So what has been keeping this old man amused recently? Well my birthday, way back in May netted me Condemned 2, Dead Space and Outrun 2 for the Xbox. Dead Space remains untouched, Condemned 2 has been abandoned due to it’s turgid pacing (I just lost interest in ‘Serial Killer X’ and the whole plot.) Outrun 2 (downloadable from XBLA is a sheer delight, the epitome of arcade racing – although somewhat ‘buggy’ and quick to crash.)
However, the franchise that has been keeping me busy throughout these turbulent times is the wonderful Grand Theft Auto universe, Rockstar’s fabulous gift to the gaming world. And the game that kick-started my current obsession? Why perhaps the least obviously appealing outing of the franchise so far, GTA China Town Wars for the DS.
With the money I accrued for my 42nd birthday, I decided to invest in a DS Lite and GTA CTW. The whole package cost me £80-ish and at last I had a fully functional DS with a responsive touch screen again! (My old ‘original’ DS had been sketchy for ages…)
And so I dipped into the world of Huang Lee, ‘Uncle Kenny’, triads, mafia and ancient stolen katanas. But can the tiny cartridge of the DS really encompass the vast world of Liberty City and do it justice? The short and emphatic answer to that question is “YES!” All but one of the boroughs of Liberty City found in GTA IV are recreated in the world of GTA CTW. You can actually recognise areas and neighbourhoods, despite the top-down “birds eye” view, and when you do, it’s quite a thrill! It’s also a testament to what Rockstar Leeds have managed to cram into a cartridge no bigger than a postage stamp!
Yes, there have been compromises in order to get a fully fledged GTA experience onto the DS. The ‘radio stations’ have been replaced by a variety of set soundtracks of different musical genres (although even these have been lovingly created by current artists such as Deadmaus, mentioned on these hallowed pages just a few weeks ago!)
Cut-scenes are limited to still pictures and captions (think Phoenix Wright) and of course we have the 2.5D top down view, but once you begin to play the game sucks you straight in and you very quickly forget the differences between this incarnation and those brought out on full-size consoles. It’s pure, unbridled GTA fun. All the elements are there, driving, drive-by shootings, securing safe-houses and encountering a wealth of colourful and intriguing characters (like the cross-dressing Mafioso), all served up with a tinge of irony and a good dash of humour.
Did I mention the drugs? Drug dealing is the backbone of Huang’s existence in Liberty City. It’s how he earns money to buy weapons and builds his empire. You’ve got to know your smack from your crack and your weed from your speed if you’re gonna progress in the game!
The game is just SO much better than either of the PSP titles, which have me struggling and a tad bored. GTA CTW was a joy to play and complete, encouraging me to pick up GTA IV again and finish it, quickly downloading ‘Lost and Damned’ as soon as Niko’s adventures had come to an end. I’ve also downloaded GTA San Andreas, so I should be good to go over the summer!
Oh and I’ve got my six weeks holidays starting on Friday, but I’m not promising an increase in blogging output… there’s every chance I’ll be gaming instead!