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Rockstar has captured and condensed the Grand Theft Auto series' high points and crammed them into one terrific title. Think the DS can't handle GTA? Think again.
— Official Nintendo Magazine

Grand Theft Auto series
chronology of events

2D Universe

1961London 1961
1969London 1969

3D Universe

1984Vice City Stories
1986Vice City
1992San Andreas

2D Universe

1997Grand Theft Auto

3D Universe

1998Liberty City Stories

2D Universe

1999Grand Theft Auto 2 (Possible)

3D Universe

2001Grand Theft Auto III

HD Universe

2008Grand Theft Auto IV
         – The Lost and Damned
         – The Ballad of Gay Tony
2009Chinatown Wars

2D Universe

2013Grand Theft Auto 2 (Possible)

HD Universe

2013–presentGrand Theft Auto Online
2013Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a 2009 action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar Leeds and published by Rockstar Games for the Nintendo DS, Sony PlayStation Portable, iOS and Android devices. It was originally released on March 17, 2009. It is the thirteenth installment in the Grand Theft Auto series, and the fourth title to be specifically developed for handheld consoles.

As part of the HD Universe of the Grand Theft Auto series, Chinatown Wars is set in Liberty City in the year 2009, one year after the events of Grand Theft Auto IV. The game's story follows the adventures of Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a Triad boss. Following the murder of his father and the theft of their family sword, Huang begins to work for several high-profile figures in Liberty City's Asian scene to find out the truth behind his father's death and the sword.

Development began due to mutual interest in the project by developer Rockstar Games and console creator Nintendo. Chinatown Wars is played from a top-down perspective, with a rotatable aerial camera that allows the player to dynamically change angles during action sequences; unlike previous top-down titles in the series, Chinatown Wars uses fully 3D graphics with the exception of its cutscenes. As Huang, players are allowed to freely explore Liberty City, in its Grand Theft Auto IV rendition sans the State of Alderney.

Upon release, Chinatown Wars was critically acclaimed by critics, with praise directed towards its gameplay, mission design, visuals and general quality as a mature-rated handheld game, although the it also saw controversy for its inclusion of a drug dealing mini-game. The game's original release was noted as below developer Rockstar's expectations, selling under 900,000 over its first two weeks on American market.

A port for the Sony PSP was released on October 20, 2009, featuring enhanced visuals and additional missions. Chinatown Wars was later released on iOS devices in 2010, and Android devices in 2014. All ports received critical acclaim, with critics citing the new edition's enhanced features and controls.


Huang Lee, the game's protagonist.

Huang Lee, the spoiled son of a recently murdered Triad boss, arrives by plane in Liberty City bringing Yu Jian with him, a sword that Huang's father won in a poker game, intending it to be used as an heirloom, to deliver it to the new patriarch of the family, Huang's uncle Wu "Kenny" Lee. Shortly after landing, Huang's escorts are killed by assassins and he is shot (a bullet grazes the side of the head but he survives) and kidnapped. The assailants steal the sword and, thinking Huang is dead, dump his body in the water. Huang manages to survive and informs Kenny that Yu Jian has been taken. Kenny explains that he had intended to offer the sword to Hsin Jaoming, the aging Triad boss in Liberty City, as a means of securing a position as his replacement. Kenny has been dishonored and reduced in power due to the loss of Yu Jian, leaving him and Huang working to keep their businesses afloat.

Eventually, Huang is contacted by Zhou Ming, a high-ranking Triad member, and Chan Jaoming, son of Hsin. Both men are also competing to be Hsin's replacement, and employ Huang to combat each other's efforts. After Chan hires Huang for a deal that goes badly, LCPD Detective Wade Heston, a crooked undercover cop under pressure from Internal Affairs, intercepted Huang. Heston offers an alliance with Huang to find the men responsible for the theft of Yu Jian and the murder of Huang's father. Huang agrees and finds that Heston suspects a Korean gang allied with the Triads is behind the events. After combating the Koreans for a while, Heston plants a bug in the Koreans' headquarters, from which he learns that there is a splinter group inside the gang called the Wonsu Nodong. Heston determines that the leader of the Wonsu is the one responsible for Yu Jian's theft and is a police informant who has been causing trouble for the Triads.

Meanwhile, Hsin enlists Huang in finding the informant, only to then suspect Huang himself and attempt to kill him. Kenny arrives and convinces Hsin to give them time to find the real rat, bringing haste to Huang's mission. Hsin enlists Huang to investigate two gangs who may be housing the rat: the Angels of Death and the Korean Mob. Huang gets into contact with Lester Leroc, a PI inside the Angels of Death and performs his own work against the Koreans. Huang is temporarily thrown off course by the intervention of mafia member Rudy D'Avanzo, who tricks Huang into believing the mole is a Messina Family member named Jimmy Capra. Hsin later reveals D'Avanzo's trickery and Huang kills him.

