Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (PSP)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 7.50
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 8.00
Gamelength: 7.50

The enhanced PSP version of “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” is a nice blend of old and new that’s sure to entertain any fan of the series for quite some time.

Back in 1998, the original GTA was released for the original PlayStation. Prior to that, it had been released for PC in 1997. Followed by those releases, several other iterations, including an expansion of sorts, were released on various platforms, even including GTA2 for the Dreamcast. However, it wasn’t until GTA3 was released in 2001 that the series really took off. Ever since, the series has been one of the most popular things to play amongst gamers across the world. Now, after over a dozen iterations in the series, the series has taken elements back from it’s roots and combined them with many newer elements for a gaming experience that any PSP or DS owner must try. Today, we blow the top off of Liberty City yet again in “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” for the PSP.

I must admit that I was originally quite skeptical of a cell shaded GTA game. So then, I’m happy to report that I was completely blown away. The graphical improvements over the DS version of this game are absolutely astounding. Not only does it blow away any visuals ever seen on Nintendo’s handheld, but it’s on par with the greatest games on the PSP. With the same fantastic design that made the other games so cool, as well as a nice helping of cell shading, this is one of the most attractive GTA games to date.

Of course, GTA wouldn’t be the same without a killer soundtrack and Rockstar surely delivered on that front as well. The tracks definitely don’t compare to those found in the home console games and the hilarious commercials are gone, but there’s a nice blend of various music that any gamer is sure to love. As usual, the voice acting is as good as ever. The voice acting alone makes it easy to get involved with the character personalities, which is no simple feat. This is definitely one game that should be played with the sound jacked up.

Rounding out this jam-packed UMD is a well-built gameplay mode that seems perfect for a handheld console. With tight controls, tons of variation and a nice blend of challenge and fun, Rockstar really nailed the portable GTA experience with this one. Much like every other game in the series, the general setup is pretty much as simple as “Go talk to a character, accept a mission, complete the mission, rinse and repeat.” Likewise, since this is a portable iteration, missions are generally much shorter, but not so short as to ruin the game in any way. Most of the missions involve killing at least one person, but the overall objectives include such things as escort missions to protecting people and straight up going berserk on a ton of bad guys to clear out an area. This basic approach is what makes the game so damn fun. You would think that feelings of repetition would settle in very quickly, but that just doesn’t happen because the missions are always fun, regardless of how similar they may be to one another. Of course, the PSP port has a handful of extras, including a new series of missions, a few extra music tracks and the “Rockstar Social Club”, which allows user stats to be tracked. It’s not enough to merit a second purchase if you own the game for the Nintendo DS already, but those who haven’t played the game yet should surely check this one out. At the end of the day, this is the same thing as any home console version. It’s cell shaded and lacks some of the overall flare in the music department, but aside from the top-down camera, this is truly another full-blown game in an already wonderful series.

Overall, Rockstar pulled out all stops to perfect the portable GTA formula and succeeded. Well done, guys!

Pros:
-Cell-shaded graphics bring the GTA art style to life.
-Never too easy, but also never too difficult.
-Very tight controls.
-New missions are fun, even if somewhat pointless.
-Top-down camera gives the game a positive dash of nostalgia.

Cons:
-A bit shorter than home console iterations.
-Music selection could be way better.

Bottom line:
Any fan of GTA should check this game out. It’s truly a new and unique GTA experience that can’t be found anywhere else.

Overall Rating: 8.50

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