Or “How I Finally Completed My Review of Chinatown Wars After Missing My Connected Flight and Having 19 Hours Suddenly With Nothing To Do.”
This is going to be a somewhat odd and disjointed article on account of the time (as I write these words, it is 12:21 am Central Standard Time) and it is only going to get later. Jim, if you’re reading this, I deeply apologize for the mess you’re going to be editing through here. (I took out the pictures of you surfing the luggage carousel naked but all good – Ed)
This is the tale of a man who missed his connecting overnight flight and really couldn’t schedule any other time than 6:40pm the next day, and a sarcastic man’s quest to reclaim his family’s sword. Yes I got comped a hotel but what if I miss my plane again? You can’t make me leave. It’s like spending the night in a mall that also has planes. What’s not to love?
I missed the boat on this game, initially, much like that plane I missed. When I had a DS, the GTA Stories Games came out on PSP, and when I got a PSP to replace my DS after breaking it from a particularly frustrating minigame in New Super Mario (don’t ask, we all make mistakes), Chinatown Wars came out. So, naturally, I eventually righted history’s wrongs and got the game on my phone… early last year. In all honesty, it’s because I knew it would run better than Liberty City Stories, a game I will fight to the death to defend but doesn’t run well on my android. Whence upon the time I can run it, I will once again pull a Lorax after disappearing so long to get up on a stump and shout about it to anyone who will hear me. But, as after two paragraphs I will finally get to describing the game, I digress. It. Is. Late. Time is of the essence.
Like many Grand Theft Auto titles, story here is not the strong suit. You play as Huang Lee, a man who’s being called a spoiled brat by everyone but really just seems to be fed up with his family, who’s come to Liberty City for, one reason or another I can’t quite seem to recall (I just looked it up later, his dad was killed. Oops), but he gets attacked and his family’s sword stolen. Now, Huang doesn’t really buy into the whole honor thing as much as his family, but to regain respect and keep his head he’s got to do all he can to get it back. Along the way you realize many family members, none of them ideal leaders, are vying to be the next leader of the triads as the current leader plans to step down. There’s a woman at the beginning, Ling Shan, who confused the heck out of me, because her design was kinda cool and she also had a thing for Huang but then very quickly she was killed and I keep hoping she’s going to come back like she faked her own death.
I just spoiled it for myself and so now you must suffer too, she doesn’t come back it’s very early in the game and I wish to spare you the heartbreak I am currently experiencing by breaking this news before you have also managed to grow fond of her. This is all being written on the spot, folks, we’re going to keep rolling. The story’s fine, but even previous GTA games had better moments of action and betrayal. I like the characters well enough, though– they do have a charm to their wit and the way they behave is cartoonish but fitting of the style here. Story gets a pass, it isn’t a master class but it’s good enough. I would also like to remind you, I am playing the game in an airport.
Unlike most games in the Grand Theft Auto Games of new, this one took tips from the old. While in full 3D, you play from a top down perspective. Not being able to see very far ahead of you is jarring and difficult at first, but you eventually do get used to it. As mentioned before, I am playing the Android version of this title and it runs great. I’m throwing that performance in with gameplay because MAN do you notice if a game doesn’t run well. Even on my lower end phone, this game runs fantastic, and of course I have to answer the burning question of controls. Unlike its original or even PSP rerelease, Chinatown Wars on Android incorporates a mixture of the expected digital analogue stick and buttons along with the OG touch controls. I remember the DS trailers making a big deal out of the touch controls in particular. Put together a rifle, hotwire a car, cut open a seat to check for drugs, we’ll get back to drugs in the next paragraph, but you get tired of these things very quickly since they’re so often repeated. I opt to jack a car on the road rather than steal a parked car because it’s faster and more reliable in a pinch. The touch controls for movement is an acquired taste and I have indeed acquired the taste for them. The controls are solid, but if you’re used to controller button it’ll take a while to get accustomed.
Right! Drugs. You can buy and sell drugs in this game. It’s neat, I guess. I destroyed the cameras around the city which led to being able to make more money off of drug dealings but overall it’s so far separated from the story’s narrative and it’s more of the same thing over and over that, if I want a quick 10k yeah it works to sell the coke I have stashed in Huang’s safehouse but for a majority of the game I could only really spend my money on cars and scratch off tickets with too high of returns. You’re supposed to be able to buy guns ingame with an app on Huang’s phone, but it just stopped working for me early on, so I can’t buy guns, so I keep going to the scratch off ticket places dotted around the city to keep buying tickets that can actually give me guns but only a limited variety so my arsenal is ALWAYS underwhelmingly basic.
Driving, on the other hand, is tight. Some cars are sluggish, some are speedy and nimble, there’s a real variety in how vehicles function in this game. And, if you get a fast car, if you just drive quick enough, cars just stop spawning until you slow down because the game doesn’t want to try to load both new areas and cars at a rapid pace at the same time, which I think is neat but probably not conducive to a challenging experience.
As far as missions go, which is GTA’s bread and butter, there’s a variety here as well. While you still have the drive here, kill them, drive there kind of lackluster missions, I loved sneaking through a celebration as one of those Chinese dragons, and rigging a race WHILE it was happening so that your lazy relative could win honestly made me laugh. This game is inventive and creative with how it challenges you and it has me more incentivized to progress through the duller missions to see what wacky thing they’ve come up with next.
This is not a pretty game. I have seen the iPhone version which takes on the PSP’s upgraded graphics, but this is the Android version I’m playing and it takes after the Nintendo DS’s looks. It’s passable, and perhaps because it looks this way might be how it runs so well, and to me it kind of hits that nostalgic part of my brain that likes the shading of something like The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker and the grainy low quality dinginess of Diablo II. I think I really like this look, and while I am hoping Rockstar eventually updates this game to include their higher quality graphics, these do the job well enough that you might actually forget you’re playing a game that’s a bit ugly. But this Airport is pristine, my goodness look at it. Far from ugly.
Firstly, let’s start off strong. The music. I really like it. It’s of course some lower quality stuff having been brought from either the DS or PSP version honestly I can’t tell which because I never owned either version, but this stuff is really fitting. I really dig the different styles, from the Chinese inspired instrumentals to the fun imitations of old rock. And man, if you like DeadMau5 they have that in there for some reason, not entirely sure why but it’s there if you like that sort of music.
On the downside, there might be a lot of unique sounds but there are a lot of repurposed sounds from previous Grand Theft Auto titles. This doesn’t bother me so much, as it’s just a touch of familiarity hearing these old noises and adds a bit to the nostalgia factor, and I understand an offshoot developed originally on the oft considered kid-friendly Nintendo DS might have a shoestring budget. For what it is, even the old sound effects aren’t too much of a bother and are made right at home next to all the noises that are new to Chinatown Wars. Now might be a good time to mention how quiet it is in here.
This is not replayable in the slightest. While yes, everything here is solid, I had trouble sticking to it even while playing it the first time around. This game got repetitive after a while, and when life’s stresses hit me I wasn’t about to sit down with Chinatown Wars to relax. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but if you come back to it you’re liable to not want to stick through all the repetition. If this is your favorite GTA, let us know because I’d love to hear from someone who really enjoys this game.