Both the Koreans and the Angels are determined innocent, leading to a new course of investigation. Heston employs Huang to hack into the servers of the FIB in order to find the informant. The information revealed two names, both Zhou Ming and Chan Jaoming as having talked to the police about the Triads. This is taken to Hsin, who, disgraced that his own son is a suspect, instantly steps down as leader and appoints Kenny as the new head of the Liberty City Triads. Huang then executes both Chan and Zhou, despite each denying their guilt. Shortly after the killings, Heston, who informs him that the information they recovered was fake and that he has learned of a meeting between the leader of the Wonsu and his allies, contacts Huang. Huang and Heston go to the meeting and find Kenny, who admits that he was responsible for the theft of Yu Jian and Huang's father's death. Heston and Huang pursue Kenny across town, cornering him at Hsin's residence. Here, Kenny explains that he was tasked by Hsin to retrieve Yu Jian, thus Huang's father would have to die for it to be passed on to him, in exchange for a position underneath Chan. Kenny complied with this, but attempted to have Yu Jian stolen to keep himself from such a dishonorable position and later framed Zhou and Chan to cover his tracks.

After a final confrontation between Hsin and Kenny, Hsin demands the hand over of Yu Jian. Kenny ironically responds by stabbing Hsin with the sword as his way of presenting it to him. With Huang as witness to the murder and truth, Kenny engages in an inevitable final battle with Huang, who is the only one left in the way of Kenny's undisputed rise to power. Centered on a fountain with Kenny slashing away, Huang eventually kills Kenny, fulfilling his promise to avenge his father. Immediately the IAD and FIB arrive to arrest Heston and Huang, however Heston claims that he was in deep undercover and orders the arrest of everyone except Huang. On the floor and bleeding profusely, Hsin praises Huang with the loyalty and nobility to become his true successor as Triad boss, to which Huang has no immediate answer. Heston orders the FIB cops to arrest everyone in the building, including Hsin, but tells them not to arrest Huang because "he is a good kid even for a rich snot".

By completion of the story and locating the two Lions of Fo for the Rockstar Games Social Club, one can open up Xin Shan's missions. Xin instructs Huang to steal a Rhino to distract the police from a planned robbery. However, the cops ambush Xin; Huang attempts to take him to safety, but he succumbs to his injuries. Before his death, he makes the revelation that he is the brother of Ling Shan, a girl who was murdered early on in the game. Huang mourns for both of them.


Chinatown Wars has a different presentation than any previous game in the GTA series. Instead of a third person ground-level view behind the protagonist (Grand Theft Auto III - Grand Theft Auto IV) or a top-down perspective (Grand Theft Auto, Grand Theft Auto 2, Grand Theft Auto Advance), Chinatown Wars uses a fully rotatable aerial camera angled down at the action. This angle allows the camera to rotate dynamically during action sequences, and is only featured in this game out of the entire Grand Theft Auto series. The game uses a basic lock-on system for combat, which yields variable results, as sometimes the system locks on to vehicles instead of enemies. The game also locks on automatically when using melee weapons. One of the main features of the game, which distinguishes Chinatown Wars from the rest of the series, is the PDA. This is where many of the game's features are been accessed from, including the Ammu-Nation online shop and Trade Info, which is used in the drug dealing side feature. The PDA is also how the protagonist receives missions in the game in the form of emails, which is a nice substitute for the lack of voice acting in the game. While the top-down perspective may be beneficial in some ways, there are many downfalls. If one were to go under a building or other structure, the character would be unseeable. Also, this feature can make an iOS device run especially slow when not connected to WiFi.

Chinatown Wars re-introduces over-the-top gameplay, like in 3D Universe games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and to a lesser extent The Ballad of Gay Tony. The player can once again obtain and use weapons such as the Minigun, Flame Thrower, and Chainsaw. The game also re-introduces vehicles such as the Rhino, Bulldozer and the Speeder. Emergency side-missions such as Firefighter and Paramedic as well as Taxi driving also return.

Game Information


List of gangs in Chinatown Wars:

PSP version

Due to poor sales (in comparison to other Grand Theft Auto titles) of the DS version of the game, Rockstar decided to put the game on the PlayStation Portable. In October 2009, it was released and features new missions given by Melanie Mallard. The graphics were updated and, due to the differences between the two consoles, all the action was condensed to one screen, with the touch screen minigames replaced by quick time events. The PSP version includes a more diverse soundtrack of 11 radio stations, compared to five in the DS version.

iPhone/iPod Touch version

An Apple iPhone version of Chinatown Wars was announced on 31 August 2009, and on 17 January 2010, was released on the App Store. It cost $4.99 (originally $9.99). The graphics have reverted to the DS style, but has been updated with better colour and textures. It also features Independence FM, a custom radio station, where players can create a playlist of their favorite iTunes songs. The initial release required 186MB of storage memory on the iPhone/iPod touch [1] and included the same soundtrack radio stations as the DS version. Since 28 March 2010, an updated version includes the six radio stations that were exclusive to the PSP version. The additional music increased the size of the game to 232MB. On 9 June 2010 Take-Two Interactive revealed that an iPad version would be released within a month. The iPhone/iPod Touch version has no multiplayer feature, and does not have support for the Rockstar Social Club unlike the other two versions.

