Everyone remembers Grand Theft Auto 3 and how revolutionary it was at the time, but some might not be aware of its origins. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars takes the old school perspective and style of Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2, but it adds the intriguing story and gameplay mechanics that made the series from 3 and on so addicting. Not only does it manage to squeeze all the fun and bizarre elements from its console counterpart, but it even throws in a few new additions of its own into the mix.
Players return once again to Liberty City, the same one seen in GTA IV, and unravel the plot through Huang Lee. Shortly after his father is murdered Lee travels to Liberty City to avenge his father’s death. His welcome wagon turns into a bloodbath as his escort is ambushed and things immediately take a turn for the worst. In moments he is shot, left for dead, and has found himself thrown into the power struggle between Triad gangs.
Does the new portable GTA live up to the previous titles in the series, or does it fail in converting the well known formula in this new addition? Let’s examine the HOTs and NOTs.
The sound effects in the game are quite impressive given its portable nature. Every object in the world has a realistic and believable sound associated with it. Whether glass is shattering, a trash can is being hit, or an unfortunate pedestrian was struck by your car you can expect the noise to fit the action perfectly. The radio station has been given an upgrade from the DS list expanding the station count from five to eleven. The stations are compiled of instrumental versions of popular genres including: jazz, metal, rock, dance, hip-hop, etc. Although none seem to be anything mainstream or popular they are very catchy and fit the game nicely. The game does not contain any voice work however, but it really does not detract from the overall experience.
The game returns to GTA’s roots and gives the player a top down view. It is a welcome change and seems to fit portable play better.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars contains many features seen before while also adding a substantial amount of new content. As usual, taking certain vehicles such as ambulances, police cars, noodle delivery vans (new), etc allow Huang Lee to impersonate these people and complete missions that are structured around the stolen occupation. For example, stealing a a fire truck presents the player with the option of activating a set of missions where they must race against the clock to put out designated fires. Upon completion they are rewarded with variable sums of money. Another interesting activity that can be taken on is the act of hijacking drug or weapon transport vehicles. Once the hijack is initiated the goal is to get the vehicle back to a safe house before being overwhelmed by gunfire so that its contents can be stashed. Other activities include searching for specific cars to take part in a race or delivery mission. Also, the Grand Theft Auto series brings back the classic Rampage activity that tasks the player with fighting against the clock to achieve a certain amount of kills using a specified weapon. If you have played any previous GTA game, then you are most likely accustomed to finding hidden packages or stunt jumps. Chinatown Wars is sure not to leave out the collectables the series has kept going. Stunt jumps, breakable billboards, and 100 security cameras are scattered among the map just waiting to be discovered. In terms of new additions, the GPS route can now be laid out on the road as you are driving so you don’t have to bother with the mini map at the bottom of the screen. Other new features include the ability to save whenever you want from the PDA and being able to purchase weapons from Ammu-Nation via the PDA as well.
It is surprising that Chinatown Wars only had to eliminate one island from Grand Theft Auto IV’s playground for the PSP. If you look closely you will notice many similar landmarks and structures. Players will definitely enjoy seeing Liberty City sharing an extremely close resemblence to the console version.
The controls feel right at home on the PSP for the most part. The controls are pretty much exactly the same as they are on the console. X is used to sprint, Circle is fire, Square is used for climbing obstacles, and so on. Overall, the controls feel responsive and well laid out. There are a few that may feel awkward. Having to press up on the D-pad to readjust the camera may feel odd to some since they’ll have to take their thumb off of the analog temporarily. Also, the select button has many uses this time ranging from interacting with drug dealers to selecting your weapon. Although these problems are slightly inconvienent they aren’t enough to ruin the game for anyone.
Want to take a break from the story? No problem. Chinatown Wars allows two players to play together in many different modes. There are the common deathmatch and race options, but don’t overlook the other interesting modes that can also be enjoyed. Stash Dash mode pits players against each other as one tries to take control of a delivery van to make deliveries while the other does their best to thwart their progress. I found the multiplayer to be quite entertaining and even though a larger amount of players would be nice it is not a neccesity to get the most out of these modes.
From time to time the camera can create a problem. Since Liberty City was recreated with the console version in mind its large scale and clustered structures are still present. If you find yourself amongst a group of trees or passing under a bridge you may lose sight of your character. This is not a major issue unless you are engaging in a firefight and are having trouble locating your character.
From the first time you are presented with a mini game it will become obvious that they were definitely made for the DS. In the conversion process PSP owners are left with rotating the thumbstick and a click of the X button. They are never really challenging to the point where you would have to retry them. They just don’t feel completely comfortable and right on the PSP’s layout.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the PSP definitely outdoes previous portable GTA titles. It stays true to the series in size and content. Also, the gameplay and numerous activities are as fun and addicting as ever. In most aspects the PSP version improves upon what the original DS game offered. If you are a fan of the series this is a no brainer, but if you are new to GTA and looking for a long-lasting addition to your PSP collection I would highly recommend purchasing this.
[Editor’s Note: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was reviewed on a PSP platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher]Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review,