When GTA: Chinatown is loaded into my DS, I get excited when I turn it on. I get this little rush of excitement that starts pumping through me and I feel like a kid again. We won't go into just what that says about my childhood, but it boils down to a really strong feeling of wonder. In an era when it seems like games are getting rehashed to hell, or just branded out as new with a fresh coat of graphical paint on it, it's simply amazing to see a game that makes me happy to be a gamer. I get gamers guilt a lot of times, feeling like I should be reading a book or watching a documentary, or paying attention to my girlfriend or any other "intelligent" activity to make me a better human, but when I play Chinatown all that goes out the window.
Getting into some of the nitty gritty, graphically it looks stunning. It has this wash of cell shade on it that makes it look like candy to the eyes. The city is beautiful and fresh feeling, and the little physics items they add, like when your car starts to tilt on two wheels on a tight curve, is fresh and bold. I love just wrecking my car to see what kind of crazy things it will do. The character models look a little off, but not so much that it takes away from the overall experiance for me.
As far as gameplay goes, and this is where the game really shines, it's so much fun. They implement the stylus in fun and interesting ways that don't feel tacked on, like some of the other DS games I've played before. Honestly, filling up molotov cocktails at the gas station is one of my favorite things to do. The main purpose of the stylus is a menu navigator and it works well at that, feeling like a real PDA to me. They also implemented a fun system with the grenades in the game, where you can basically decide their arc and range with a brush of the stylus. The heart of the game, at least for me, is the drug dealing. I don't know if it's the fact that I love to buy and sell in video games, but the system they set up has been keeping me busy for most of the game. It's a pretty simple system, with emails coming to tell you what's hot right now, and they have a turf map that you can use to buy and sell. I wish there was a little bit more depth to it, but it still remains to be a lot of fun, espicially when the cops are you on when you're holding 20k worth of coke. Sometimes I'll just turn on the system to do a few drug runs. Which brings up another great thing about the game, which although minor, is a huge boone to a game like this when you're playing on the go. It loads quickly. I know that sounds weird, but with my gamer ADD, I hate dealing with load screens right when you turn the game on. All I want to do is hop in for a couple of minutes and Chinatown allows me to do that, and then quickly save and get back to whatever is going on IRL. They also changed the way the wanted level works. Instead of just running away and hiding, you have to be aggressive and destroy cop cars at 70mph. It makes for some great chase scenes and is probably my second favorite feature in the game, after the drug dealing.
The story is typical GTA fair, which basically means it's well polished with a bit of humor and well written. The main character is likeable and there's a twist in the begining that really made me appreciate the story that much more.
There have been a few complaints regarding the ultra realism of GTA 4 and while it remains one of my favorite games, I can certainly see what people are talking about. Chinatown goes back to the GTA roots with killing missions and insane jumps, making it feel more like a game rather than a mirror of real life. It fits well for the style of graphics and basically the type of game it is and actually made me wish I had a few killing missions in GTA 4.
I could go on some more about all the little things in the game that make me smile and appreciate owning the DS system, but half the fun of playing a game is finding all that good stuff out yourself. If you own a DS then this is definitly a no brainer, and if you've been on the fence, this game just might be the one to push you over.