Graphical comparison between versions

Chinatown Wars Lite

A free demo version for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad was released around the same time as the full game, but was removed from the app store in 2015. It features the first three missions (Yu Jian, Pursuit Farce and Under the Gun) and full access to Liberty City and cars except for the MK GT9 and Style SR. If the player tries to go back to Kenny for Payback, the player will be asked to purchase the full version after the cut scene is finished. All radio stations were removed, with the exception of Deadmau5 and Ticklah; also, a substantial number of in-game services like the auto merchant and drug dealing were removed. All unique stunt jumps, surveillance cameras and side missions were also gone. Safehouses are unusable.

Chinatown Wars Fortune Cookie


Chinatown Wars Fortune Cookie was an app on the social media website Facebook that advertised for the release of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. It allowed sending ironic sayings that are based on sets of fortune cookies. The user could also create their own sayings. There were a total of 50 fortunes in English. The back of each fortune cookie revealed a Chinese word. The Facebook app existed for about a year or two and has since been a blank screen.


Date Award Category Recipient(s) and Nominee(s) Result
12 December 2009 2009 Spike Video Game Awards Best Handheld Game Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Won
24 December 2009 GameSpot's Best of 2009 Best Nintendo DS Game Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Won
24 December 2009 GameSpot's Best of 2009 Game of the Year Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Nominated
24 December 2009 GameSpot's Best of 2009 Action Game of the Year Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Nominated


There has been some controversy over a drug dealing minigame, along with comments that most Nintendo games are aimed at children. The drug dealing mini-game allows one to peddle six types of drugs around the city, but the profit the player makes depends on market conditions, which will be based on the area in which one deal, and the amount of service this area receives from the player regularly.

Nintendo wanted us to make GTA, and we wanted to make a game on their platform. They didn't want us to make a GTA for kids, and we weren't interested in making a game we wouldn't normally make.
Dan Houser



See more: Artworks in GTA Chinatown Wars


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  • It was stated in the UK magazine Official Nintendo Magazine that the game contained at least 800,000 lines of code, making it the most complex Nintendo DS game ever developed.
  • If one had pre-ordered the game from GameStop, they were provided a cheat code that allows players to unlock all the weapons at Ammu-Nation and receive $10,000 early in the game, or the ability to acquire a bullet-proof Infernus from the auto merchant.
  • All of the bosses in the game have their own theme songs, which plays whenever their missions are initiated.
  • Unlike the covers of nearly every Grand Theft Auto game since Grand Theft Auto III with the exception of Grand Theft Auto Advance, the cover of Chinatown Wars doesn't feature artwork of a helicopter in the top left corner, probably because they cannot be flown in the game, and only ridden in one mission.
  • In the top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right corners of the city (far out into the water), there are signs which say 'Here Be Dragons'.
  • If the player goes to the PDA Settings from the main menu, an "About BadgerOS" option can be opened, referring that for more information, the player should go to the game's official Rockstar Games site. It also has a date: 20:11:52 09/26/09, indicating that the game starts on 26th September of 2009 at 08:12 pm.
  • Chinatown Wars was the first Nintendo DS game to be rated for PEGI 18+ (for the European release).
  • Much of the audio was recycled from 3D Universe games. Examples include vehicle door and ignition sounds, and tire screeches. Most of the pedestrian dialogue was recycled from Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, Ammu-Nation was closed by the mayor due to weapons prohibition in Liberty City. In Chinatown Wars, it's back, making it the first to introduce Ammu-Nation in the HD Universe.
  • Chinatown Wars is the second game in the series to feature an Asian protagonist. The first being Mikki from the original GTA.
  • Using cheats in the game renders the swiveling gun of the Rhino, Police Boats, and Fire Hoses on the Firetrucks unusable on the iOS & Android platforms.
  • Chinatown Wars, alongside GTA and GTA 2, are the only games in the series which does not feature any characters who physically appear in any other game. Unlike GTA and GTA 2, Chinatown Wars is the only non-standalone game to do this.
  • The protagonist, characters and pedestrians are actually 4 layered transparent animated sprites. Unlike GTA, GTA 2, and GTA Advance, where they are one layer.
  • Huang Lee's PDA menu changes depending on the platform.


External Links