Grand Theft Auo: Chinatown Wars (PSP)  Review
Review

Grand Theft Auo: Chinatown Wars (PSP) Review

90
Team Digit   Dec 24, 2009

Verdict

All in all, Chinatown Wars is an awesome portable game and a proud part of the GTA legacy. Its graphics and sound are much more awesome than the DS version, and the gameplay has been handled really well. Oh, and before I forget, if you have an account at the Rockstar Games Social Club, you can upload your statistics from the game to your account at any time, and as you proceed through the game and continue uploading, you�ll unlock new downloadable content, including additional missions, a bulletproof car or two and much more. The only complaint I have with the game is that it feels a bit too easy: I was able to progress through the whole game without using cheats or suffering too much (normally, as far as GTA is concerned, I�m a shameless cheater), not knowing that there were cheats for the PSP. However, Chinatown Wars is an excellent game that every GTA lover should have in his collection. And for all those of you who don�t have a DS and were denied this pleasure, weep no longer: buy this game and take your revenge on all the smug Nintendo-lovers out there who bought it and loved it before you did.

Grand Theft Auo: Chinatown Wars (PSP) detailed review

Introduction

 

Huang Lee’s in for some serious trouble and you’re in for some serious fun. Get ready for some... BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA!

 

Early in 2009, Grand Theft Auto fans and Nintendo haters alike cried themselves to sleep as Rockstar released an all-new GTA exclusively for the Nintendo DS. A GTA that returned to the top-down view of the original GTAs. A GTA that brought back everything fun about the GTA series that was cut from GTA4. A GTA that was simply packed with touchscreen-sensitive mini-games. A GTA that was famous for having over 800,000 lines of code. A GTA that shot the DS to fame among die-hard action gamers. That was Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Now, a whole lot of cash-strapped Sony lovers, GTA fans, and Nintendo haters are dancing for joy and waving their middle fingers in the faces of Nintendo lovers everywhere because GTA Chinatown Wars has come to the PSP, and it’s cooler, flashier, smoother, slicker and WAY better than the DS version.

 

Tanks for the memories, Liberty City... Going postal in the middle of the night... ...and in the middle of the day. BUSTED!

 

“Uncle, this is 2009, not 1403!”

Chinatown Wars follows the story of Huang Lee, the rich, spoiled playboy son of a recently murdered Triad boss, as he arrives in the Liberty City of GTA4 (which is strangely missing the state of Alderney) with an ancestral sword to give to his uncle Wu “Kenny” Lee. Unfortunately, Huang is ambushed upon arrival at the airport and robbed of the sword. After somehow making his way to his uncle’s restaurant, Huang discovers that his uncle intended to give the sword to resident triad boss Hsin Jiaoming as a gift in order to ensure his position as the next boss, which is now up for grabs between him, Hsin’s son Chan and Chan’s rival Zhou Ming. From then on, Huang sets out to help his uncle take the top spot, avenge his father’s murder and recover his family’s sword. As GTA storylines go, this is pretty average, but it gets better with the addition of some new storyline missions that were added exclusively for the PSP, a few of which involve Huang and fame-hungry citizen journalist Melanie Mallard (think Barkha Dutt’s brain in a blonde Kareena Kapoor’s body) documenting the drug trade of Liberty City, which basically means she’ll be taping you making like The Terminator on drug dealers.

 

Did I say drug dealers? Oh yes I did, because in Chinatown Wars, drug dealing is the name of the game. Since doing missions for the various bosses doesn’t really pay much (or at all, sometimes), the easiest way to make money is through drug dealing. There are 80 different dealers scattered across the city who show up as blue dots on the in-game GPS. You can visit them and buy or sell any of Liberty City’s favourite highs: Coke, Ecstasy, Downers, Weed, Acid, and Heroin, and after your first deal with them, the dealers will turn from blue dots to blue briefcases and be added to the “contacts” section of your PDA’s GPS. The PDA’s map shows different gang territories, each one with their own supply and demand, so you basically buy coke on Biker turf and sell it on Russian turf, then buy ecstasy from there and trade that for acid on Irish turf, then trade that for heroin on Korean turf, which you finally sell on Triad turf. This is more fun than it sounds, because occasionally you’ll get emails from different dealers announcing great deals, and the nature of the gameplay is so addictive that you’ll soon be desperately racing from one dealer to another and then back to your safehouse (on the go, you can only carry up to 50 packs of drugs at a time) to stock up and then sell out. (Make it quick, these deals only last for two days)

 

