Central to this new fun-filled slant is the re-jigged police pursuit system. Instead of sticking a big 'police radius' on your map, Wars simply displays the number of pursuing police cars on the HUD - more cars for more stars - and once you've successfully smashed them off the road and slipped past the eyes of others, your wanted level will disappear.
This way you're encouraged to take on the coppers in crash-filled ram-offs, rather than swimming in an empty canal for ten minutes hoping no one spots you. A subtle but effective 'auto straighten' assist makes these high-speed police chases even more effortless on DS.
But perhaps the most controversial and key addition to GTA's DS outing are the new drug-dealing mini-games. We call them 'mini-games' but they're actually an integral, compelling part of Chinatown Wars' story - and they work brilliantly.
Using your touch screen PDA to seek out rival gangs' drug dealers, you can flog and sell dodgy substances to build your property empire and make a ton of cash in the process. Like San Andreas' turf wars mechanic, the drug dealing gameplay can quickly become an addictive and absorbing game in itself, and we've had some dodgy looks in the office upon complaining aloud that "nobody wants to buy our f***ing heroine".
Each gang has their preferred buy-and-sell substances, and you'll often get e-mail alerts when a visiting dealer is desperate to flog or acquire a certain commodity (this is where you'll make the most cash).
Buying the Irish gangs' speciality, Acid, and then offloading it to the hungry Midtown Gangsters for a profit is a quick way to grow your dollar, for example. But stockpiling a certain drug when a dealer's doing special rates and then selling it on at "a high price" (as the Merchant from Resi 4 would say) is the most rewarding strategy. It's so good we'd love to see dealing taken on by the next home console episode.
Multiplayer modes consist of co-op and versus-style game types similar to GTA IV's which, while being a good blast with a lot of players, ultimately lack the scope and ambition to drag you away from the masterful single-player game.
92% of the time Chinatown Wars is a brilliant, inventive top-down GTA experience, which is why it comes most highly recommended to any over-18 (but probably under 65) DS owner.
A seriously good, fat-free but surprisingly deep GTA experience - that you can play on the toilet.
- Liberty City looking fantastic on DS
- Unique, consistently entertaining missions
- Drug dealing works brilliantly
- Pure fun
- Fiddly combat lock-on... again