The Most Impressive 'GTA: Chinatown Wars' Feature So Far

I listed many key "Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" features in my preview of the game yesterday. And while few things can top the DS' newfound ability to talk like a "GTA" pedestrian (see the third-to-last bullet point in yesterday's piece), the "GTA CW" feature that most impressed me gets a standalone post right here.


Like several DS games before it, "Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" will have Wi-Fi support. Rockstar Games isn't ready to detail that support yet. Company representatives at a hands-on demo I was provided this week aren't saying, for example, how the game's multiplayer modes will work and whether they involve short-range wireless play or over-the-Internet play or what.

But what Rockstar reps did make clear is that 'GTA: Chinatown Wars" is designed to be a game worth trading Nintendo Friend Codes for, maybe for competing against each other, maybe for swapping scores in the games' gold-silver-bronze-ranked missions... something.

Amidst all of that, the Rockstar folks did tell me about one tantalizing feature that I've since decided more games would benefit from: the ability to send gamers mapped waypoints over Wi-Fi. The implications are grand and could revolutionize the way gamers seek and get help for games they're stuck in.

Here's how the feature might work: the lower DS screen in "Chinatown Wars" displays a mini-map. Tapping on it causes the entire lower screen to render a draggable, zooomed-in road map of the game's Liberty City. Tapping on any location on that map wil mark a waypoint. On the map, the game will draw the shortest legal path to that destination. That's as much as I saw. What I didn't see is how this feature would be brought online, though it was explained to me: simply, a gamer can connect with a friend over Wi-Fi and then send that waypoint data to a friend's DS.

Imagine being stuck in any game and not knowing where to go next or not knowing where some great hidden item is. Typically, your options to extricate yourself from the jam would involve: logging onto GameFAQs, stumbling through an IM conversation with a friend to figure out what you missed, or having another friend take the controller in her hands and get you to the spot herself.

"Chinatown Wars" allows for something different. Forget all those other ways of getting help. If you don't know where to go in the game and we're DS friends, it seems that I'll be able to mark a waypoint in my copy of the game and zap it to your copy of the game. What better help could I possibly provide?

Imagine, readers, if you could do that for me, sending map markers into my copies of my games. You could put a mark on my "Fallout 3" map to tell me where I need to go to get some cool new item. You could send me a marker for a spot in "Burnout" where you think I can make a good stunt run.

If Rockstar does deliver this feature as they described it to me, then what they're providing may radically change the way we help each other play games. They'll be improving gaming lives everywhere.

"Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars" ships for the Nintendo DS on March 17.

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