Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Nintendo DS)
You know how it goes: You’re out stealing cars and wantonly running down hapless pedestrians, and you think, “Man, this is fun! I should go home and play some Grand Theft Auto.” The devilishly addictive crime franchise has been wowing players with its sardonic humor, cartoonish violence, and huge environments for over a decade. Chinatown Wars is GTA’s debut on the Nintendo DS, and Rockstar Games has managed to stuff a fully-featured installment into the tiny hardware. The top-down view from the series’ early days replaces 3-D graphics, but Liberty City is sprawling, and your GPS makes navigating it a breeze.
As Huang Lee, you juggle the demands of various local crime syndicates while trying to avenge the death of your father. A broad variety of mission types, from escorts to assassinations, keeps things interesting. Clever touch-screen mechanics allow you to hotwire cars, bypass alarms, and set explosives. Only the storyline—irreverent as always, but surprisingly unfunny—is lacking. It’s weird that Rockstar faltered on the one element that shouldn’t have been affected by the DS’s technological capabilities. But really, who needs a well-developed story in a game where you can torch pursuing vehicles with a flamethrower?