Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a Nintendo DS video game made by Rockstar Leeds and published by Take-Two. Like many of the games in the series, Chinatown Wars takes place in a modern day Liberty City. It was revealed during Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference and was developed by the team behind the critically acclaimed PSP Grand Theft Auto titles.
The game is seen from a bird's eye view, though the camera can be rotated if the player wishes. Unlike previous games in the series, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a cel-shaded game, which is due to the Nintendo DS' graphical limitations. The game features an imitation of the Liberty City from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, albeit the abandonment of one of the islands (Alderney) and some other differences that are once again due to the limitations of the handheld.
The game, like previous entries in the franchise, is a sandbox title, meaning you have complete freedom and can go almost anywhere in the city in an open world environment. The game makes use of the two DS screens. The top will focus on the main game, while the bottom touch screen will feature the PDA, GPS, radio, and other similar features. Most of the features on the bottom screen are controlled via the stylus.
In the true GTA spirit, the game is separated by missions. The missions in Chinatown Wars are shorter than those in the game's console counterparts, and are more arcade quality, though this is due to the game's portability (people tend to like to play portable games in short bursts). It could also be due to the fact that one of critics' complaints of the PSP games were the long missions, which didn't fit for a handheld title. If you wish to replay a mission you've already completed, then you can do so by heading to the warehouse. This was a feature that wasn't present in the PSP's Vice City Stories. Surprisingly for a handheld title the game features various weather effects and a 24 hour cycle similar to the previous games in the series.
The role of drugs in Chinatown Wars is more important than in previous titles. One way to make a hefty amount of cash is to know where to buy and sell drugs. You're given a map so that you know where people want to buy the drugs, which consists of six different types (Heroine, Cocaine, Acid, Ecstacy, Weed, and Downers).
The game was highly acclaimed across the board. The first review came in the from of an article in Official Nintendo Magazine, who awarded it with a 94%/100%. IGN UK and Computer and Video Games UK gave the game a 9.2/10, while Eurogamer gave it a perfect 10/10. Said Eurgamer: "On balance though, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a triumph, not just in terms of bringing a difficult game to a new platform intact, but because it actually improves it in the process, and demonstrates a mastery of DS form and function." Eurogamer explained that Chinatown Wars presses the DS harder than any game before it.
American publications were equally as satisfied with the game. 1up.com rewarded the handheld title with an A-, while GamePro gave it a perfect 5/5 stars. IGN's Craig Harris gave the game a 9.5/10, stating that "GTA: Chinatown Wars is easily one of the best Nintendo DS games on the platform", while IGN Australia gave the game a fantastic 9.3/10. Totalvideogames.com said that "It's everything we've come to expect from GTA, and quite a bit more as well", finishing off their review with a 9/10 rating.
UGO.com explained that "The massive single-player game, impressive 3D graphics, strong multiplayer features, amusing minigames and intriguing story make it one of the best DS games we’ve ever played", and concluded that "If you don’t pick it up, you had better be in Elementary School or on Fox News", while rewarding the title with a 9/10. Currently on GameRankings Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the highest rated handheld title of all time. Gamespy gave the game a 9.3/10, while Total Video Games felt the game deserved a 9.
Gamesradar.com said that the player will enjoy the hours upon hours of superb gameplay, explaining that the game is better than the Game Boy Advance game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for PSP, and the Grand Theft Auto: Lost and Damned Xbox 360 game. Overall they concluded that the game deserved a 10/10. GameInformer, while slightly more strict, were still deeply satisfied with the game, with the reviewers giving it a 9.25, and the second opinion a 9 (both out of 10).
So far the game has been featured on the cover of both Nintendo Power and Edge. It was one of the biggest shocks during Nintendo's press conference, which comes to a surprise seeing that then only a logo was shown.