PSP Game Reviews: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review

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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review

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Replay Value:



Overall Rating:       8.9



Online Gameplay:

Not Rated


Rockstar Games


Rockstar North

Number Of Players:




Grand Theft Auto is a game best played with a nice hip-hop soundtrack behind you, and in some instances, to give it a more mafia-esque flavor, a set of classical tunes also go well. I'm listening to Fabolous' new "Loso's Way", and it's super slick production, flow, and beats fit quite well with the quality you'd find in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. You may think to yourself, 'what's a Nintendo DS game doing on the PSP?' Well, first, it's offering PSP owners an all new GTA game, that's a start. And to switch things up, instead of going for a visual overhaul, Rockstar kept the traditional angle of the game, and it works very well.

If you're a true fan of the GTA series, then you should've played the original PC games, back when they utilized a top-down perspective and much more simplified visuals. That traditional style is long gone thanks to the advent of more powerful consoles, but the camera angle has always found its way into the newer GTAs as a sort of little nostalgic bonus. But here we have Chinatown Wars, it's camera angle isn't exactly like the top-down perspective of the past games, but rather it has a bit of an isometric tilt to it to help you see ahead, and it's rotable.

Beyond the camera angle, fans of the modern-day GTAs will find very little to complain about here. The story is truly fantastic, probably the best since Grand Theft Auto III. It's a very personal tale driven by all the elements that have made GTA stories so solid, but with a bit more emphasis on personal feelings, so you feel connected with your main character, Huang Lee, more so than other GTA characters from the past. Huang is the son of a huge Asian mob boss who was murdered. Huang was given an heirloom sword that his father won during a poker game, and after his arrival to Liberty City, Huang is ambushed, his escorts murdered, and Huang left for dead in a sinking car.

The sword is gone, but Huang makes it out alive out of the water. You go to meet with your uncle Kenny, and from here on the adventure begins...and the drama rises quickly, I must say. As is the usual, through the many contacts you establish in the game, they will provide you with your missions, rewards, and so forth. You'll have numerous places to stay in, which, I'm sure you knew too. Your menu is designed very much like the PlayStation 3 and PSP's XMB (Cross Media Bar), and here you can manage your Communications (Email, Contacts), view Business reports (Ammu-Nation, Trade Info), view Personal info (Game Stats, Music Player), view Out & About features (GPS/routing, Briefs/Objectives), set up Multiplayer sessions, and view various System settings.

As far as the gameplay, Chinatown Wars plays superbly well. You've got the guns, you've got the fun, you've got the cars, and you've got missions that are unusually more fun than the console games. Don't ask me why or how they're more fun, they simply feel that way to me. Perhaps it's the portable nature and the more traditional gameplay, or perhaps it's the simplicity of it all, which I really dig. There's also the car jacking feature which activates when you try to steal a parked car. For example, one car will require you to use the analog stick to hot-wire the car, another car will require you to jam a screw-driver into the ignition and turn it with the analog stick, and another car will have pin-code protection enabled, which will require you to use your in-game PDA to find the code - it's a nice little feature. Chinatown Wars proves that you can be simplified and yet still feel like a proper console game would, because, honestly, I'd have loved to play this with even better HD visuals on the PS3 - that'd be divine.

And on that note, the visuals are really, really nice. You may think, 'but this is a DS port', well, it doesn't matter. Sony doesn't like direct ports, so of course you should expect the visuals here to be redone for the PSP, and they are strikingly sharp. Once you're in the game world, especially when it's bright outside, take a look at the buildings and the textures that make them, you'll notice the organic look, immediately. The colors and the lighting makes the textures stand out more, giving this game a very fine mixture of aesthetics that blends the true colors of New York/Liberty City with the look of GTA. I also quite liked how the cars reacted to crashes, and the damage is decent too. Just because Chinatown Wars looks simple, doesn't mean it is; a classic example of judging, books, and their covers. Also, for those wondering, the cut-scenes are artistic stills, instead of in-game. And the framerate is perfectly stable.