However, drug dealing isn’t the only side-mission available in Chinatown Wars. To every GTA lover’s great relief, all the vehicle-based side-missions that were available in the GTA3 era and yet suddenly got cut from GTA4 are back and kicking. I’m talking cop car, taxi driver, fire truck, takeout van, they’re all back, and with a difference: you can now score bronze, silver and gold medals for completing enough sub-missions. The same scoring system applies to the return of the (drum roll, please)...RAMPAGES! That’s right, the beloved kill frenzies of the GTA3 era are back and kicking, with a twist: rather than kill a certain number of gangsters with a random gun and unlimited ammo in a limited amount of time, you now have to score as many points as you can by taking down gangsters and gang vehicles, occasionally with an AI-controlled henchman or two by your side. There’s also a new kind of Rampage called Riding Shotgun, involving you, a pickup truck and a minigun-wielding Triad member cutting down gang cars, and it’s a blast. But still, if you’re into GTA storyline missions, you can replay them by going to a safehouse and accessing the whiteboard. On the whiteboard, you’ll have pictures of all the various characters you’ve worked for, and to replay a mission, you just have to select a photo and all the missions you’ve done for that character will be displayed. You can then select the mission that you want to play and attempt for better time or a high score, a la Manhunt. This is something that the GTA series has been wanting for a very long time and will hopefully continue to use in forthcoming games.

 

Oh, and before I forget, the cop chases in GTA Chinatown Wars are something else. While evading the cops in previous GTAs involved you snatching a ride and getting it repainted at a Pay’n’Spray, that got more than a little hard when you had a five-and-six-star wanted level and had the FBI and army on your ass, and you’d more often than not end up shot to bits or handcuffed before you even got there. However, in Chinatown Wars, a cop-basher mechanic has been lifted from NFS Carbon and installed here with very delightful and desirable results. Now, for every star in your wanted level, you have to take out a certain number of cop cars by crashing into them or making them crash...sorry, no rocket launchers allowed. Basically, this means if you have a three-star wanted level, you’ll have to knock out three cruisers to get down to a two-star wanted level, then knock out another two cruisers to get to a one-star wanted level, and finally knock one last cruiser out to completely erase the wanted level. This is really a lot of fun, and it’s a great deal easier than fleeing them.

 

Hotwiring a Hellenbach (blue) in Broker Enter the Dragon...exit the Latinos. This mission can be downloaded from the Rockstar Games Social Club after finishing the main storyline of the game I’ve got mail...and an empty tank...and the law on my ass.

Land of the freebasing...

The unique aspect of Chinatown Wars that made it so cool on the DS was that it went back to the top-down view of the original GTAs by using cel-shaded comic book-style graphics reminiscent of XIII. The problem with that was that the cars looked awfully pixellated and considerably unattractive, not to mention the pedestrians and the city. The game also lacked a day/night cycle like other GTA games. Fortunately, all that has been rectified on the PSP version of the game. The cars and surroundings are now given a full 3-D coating without any comic book-pixellation, and that makes their detailing a lot more visible and pleasant to look at, because they now resemble the top-down view of GTA3, not that any of my readers will remember it. The day/night cycle that was missing from the DS version of the game has also been restored, and with it the “passage of time” feel. The only cel-shading remaining is in the people, and that’s literally pixel-free: now you can differentiate between the men and the women. The unnatural openness of GTA2 and the full-scale madness of GTA3 come together in GTA Chinatown Wars in unexplainable ways. And it feels good. The PSP’s improved graphics engine also makes some of the cars take on a new appearance and makes them resemble their GTA4 incarnations rather than their GTA3 ones: any hardcore GTA fan will be able to tell the difference.

 

The sound is also a good point worth of mention: the car sounds, cop sirens and gun shots sound convincing enough to have been taken from GTA4. The music is also pretty good, especially because the soundtrack includes six new radio stations that weren’t in the DS version of the game, and are pretty fun to listen to in their own right. Unfortunately, while there’s a lot of banter on the streets, the developers strangely forgot to put any voice acting in the comic book panel-esque cutscenes. Even a little DJ banter on the radio would be nice, but no, there’s no voice acting at all in GTA Chinatown Wars: even the radio stations are all instrumental. That really hurts, but fortunately, the save-anywhere feature makes up for it a bit.

 

Yes, that’s right, I said save-anywhere feature. After each mission, sub-mission or rampage, the game autosaves, but you can also save by opening up your PDA (press <Start>) and selecting ‘Save Game’. This is a much-desired add-on to the GTA series, which was first used in GTA Advance, and it makes a great change from driving back and forth to one of your various safehouses scattered across the city (which are a thing and a half to find). Autosaves might take up to 17 seconds, but I don’t care: there are no load times when travelling across the different boroughs of Liberty City.

