Monday, November 02, 2009

GTA China Town Wars DS

First of all, I'll confess that this is not an entirely new article, but instead something I first posted on the frankly under-read Father Krishna's Wiikly Sermons . Oh and I've not been that well either, so I can be excused a bit of lazy recycling, LOL! However, with the Ballad Of Gay Tony on general release, it's time to think once again about the wonderful GTA! This franchise kept me very me busy throughout some turbulent times thanks to the wonderful Grand Theft Auto universe, Rockstar’s fabulous gift to the gaming world. And the game that kick-started my current obsession? Why perhaps the least obviously appealing outing of the franchise so far, GTA China Town Wars for the DS.

Rockstar have already had a good degree of success in it’s transference of the GTA world onto handheld consoles (ignoring the GTA GBA fiasco) with Vice City and Liberty City stories for PSP (and indeed I will come to these games later…)

With the money I accrued for my 42nd birthday, I decided to invest in a DS Lite and GTA CTW. The whole package cost me £80-ish and at last I had a fully functional DS with a responsive touch screen again! (My old ‘original’ DS had been sketchy for ages…)

And so I dipped into the world of Huang Lee, ‘Uncle Kenny’, triads, mafia and ancient stolen katanas. But can the tiny cartridge of the DS really encompass the vast world of Liberty City and do it justice? The short and emphatic answer to that question is “YES!” All but one of the boroughs of Liberty City found in GTA IV are recreated in the world of GTA CTW. You can actually recognise areas and neighbourhoods, despite the top-down “birds eye” view, and when you do, it’s quite a thrill! It’s also a testament to what Rockstar Leeds have managed to cram into a cartridge no bigger than a postage stamp!

Yes, there have been compromises in order to get a fully fledged GTA experience onto the DS. The ‘radio stations’ have been replaced by a variety of set soundtracks of different musical genres (although even these have been lovingly created by current artists such as Deadmaus, mentioned on these hallowed pages just a few weeks ago!)

Cut-scenes are limited to still pictures and captions (think Phoenix Wright) and of course we have the 2.5 D top down view, but once you begin to play the game sucks you straight in and you very quickly forget the differences between this incarnation and those brought out on full-size consoles. It’s pure, unbridled GTA fun. All the elements are there, driving, drive-by shootings, securing safe-houses and encountering a wealth of colourful and intriguing characters (like the cross-dressing Mafioso), all served up with a tinge of irony and a good dash of humour.

Did I mention the drugs? Drug dealing is the backbone of Huang’s existence in Liberty City. It’s how he earns money to buy weapons and builds his empire. You’ve got to know your smack from your crack and your weed from your speed if you’re gonna progress in the game!

The game is just SO much better than either of the PSP titles, which have me struggling and a tad bored. GTA CTW was a joy to play and complete, encouraging me to pick up GTA IV again and finish it, quickly downloading ‘Lost and Damned’ as soon as Niko’s adventures had come to an end. I’ve also downloaded GTA San Andreas, and the Ballad Of Gay Tony so I've got a glut of GTA goodness for the big console under the telly, that I'm still yet to play...
Since writing this post, the cogs of time have turned, and now GTA CTW is not only a 2.5D DS game, but a fully fledged, fleshed out PSP game, with the promise of delivering more than it's DS counterpart, (or indeed the two sub-standard PSP titles previously mentioned... I'm hoping to pick this up soon, but in the meantime I'll give you all a little video-taster!


  1. No DSi? :)

    I'm so behind on my game playing, but, even though I'm not a GTA fan, I keep considering this one, in part because of the topdown mode.

    But I'm still playing Chrono Trigger, thanks in part to my kids taking over both DSes.

  2. I bought this game ages ago but never really got "into it".

    Recently I picked it up to actually play and I have to say it's a lot of fun.

    I haven't gone far but I'm really into this whole drug running gig and getting rich fast.

  3. I have to say dear Guttertalk that I purposely avoided the DSi - I remember you making a good case for it, but I'm still unconvinced!

    I'm even thinking of getting the Mrs. a DS for Christmas, and again would go for the 'ordinary' DS.

    The first problem I have with the DSI is no GBA slot.... I have a lot of GBA cartridges and backward compatability for these games is an essential feature of the DS for me.

    The second problem I have is that the camera/music apps. just don't appeal to me at all... They're regularly advertised on UK TV and either they're down-playing the possibilities of what the camera can do, or they're making it too simple to appeal to... erm... me!
    As for this game Guttertalk, I suggest that you should not allow your feelings about GTA to get in the way, it is different enough to work as a stand alone game... Give it a go!

    Josh, I highly reccomend you stick with it for a while, the drug selling is just one part of a greater whole!

  4. @fatherkrishna Yeah, I'm sure I'm ridiculously short on the actual game play area. Let's see, I've done maybe 5 missions for the first guy, then I just got done helping some other idiot cheat in a race. Now some guy wants me to bring him 20 bags of Weed.

    I would like to say though, as much as I am enjoying the game play, the dialog in this is absolutely atrocious. It's like they are trying to be "mature" by randomly throwing in perverted pretext. You get crap like "I'm going to win this race or I'll be screwing a donkey".

    It makes nos sense other than sounding stupid.

  5. My favourite random shouted phrase was "Do you wanna piece of my pie?" which seemed to fly out of my DS at the most embarassing times...

  6. I've been playing it lately and so far I'm liking it (GTA4 was a huge disappointment for me, and I'm a hardcore GTA3 fan).

    Josh, that kind of humour is a trademark of the series. GTA games, even those where the story is well developed, aren't to be taken seriously all the time.

  7. @NebachadnezzaR Oh I know it's trade mark of the series. I've been playing GTA since the original top down game and honestly came up with the idea of 3D before they did (What if we had a game like GTA with the free range 3D of Midtown Madness?) I've also completed all three of the PS2 titles 100% with zero deaths and zero arrests (without repeatedly restarting).

    The thing is, the "humor" in this game comes off as a severely weak knockoff of the "trademark humor". It's like the script writer hadn't actually heard previous dialogue from other GTA games but had instead only heard a loose description of it. Or they are just terrible at imitating it. The point is, it sucks and is excessively awkward.

  8. Wow, you're hardcore! :D I've never, ever, completed a GTA game 100%. And I only started to take it seriously after 3, I never got used to the top-down view of the first ones, specially when driving.

    To be honest I also noticed the humour was somewhat different in this game, but since the whole game looks different, from the visual style of the game itself to the cut-scenes, I took it as just another approach. And I quite like it, to be honest, but since I'm not a native speaker maybe that's why it doesn't seem excessively awkward to me.