Ten Minutes With Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Rockstar Games brought Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the biggest littlest crime spree in the long running series to the New York Comic Con, giving the public a chance to play it weeks in advance.

Once the doors open up to the fans, the Rockstar booth will surely be filled with people wanting to get their hands on this demo. I made sure to quickly take a look beforehand.

Once the doors open up to the fans, the Rockstar booth will surely be filled with people wanting to get their hands on this demo. I made sure to quickly take a look beforehand.

What It Is
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a handheld version of the infamous series for the Nintendo DS. The game, while miniature in stature, is a fully-fledged GTA game we've come to expect. The game is being developed by Rockstar Leeds, who is responsible for the two Grand Theft Auto PSP "Stories" side games.

What We Saw
Rockstar Product Manager Nick Van Amburg was on hand to give me a quick overview of the game before playing it myself. The Rockstar booth was surrounded by DS kiosks, tucked away in a small corner of the convention. I only had about 10 minutes to play as much as I could. I also had trouble hearing any of the sound or music in my playthrough.

How Far Along Is it?
Amburg couldn't say what build of the game I was playing, but it was the first public demo made available to fans. There were some notable features that were still not implemented in this version, though, such as the drug trafficking missions that I so badly wanted to try. No coke snorting for me today! The game is scheduled for release on March 17th.

What Needs Improvement
The biggest gripe I had was with the overhead camera. I understand the graphical capability of the DS prohibits the inclusion of a fully rotational, 3D camera, but the static camera found in Chinatown Wars would sometimes pan over the top of a nearby building and obstruct my vision.

Also, I found the touch menu system to be a bit confusing. There are more symbols than words, so it takes time to figure out what everything means and does. I'd like to see that a bit more streamlined if possible.

What Should Stay The Same
The controls are top notch. The biggest fear with almost any GTA game is the aiming system. This game has an auto and manual lock-on system, which works incredibly well. The game automatically highlights enemies for you by putting a green circle at their feet. Tapping and holding the right shoulder button will lock you on the nearest target while allowing you to you're free to circle around them, z-targeting style. While I wouldn't say it's perfect by any means, it gets the job done.

I liked the fact this isn't GTA-lite. Sure, it's not as "big" as GTA IV, but there is plenty of depth and story to chew on. Amburg said the game, if played straight through the missions, would take about 20 hours to complete. The story was also given the same amount of attention as its big brothers, so expect the same great writing and characters.

Final Thoughts
I would have liked to not only have more time to play this, but also in a much quieter location. Who would have thought the first GTA game on a Nintendo system would be for the DS? Amburg said Nintendo is very excited about this game so don't expect any controversy from their side. If you're attending the New York Comic-Con, swing by the Rockstar booth and check it out. You have to be 17+ to play, and, yes, they are carding.