In Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
, you play as Huang Lee, the son of a recently murdered Triad boss. Huang is on his way to Liberty City to a deliver a symbolic sword to his Uncle Kenny. However, he is ambushed when he reaches his destination, and the sword is stolen. Huang is shot and left for dead. It goes without saying that he survives, but his situation can best be described as "out of the fire and into the frying pan." Hsin Jaoming (the aging Triad Boss in Liberty City) needs to name a successor, and Uncle Kenny wants the job. The problem is, Kenny was supposed to offer the sword to Hsin as a gift - a gesture he hoped would earn him Hsin's favor. Over the course of the story, Huang comes into contact with several new characters, and they all have their own agendas (as they always do). Things get really hairy for the Triads, and it becomes readily apparent to Huang that the theft of the sword was the work of a police informant. The story isn't as involving as Grand Theft Auto IV
's, but it's good enough to keep you interested. The cast of Chinatown Wars
is... colorful. I'll be blunt about it: no character in Chinatown Wars
seems to possess a single redeeming quality. Huang shares his company with the lowest of the low. His contacts include, but are not limited to: a bent cop, a sadistic egomaniac, a mob boss with a hilarious secret, and a man Huang refers to as "a walking coronary in a gimp suit." It's just as well, too - Huang is a snotty little punk, and he knows it. You won't like any of these characters, but you will laugh at them - a lot.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is structured almost identically to other games in the franchise. You are set loose in the open world of Liberty City. You can advance the story by completing missions for your contacts. These missions are imaginative, well-developed, and a total blast. However, if you don't feel like progressing through the campaign, you don't have to. You can explore the city, complete bonus activities, or create as much chaos as you can before the cops take you down. Regardless of how you approach this game, there's an awful lot to do.
There are two key differences between the core gameplay of Chinatown Wars and that of last year's console offering. The first key difference has to do with the cops. Dealing with the police is much more fun in Chinatown Wars than it is in any other Grand Theft Auto game. Running away is no longer the most viable option. The best way to reduce your wanted level is to battle police vehicles - Burnout style. This is much more satisfying than running away, and I would really like to see this part of the gameplay return in a future title. The second key difference has to do with traveling speed. In Chinatown Wars, you can zip across Liberty City in a matter of minutes. You can get a lot done in a relatively small amount of time, and that's very important for a handheld game.
Earning money is essential to becoming a powerful presence in Liberty City, and there are many ways to do that. You can tattoo people, participate in street races, complete rampage challenges, buy lottery scratch tickets, drive a taxi cab, and much more. These diversions are all unique and fun, but you'll have the most fun and make the most money in the drug trade. Drug dealers are hidden across Liberty City, and if you find them, you can do business with them. You can deal in six different kinds of drugs. What makes this side-game so great is the fact that it is actually quite deep. There are different ethnic factions around Liberty City, and they all have their own turf. On the supply side, these groups specialize in a single drug. On the demand side, they each have preferred purchases. For example, you'll be able to buy large amounts of coke from the Spanish Lords, and you'll likely profit the most by selling it to the Russian Mafia. You have to be careful - if a cop witnesses the deal going on, you'll have to make a break for it.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars has a strong multiplayer component, but it is limited to two-player multi-card local matches. There is some Nintendo Wi-Fi functionality here, but it is not related to multiplayer. In this game, you'll only use Wi-Fi connectivity to build a friends list and put yourself on the leaderboards. It would have been nice if complete Wi-Fi multiplayer was included, but considering the number (and quality) of the multiplayer modes, it's almost a non-issue. There are six multiplayer modes, and many of them feel like they've been taken straight out of Grand Theft Auto IV.
There are two racing modes. In Single Race mode, you can race your opponent on one of several tracks (all of them contained in Liberty City, of course). You can play it out as you would a regular race, or you can turn on the Death Race option, which rewards players for killing their opponents. You can also set up a number of consecutive races in Season mode (the Grand Theft Auto equivalent of Super Mario Kart's Mario GP).
The objective of Stash Dash is to jack a van full of goods and deliver it to a set location before your opponent takes you out. Getting to the van is difficult, but it gets really tough once you steal it - the van does not move very fast at all. On top of all this, whatever damage the van sustains is docked from the final delivery score. The rules and limitations make this mode quite intense.
Defend the Base is the cooperative multiplayer mode that pits you and a buddy against wave after wave of thugs. It's kind of like Horde Mode from Gears of War 2, but there is more to it than just surviving. You and your partner must protect a number of vehicles that are littered across your base. The goons come from every angle, and you will have to keep moving to increase your odds of success.
LC Survivor is the same one-on-one Deathmatch variant seen in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, and there's not much to explain. The in-game descriptor sums up the mode's simplicity: "Meet up with your friends, then shoot each of them in the face."
Finally, there's Gang Bang. The object is to complete a number of randomly-generated objectives before your foe does. This mode forces you to adapt on the fly. It's fast, frantic, and fun.