. I try to kill the guy who got into the car the last time, but he is too quick. He jacks a car and I have to chase him. I only have nine bullets left.

40 - I try chasing him down. I do a few drive-bys which seems to damage his car, but I have trouble making him crash into anything. I can eventually see smoke coming out of his hood. During the heated chase I hit a cop car, which gives me a one star warning.

41 - So not only do I have to keep up with this gang member, I have the fuzz chasing me. Traffic is really bad so the gang member and I weave in and out, with cops flinging themselves at us from out of nowhere. I accidentally kill a cop, so now I'm up to two stars.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Flamethrower

42 - I'm ripped out of the car by a cop. I quickly spot a nice Dodge Viper rip-off and grab it. The car is the fastest one I've had so far, so it's easy to catch up with the gang member. We are on a suspension bridge with a toll, so it's practically a dead end. I damage the gang member's car enough for him to get out, and run over him, ending the mission. The wanted level is reset to zero after the mission ends, a nice touch.

43 - I head back to my apartment in the sports car so I can keep it there. Traffic is jammed a bit since it looks like a truck killed a pedestrian. The ambulance rushes in as I pass by.

45 - Before taking on the next mission, I decide to look around a bit. I try to dumpster dive for another gun, but nothing. I do find a baseball bat next to a basketball court though.

47 - I find a motorcycle in an alley. It's pretty fast but still handles well. On the way I notice some blue arrows point to a building and the map has a silhouette of a man on the location. I decide to check it out.

48 - "Scratch Cards" flashes on the screen. I can either buy a $4 or $15 one. I opt for the cheapest version. I use the stylus to drag to card to the register in order to buy it. It works like your typical lotto scratch off, and you use the stylus to scratch it. The highest prize is $50, but I lose. And I only needed one more picture of a hamburger!

49 - I find another scratch off place and stupidly decide to buy another one, which I predictably lose. I decide to start another mission, despite missing a gun. I have a bat though, hopefully it will be enough.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Minigun

50 - In the mission, I have to transport some street cars to a garage by a certain time. Ugh, I hate timed missions. I have to deliver them by 23:45. I wonder if the game jumps to a certain time or the time changes based on when you take the mission.

51 - Three cars are dotted on the map, so I drive until I get close to one. When I find it, I have to do a stylus minigame to jack it. I unscrew the dashboard and then hotwire the car via the stylus. The garage is pretty close so I drive it back with ease.

52 - Time for the second car. On the way I accidentally hit another cop and my wanted level goes up. The only thing worse than time missions is when someone is trying to kill you during them. On top of that I have to do another stylus minigame. This time I hook up my PDA to some electronic system, and type in the access code. The numbers are constantly rotating so you have to time it right.

53 - I jack the car with the cops still on my tail. It gets a little hectic when I drive as fast as I can to get to the garage while a cop is chasing me and I'm constantly looking at the top screen for the map.

54 - I flip a cop car which eliminates my wanted level. I park it in the garage and go after the last car. Not much time is left, but luckily the GPS shows me the route to the last car, which it didn't do for the other two.

55 - It's not too far, and I don't have to do a stylus minigame to steal it. I only have a minute to get to the garage. The car is an ugly purple with yellow flames, but it's fast enough to get me to the garage in time. I managed to finish the mission with only three seconds left.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Police

56 - I get an e-mail from Ammunation about their store opening up soon. I also get another one from my uncle saying he needs me to do something else for him. There is this strange swirly thing behind a building, but I can't reach it.

57 - I go all the way behind the building to look at the swirling lights. I step into it, but nothing. I drive a car on it, but nothing. I press every button to see what it will do, but I don't find anything interesting.

58 - I discover the radio in my options. There aren't too many choices, but there is a nice mix and I switch it to rock.

59 - I'm pretty far from home, so I decide to check out the area. I find some health, but I don't need it at this time. I finally find a dumpster I can dive in, but instead of a weapon all I got was a used condom.

60 - I look at the scenery a bit more before deciding to head back to my apartment as it starts to rain. And that's the end of the first hour of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

Time for some scores out of 10.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Dumpster Minigame

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 4

Gameplay: 9.5
Many of the early missions are tutorials, but they are still a lot of fun. Chinatown Wars has classic GTA mechanics with some cool new stylus minigames. It's not dumbed down at all, this is a truly faithful rendition of the GTA series. The controls are amazingly responsive so you can shoot down gang members or evade the cops with ease.

Fun Factor: 9
The game lets you do a lot right at the beginning and doesn't force you to take a specific path. While I am more inclined to try out the missions, others would probably prefer to just explore the city. No matter what you decide to do, you should find yourself completely captivated.

Graphics and Sound: 8.5
The game looks amazing in motion. The buildings are nicely detailed and there's a lot of variety in the landscape. The people look a bit silly at times since they are basically stick figures and it's hard to tell which car is which since a lot of them lack detail. The music is fantastic and there are several radio stations to choose from. There are a lot of great sound effects, ranging from cop sirens to pedestrians chatting it up.

Story: 7
Setting it among the Chinese Triads will hopefully give the story a unique perspective, but it's rather typical so far. Just like every GTA game you are basically just running errands for a crime boss. Thankfully the characters are pretty unique and step outside of the stereotypes. Ling's death was pretty shocking, although she will probably pop up later in the game.

Overall: 9
So far the game has had a great mix of gameplay and story, while allowing you to do whatever you want if you just want to mess around the expansive city. The missions are quick and exciting, which makes them well-suited for a handheld. Chinatown Wars has been impressive so far, and it's shaping up to be one of the best titles for the Nintendo DS to date.

Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Ling