Due to time constraints, there is no voice acting here in Chinatown Wars, unlike other GTA games. The game measures somewhere around the 500MB mark, leaving almost another gig of space for the voices, but that would delay Chinatown Wars considerably, and make porting the game very expensive for Rockstar. As it stands though, I didn't mind reading the lines during the cut-scenes. That said, the ambient sounds of Liberty City continue to deliver the feel of a living city, as Chinatown Wars sounds pretty good, especially with a pair of headphones on. The PSP version also features a much larger soundtrack, but don't expect big licenses here, it's lower-key more underground stuff. But regardless, this game's got a solid soundtrack too.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a solid game with a ton of things to do. It is a very well featured GTA game that should provide GTA fans continuous enjoyment for hours on end. The story is really good with tons of twists, as you'd expect from a GTA game, and the gameplay is there to make everything feel super polished and practically full-scale. The visuals are nice, clean, and very sharp, and I highly doubt anyone would complain about them. I sincerely hope that Rockstar decides to do an HD release of this for the PS3, as a downloadable game, it's surely be a treat. But this is a superb handheld game, a definite must own.

11/11/2009 Arnold Katayev

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (12 posts)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 5:46:34 PM

I loved the first and second GTA, this is like a blast from the past. Will definitely check it out.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 5:46:41 PM

Haven't tried it yet the only problem I have with it is the price £32 is too much for any PSP game

Last edited by Naga on 11/11/2009 5:47:01 PM

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 5:59:47 PM

The lack of VO is the only complaint I have about this game. I can't stand reading text off the screen any more. Otherwise I love the game and think it turned out pretty good. But like you said, I love the story. You really feel connected to the main character when he explains why he is traveling to where he's going in the opening scene of the game.

Last edited by Jut420 on 11/11/2009 6:02:07 PM

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 7:07:23 PM


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 8:17:29 PM

the thing is with voice acting is you need to be able to hear it all the time, now mainly ppl play the psp while their on the go ( on the way to work etc,) or like me i play mine while the misses watches tele (i cant stand soaps!!) so i prefer games that i dont need any sound, and story telling game that sound is required, i get from my ps3

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 9:18:01 PM

Can't stand the overhead GTAs

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 9:32:24 PM

I was seriousley considering buying this game. Now I will be picking it up for sure.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 10:50:46 PM

Another terrific review, I'll be adding it to my Christmas wishlist :)

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 @ 11:41:11 PM

i was so, so, so, so excited for this, i literally shat my pants when they announced this for a psp.
thought finally i have a reason to buy a psp.
than i found out it was going the old style of scarface on the PSP :(
whats with developers taking a really popular game on consoles, completley changing it, fu**ing it up, than chucking it onto the psp?
i seriously loved Scarface on the ps2, absolutely loved it to death.
so once i saw it on psp, i bought a psp and it in a heart beat turned it on and felt my heart sink to the lower depths of hell.
why, o why do developers have to do this?
all they have to do is bring a popular series like devil may cry or resident evil or uncharted port it over make NO changes and your done.
you dont want to know what i would do to have uncharted running on the psp.
sony love sitting on cash cows, i would instantly buy a psp if they had more ps1 classics like ape escape, or pandemonium or resident evil.
but for some reason the PSN is deserted.
went over to a family friends place yesterday, and shat my pants when i found how many gamecube and such games are available to buy.
theres so many things sony could do and id be there cash in hand.
what are they waiting for.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009 @ 4:48:56 AM

Hmm not bad, might check it out

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Thursday, November 12, 2009 @ 10:14:06 AM

I'm waiting for its price to come down. There are too many other games that I think I will enjoy for half the price as this.

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The Doom
Monday, November 16, 2009 @ 11:18:59 PM

this game is so f*cking awesome, everyone should be forced to play this s*it. ESPECIALLY on PSP and ESPECIALLY on video-out

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