So you escape the sinking car and, of course, it's time to steal a car of your own (or whistle for a taxi - literally by whistling into the DS mic). Again, the stylus controls come into play. Leap into a car and the dashboard appears on the bottom screen. Now the stylus becomes a screwdriver which you have to stick into the on-screen ignition slot until the motor starts.
Each car has its own specs and handling. But to make things easier the game automatically (but very subtly) straightens your car up in line with straight roads as you speed along - a welcomed option that can be disabled if you wish.
New to Chinatown Wars is a burnout mechanic which, by holding accelerate and handbrake, you can spin your wheels and then burn off leaving a trail of fire. The fire, hilariously, kills nearby people, which is as useful as it is funny in police chases. But overdo it and you can pop your wheels. Do that and you'll need to steal a new car, but the more fancy the car you steal, the more difficult the touch-based mechanic is to get it started.
We hijacked a sports car that required us to loosen four screws and remove a panel, exposing two wires that needed to be ripped out and connected to start the engine - all on the touch screen. Imagine the tension during a heated chase.
You have no mobile phone this time. Instead you have a PDA where you can check email when a character is ready to give you a mission. In true Rockstar fashion there's plenty of spam too. You'll also receive mail when drug deals are going down, as part of that controversial drug-dealing side mission.
We call it a side mission, but the whole drug dealing mechanic boasts surprising depth. You can buy any number of substances, including weed, cocaine, heroine, acid and whatnot, from various gangs.
Selling these in different areas gets you varying levels of profit. So it's up to you to hunt out good buying and selling deals to maximise profit. Keep an eye out for undercover cops posing as dealers though. Ambushes aren't so easy to escape. You can get caught up in this side of the game for hours.
The game's main mission structure remains largely unchanged. Key contacts are marked on your map. You start off knowing just one person, but make other contacts as you progress. We played four missions. Store Wars saw us fighting to protect a shop from armed attackers. First you have to create a roadblock by parking cars in designated areas, then wait for the bad guys to roll in, gun cocked.
You see them appear on the radar, which can be displayed on either the top or bottom screen (your choice) as a red dot. Here it controls like GTA IV. The R button locks onto a target, A shoots, and a tap on L changes your target. It all worked well.
A typical selection of guns is available. Uzi, assault rifle, pistol and, best of all, an ultra-powerful chain gun. That last baby can explode cars in seconds - before the goons can even jump out. But if you're too close to the explosion it'll kill you. We learnt that the hard way.
In the second mission we had to drive to a gang's base concealing a list of spy names. To do this, we had to place an explosive charge on the wall - another cool stylus mechanic - and blow it. Then we needed to park a van backed into the wall and ward off incoming swarms of bad guys as our people sneak in, grab the list and bail into the van before we make our frenzied getaway.
Chase scenes on DS are just as manic as in the console versions. There's a new escape mechanic in which ramming police cars off the road can lower your star rating. Hit a cop car hard enough to break it and a big 'X' appears over the car. Tally up Xs equal to your star level (three Xs for a three star level) and your total level drops one. It's not realistic, but its fun and that's what this cel-shaded, OTT rendition of GTA is all about.