There is plenty to do outside of the main story though. Rampages are back, and scattered around the city. For those who aren’t familiar, Rampages are essentially a mini-game where you are outfitted with unlimited ammunition for a powerful firearm and projectile weapon (hand grenade or Molotov) and are tasked with racking up combo kills and wreaking general havoc in your vicinity in order to score points and earn yourself bronze, silver or gold medals. You can also replay these in order to improve your score, and you will find yourself doing that, given their short yet action-packed nature.
Odd jobs are also back, which makes this reviewer pleased as can be. Next time you car jack a taxi, ambulance, police vehicle, or fire truck, press the Select button and you will start to carry out their missions. This is a great way to earn some extra cash as well as give you something to do during your shorter play sessions, but you could just as easily sit there and get lost doing it on your couch until you complete the Odd Job. Odd jobs are not limited to driving though, as you can also now go into Tattoo Parlors in order to work a part-time job as a tattoo artist, compliments of the stylus controls.
What you will end up spending the most time with though is the in-game economy. The quickest way to make cash in Chinatown Wars is through the buying and selling of drugs. Drug dealers are scattered throughout the city, and they will sell their products at high and low prices as well as buy them at these price points. The prices are fluctuating, and it’s your job to take advantage of them by buying low, stowing drugs away in your safehouse until someone is buying high, and then make a tasty profit off of someone else’s habits. I would get lost for hours at a time just buying and selling, sometimes veering from my route because I noticed I was approaching the territory of a drug dealer I had become familiar with.
In addition to buying and selling, you can also steal drugs; there are vans driving around the city that are packed with drugs, and by stealing them and bringing them back to the nearest secluded safehouse, you can secure the contents and sell them for 100% profit. You will catch yourself turning away from whatever mission you planned on heading to when you see one of these vans, as the allure of a boat load of coke or heroin that you can sell for a tidy profit is too much to ignore when it’s just there for the taking. There are also 100 security cameras scattered around the city, many of them in areas where drug dealers reside. Buying and selling in these areas can result in some hefty prices, as you have the marbles to trade drugs essentially in front of the police, but you will also automatically have the cops come down on your for the deed, and it’s your job to get away before they catch you and confiscate the goods. You can destroy these cameras if you wish (and it’s a necessity if you want to earn 100% completion.
Rockstar Leeds did not just settle for recreating the Grand Theft Auto universe we know and love on the Ds though. There are a multitude of features that are specific to this game that utilize the DS array of hardware features in order to make this a more complete product that you will not be putting down any time soon. Let’s start with the PDA, which expands on the idea of the cell phone used in Grand Theft Auto IV. This is what the bottom screen is utilized for throughout Chinatown Wars, and is where you will spend a considerable amount of your time: reading e-mails from Triad bosses, drug dealers, (hilarious) spam messages, checking out the map of the city and setting GPS routes to specific dealers, missions, safehouses, Pay n’ Spray’s, etc. You can also access Ammunation online now, and have weapons sent directly to your Safehouses. You can set favorites, be it a Pay ‘n Spray that is easily accessed, a Safehouse, your favorite drug dealer, or the location of Security Cameras or Rampages that you want to remember to return to when you can. This makes everything in Liberty City easily accessible through the a few stylus touches, which does wonders to keep dull moments from occurring in Chinatown Wars.
There are also local multiplayer modes that can be played after you have exchanged Friend Codes. Not only are there five competitive multiplayer modes (two racing modes, a competitive version of stealing vans loaded with drugs, a deathmatch type game with kill counts, “Gang Bang” where you defend your territory against a friend and his hordes of gang members) and a co-op mode where you defend a territory against waves of opposing gang members, but you can also share those favorites we talked about earlier with a friend. Maybe they have found more cameras than you have, and are willing to share their locations with you. Not just this, but you can also trade drugs, weapons and cash over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection; given that the in-game economy is different in each game, this has significant cash flow potential if you’ve got a buddy who plays as much as you do. Your PDA also works as an Instant Messenger while over Wi-Fi, which makes communication a breeze.
The scope of this game is huge, and it is easily worth the purchase and the time you will invest in it. Fans of the series need to play this game, as it’s a worthy entry in Grand Theft Auto’s history, and those with a DS who are searching for the next big thing have to look no further than their local retailers shelves. As someone who has played through their share of titles on the system, I can say with full confidence that this is easily one of the top offerings in the entire library, one as ambitious and worthwhile as essentially anything else released for it during it’s nearly five years of existence in North America.
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