Jeremy Jastrzab
15 Sep, 2009

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Preview

PSP Preview | Didn't think we'd be back this fast.
Upon the start of the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS war, developers branched out in two different directions. Some went the graphical route with the PSP and others went the ‘innovative’ route with the DS. Following the capture of the casual market, the DS became the frontrunner and subsequently received ports form the PSP. Mind you, most weren’t any good, but the fact was that the horse had bolted.

In a strange twist, there’s a title originally developed for the DS that is now being ported over to the PSP, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, which was originally released in March this year. Now it’s due for a PSP release some time before the end of the year. Having played through the entirety of Chinatown Wars on the DS, was there any reason for the game to be played again over on the PSP?

Having taken the PSP version for a spin, the short answer is no. However, this will only apply to those who have played through the whole of the DS version. Apart from the technical upgrade and adaption from two screens to one, this is essentially the same game. However, for those who haven’t played the game on the DS, this is may in fact be a good thing. After all, Chinatown Wars is a more accessible, more suited to portability and above all, way more over-the-top than it’s PSP predecessors, Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories.

Real fire this time!

Real fire this time!
Apart from the addition of half a dozen or so missions and another character, which is quite welcome with the somewhat sparse cast, the story is unchanged. You still play as Huang Lee, the son of a murdered triad boss, who is charged with delivering the family ‘heirloom’ and symbol of leadership to his uncle in Liberty City. Of course, you’re ambushed upon arrival, lose the heirloom and your pants and are forced to start with nothing and work your way up.

PSP specific additions mainly include the graphical upgrade and adaption, though the top-down perspective has been retained. The overall cartoony style remains the same, though the cut-scenes have been re-drawn to fit in widescreen and support a finer detail. Thankfully, the ridiculous, albeit not-so-witty dialogue has remained in its original form. Aspects such as changing weapons and use of your PDA have all been modified so that they all now fit on the one screen. The PDA now works something like the XMB on the PSP or PS3.

As mentioned, the game will play the same way that it did on the DS, from a top-down perspective. This was a refreshing throw back to a less serious era and has the advantage of not relying on a non-existent second analogue nub to control the camera. The analogue nub proved to be better for moving Huang around, but lacked the precision of the d-pad when driving. In adapting to one screen, the map and the gameplay screen are now on the one screen, while you press select to bring up the weapons screen. While still feeling slightly ungainly and lacking in control, the biggest advantage of the PSP was the much less cumbersome use of grenades.

Check your damn mail, will you!

Check your damn mail, will you!
Apart from the grenade controls, the DS touch screen and stylus were quite cleverly implemented in numerous mini-games. These mini game controls have been adapted to use the buttons and analogue nub. This is a bit of a shame, since they were done really well on the DS. While the car-jacking mini games seemed to work fine, there is still a question mark over games that require more precision such as the tattoo drawing game. Unfortunately, the near identical conversion means that the DS version faults are here as well, such as the overabundance of police.

The improvement in the graphics is somewhat subtle at first glance, but much more noticeable once you glance back at the DS version. The in-game visuals are not so much cel-shaded as they are in proper 3D, while smaller details such as proper fiery explosions, car lights and day and night cycles can now be noticed. While it may not push the PSP too far, be grateful that it’s clean. There have been a number of tunes added and the overall audio quality has been enhanced, but there still aren’t any voices in the cut-scenes or actual songs. Still, it could be argued that the absence of these doesn’t hinder the overall experience and portability.

While Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the PSP is not much different from the DS version, it doesn’t have to be for those who haven’t already played it. Those yet to experience it and that don't already dislike the GTA formula, have one of the most comprehensive portable-ised console experiences to look forward to and ironically, one of few games that will make it to the PSP to fulfil the console-on-a-handheld mantra. As a GTA title, it’s a refreshing throwback to a more caricatured and fun-orientated era. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars will be available both on UMD and for download on the PSP Go.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the PSP will be of primary interest to those who haven't played it yet.

Related Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Content

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review
21 Oct, 2009 Hang on a sec... We've been here!
Debut trailer for GTA: Chinatown Wars on PSP
09 Oct, 2009 Now the other half can see what all the fuss was about.
4 years ago
I reckon I'll consider picking this one up when it comes out. I skipped the DS version, but this looks quite appealing and reminiscent of GTA II.
4 years ago
That's how I play my GTA games, run around with the nub but drive around with the d-pad. This is a must buy for me if I ever get a PSP, might have to get an old one but the Go sure is sexy imo.
4 years ago
I may still buy this even though I have the DS version.I'm not a graphics whore in the slightest but I still like more advanced graphics.Besides I bought the PSP and PS2 versions of both LCS and VCS.
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Australian Release Date:
  20/10/2009 (Confirmed)
  Rockstar Games
Year Made:

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