The Nintendo DS version of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars debuted seven months ago to rave reviews and fan admiration. The average score on Metacitic stands at an impressive 93% meaning the PSP adaptation is a no-brainer purchase for those who didn’t play Chinatown on the DS. With pleasure we head back into the Chinatown drama to see how this Playstation porting faired in its translation.
You could almost hear the rumblings coming from Nintendo fanboys camp as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was released on Playstation Portable. Unfortunately with the re-release of Chinatown Wars, Nintendo looses their bragging rights to this Grand Theft Auto exclusive, while PSP owners gain one hell of a game. In March Extreme Gamer reviewed the original release of Chinatown Wars giving it a healthy score of 9.2/10, and it seems the general public agreed (Metacritic Avg=93%). Chinatown Wars was a great game in March and it still is seven months later. As you can likely guess, GTA: Chinatown Wars holds up exceptinally well on the Playstation Portable.
Only Small In Stature
The Grand Theft Auto series has always done well on the PSP platform, even though it is usually limited in content compared to the console versions. This time around Grand Theft Auto is only working with the Nintendo DS version of the game which means everything is included, and then more! Chinatown Wars is a throwback to the first GTA games which any old-timer PC owner will love. The gameplay isn’t your normal third-person action game, in Chinatown you are dealing with a top down, ground-level styled gameplay that feels like a miniature version of what we are used to. Although the miniature part only referees to the size of the action on screen because every other aspect of Chinatown Wars is as big as its big brother console version. Chinatown Wars has a solid storylines, smooth gameplay and lots to do. Playing Chinatown Wars might even surprise a lot of GTA fans because of its refreshed retrospective approach.
Just Like Old Times
The mission structure in Chinatown Wars is set up like all the previous GTA games. You have complete freedom to jump in and out of the main scenario while roaming around Liberty City with all the side activities you are used to. Like the other GTA games you will likely find yourself busy doing odd missions like street racing, delivering food, or even selling drugs, just as much as the main missions. The main missions are the grand-daddy missions; however they can be a little stressful at times. This is why the open world formula works so well, it breaks up the action and keeps you in the game. Anyone who has played any of the Grand Theft Auto games in the past will know exactly what to do as soon as you’re let loose in Liberty.
Since Chinatown Wars is a porting of a game we have all ready reviewed, I am not going to bore by retelling all the basic facts of the game. If you're interested here is a link to our GTA: Chinatown Wars DS Review. Focusing on the Playstation Portable version keep in mind nothing has been lost, except for the unique gameplay mechanics of the Nintendo DS touch screen. Playing Chinatown Wars with the stylus was something you had to get used too, and for the most part it worked, but that was only after you mastered it. This is the biggest difference between the two versions and the thankfully the PSP version is very basic with no learning curve.
Love the Nub
The spots where you might start to miss the stylus the most is when you’re playing one of the small mini-games. The mini-games had a design that clearly was made to take advantage of the touch screen and in its translation it has been shifted over to the Playstation Portable nub, or D-pad. Using the D-pad to rotate and move around the cursor is a lot less fun, although I found it to be a lot easier. Things like hot-wiring cars or inking tattoos can’t really compare to the Nintendo DS stylus action. This is the PSP’s only shortcoming in Chinatown and one that has no solution. I think Rockstar did a great job compensating for the loss of the touch screen and even though it’s not as innovative, or realistic, it still works. Better yet, if you have never played the DS version you won’t be missing out on anything. All you have to do is love the nub.
Never Looked Better
What you will gain from the Playstation version are updated graphics in widescreen and a few nice extras. In widescreen the added viewpoint helps when you’re dealing with a top down game like Chinatown, and even though you can come into a few problems with not being able to see enough of the action, the Playstation vantage point is still an improvement over the DS. All around the visuals have been improved with the Playstation hardware accelerating what we’ve seen on the DS into a crisper and clear presentation. The updated graphics also feature an added day-to-night cycle that helps showcase the excellent lighting and particle effects in the game. The load times with the UMD drive version are fairly quick, however nothing beats a direct download of the game onto a memory stick, or the new PSPgo. On the go, Chinatown runs like wildfire bringing you into the action without a single hiccup.
What Else Do Ya Got?
The other bonus you will gain by playing the PSP version comes in the form of a few extra missions in the story, rampages, and stunt jumps. Also tacked on are a few extra radio stations (in total 11 stations, over 200+ minutes of music). These extras aren't anything too huge in the add-on market, but they add a little more to the game which is always good. One extra that wasn’t added that I was hoping for was in-game voice work for the dialogue, even if it was only in the main mission. Reading the text is ok, but having full in voice-talent would have been better. Rockstar always does a great job finding the right talent for their games and I think Chinatown could have been an interesting project to have tackled. On the Nintendo DS we are used to reading, however on the PSP, not so much.
This is my second time around with GTA: Chinatown Wars, and what a delight it has been. I was initially impressed with the game on the Nintendo DS; however with a second look on a new platform, Chinatown Wars feels more at home on the Playstation Portable even though it's lacking the engaging quality of the touch screen. I found the controls work better on the PSP even when I was playing the DS designed mini-games with the nub. The PSP version of Chinatown Wars is easier to play, more precise, and visually more outstanding than the Nintendo DS version. Without downplaying the DS version (because it was great), Chinatown Wars on the PSP is a must have for all action gaming fans who haven’t already busted through Huang Lee's adventure in Chinatown.
Gameplay:9.2, Graphics:9.6, Sound:8.8, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:10 Final: 9.2 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 10.30.09