 

However, although Chinatown Wars is an awesome game that makes the best of what the PSP has to offer, the transition from a touchscreen-sensitive console to a conventional one has not been without its issues. What made Chinatown Wars so unique for the DS was a large number of touchscreen-sensitive mini-games that used the DS stylus and microphone. These have all been relegated to the PSP’s analog stick and face buttons, and sometimes it hasn’t been done so well. Hotwiring cars with a screwdriver, cutting/welding away van panels to search for drugs and guns and rummaging through dumpsters for food, drugs and weapons was fun on the DS, and it’s also pretty okay using the analog stick and shoulder buttons on the PSP. However, making Molotov cocktails at the gas station doesn’t feel as accurate with the analog stick as it did with the stylus, and it will involve you spilling a lot more gas and making a few less Molotovs than you wanted to, and drawing tattoos on the DS has been horribly turned into an analog stick-wiggling mini-game that is woefully inaccurate. Similarly, assembling a sniper rifle has also changed: on the DS, you assembled the whole rifle on the bottom screen with the stylus, while on the PSP, you’re shown each individual part of the rifle as it comes and you have to rotate the analog stick in the direction that the arrows indicate to assemble it. This feels and looks a bit better than just assembling it like a LEGO set on the DS. Taxi whistling with the DS microphone and throwing grenades with the stylus, which were an annoyance on the DS, have been relegated to the face buttons: hold <Triangle> to whistle an empty cab (to jack it like normal, just tap it), and hold <L> and aim with the analog stick to throw grenades. This is not only easy, but a real relief. Unfortunately, the camera control, which was easy as pie on the DS, has gone for a six on the PSP: so many times you’ll be lost during intense gun battles or street races and have to keep tapping <Up> on the D-pad to right yourself. Fortunately, on the road, you can use the PDA to set up a GPS pathway to whichever destination you want, and since the cars automatically align to the road, this makes the driving a bit easier.

 

Another issue is that the six-player ad-hoc multiplayer mode of the DS version has been stripped down to a mere 2-player versus/co-op ad-hoc multiplayer mode. However, the different game modes are a lot of fun: there’s a standard race mode and another that allows you to kill your opponents to gain extra time, there’s Stash Dash, where one player steals a van full of merchandise and gets it back to a secluded safehouse while the other player tries to stop him, there’s a standard deathmatch, and a survival mode where you and a comrade have to last against incredible waves of AI-controlled gangsters and prevent them from destroying your base: nothing much, we've seen it all in GTA Vice City Stories.

 

Eat your heart out, Starsky and Hutch! The whiteboard allows you to replay any of your favourite story missions Extremely cheap coke: there’s gotta be a catch. This intrepid citizen journalist gives out missions that weren’t in the DS version of the game...

Quittin’ the city...

All in all, Chinatown Wars is an awesome portable game and a proud part of the GTA legacy. Its graphics and sound are much more awesome than the DS version, and the gameplay has been handled really well. Oh, and before I forget, if you have an account at the Rockstar Games Social Club, you can upload your statistics from the game to your account at any time, and as you proceed through the game and continue uploading, you’ll unlock new downloadable content, including additional missions, a bulletproof car or two and much more. The only complaint I have with the game is that it feels a bit too easy: I was able to progress through the whole game without using cheats or suffering too much (normally, as far as GTA is concerned, I’m a shameless cheater), not knowing that there were cheats for the PSP. However, Chinatown Wars is an excellent game that every GTA lover should have in his collection. And for all those of you who don’t have a DS and were denied this pleasure, weep no longer: buy this game and take your revenge on all the smug Nintendo-lovers out there who bought it and loved it before you did.

 

...and promptly gets whacked by her boyfriend for doing so. Feeling hot, hot, hot... Come on, baby, light my fire... Lock, stock, and two smoking barrels of gasoline = Chili Con Carnage

ECSTASY:

Re-playable story missions (including PSP-exclusive missions)

Addictive drug dealing

Return of vehicle sub-missions

Return of RAMPAGES!

Save-anywhere feature

Awesome 3-D/cel-shaded graphics

Great music and sound (including PSP-exclusive radio stations)

Very addictive police chases

 

DOWNERS:

- Ad-hoc multiplayer supports only two

- Certain touchscreen-sensitive mini-games feel slightly chunky with the analog stick

- No voice-acting in the cutscenes
 


The heated 2-player multiplayer modes will set you on fire...literally.

Rating: 9.5
Graphics: 10
Gameplay: 10
Sound: 10
Mojo: 10

 

Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar North
Reviewer: Pranab “Maverick” Pant
Genre: Action
No. of players: Single/2-player multiplayer
GORE: Small pools of blood, a ripped-in-half corpse or two if you use the chainsaw. Oh, and a whole lot of street talk and street drugs.
 ESRB Rating: Mature

 

Percentage completed: 70.21
Rampages: 21
Riding Shotgun: 2
Security Cameras: 56
Street Races: 3
Days spent in-game: 45
Times died: 12
Times arrested: 0
Favourite weapon: Twin pistols
Favourite Rampage: Carbine rifle
Favourite sports car: Banshee
Favourite muscle car: Stallion
Favourite exotic car: CityScape
Favourite sedan: Chavos
Favourite gangcar: Triad Hellenbach
Favourite boss: Wade Heston
Favourite mission: Dock’U’Mental (Melanie Mallard)
Favourite boss fight: Zhou Ming
Favourite drug: Acid
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