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Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars Review

by: Daniel Barros ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

In this article, we review Chinatown Wars for the PSP to see how it stacks up with the original version on the DS.

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    Big Game in Little China

    A while ago, Rockstar decided to test the waters on the Nintendo DS by releasing an entirely unique, original Grand Theft Auto property called GTA: Chinatown Wars. The game was a critical success, with everyone raving about how great the touchscreen controls worked to complement the game and how the dual-screen interface was absolutely essential. The question then becomes – how was a game so geared towards the DS transferred over to the PSP?

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    Those looking for new content in the PSP version of Chinatown Wars will be sorely disappointed – apart from an extra couple of nonessential missions; the core story is left intact. The fact that the missions continue the same is not necessarily a bad thing. As I made my way through the DS version, I eventually grew tired of the game on the DS with not-so-great graphics and tiny screens. The PSP port will be excellent for those players that never got a chance to enjoy the great storytelling of the game.

    There are side-missions abound here as well. The drug trading side-game makes a grand return and is really the only way for you to acquire large amounts of money during the game. Buying and selling different kinds of hard drugs will allow you to upgrade to a new apartment, buy better guns, etc.

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    Gameplay and Graphics

    The gameplay of Chinatown Wars is traditional, 2D, top-down, classic GTA gameplay. If you buy the game expecting the style of Liberty City Stories or Vice City Stories, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The graphics look great here as well, the buildings are wonderfully detailed, and Rockstar has put a lot of love and sweat into raising the resolution of the cut-scenes, and the results is a collection of amazing, high-res anime-style cut-scenes that do the game much more justice than the original scenes on the DS.

    Hijacking cars, entering buildings, and shooting people still go hand in hand with the accessibility of other GTA games. The controls are perfectly mapped to the system and a lot of functionality is squeezed out of the D-Pad and face buttons.

    But the reason you’re really reading this section is because you’re dying to know about the mini-games that were all touch-based on the DS. Let me be the first to tell you that their transition to the PSP manages to make the games more enjoyable and less annoying to play. Practically every minigame that was in the DS version makes a comeback and the controls work incredibly well on the PSP – in some cases, much better than on the DS.

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    Sound Design

    I’ll make this quick, but I was so happy about Rockstar’s decision to change the soundtrack of Chinatown Wars that it was enough to warrant a purchase. Rather than the bland, completely forgettable tunes of the DS version of the game, the PSP version has legitimate radio stations each corresponding to a different DJ/Techno Artist, such as DeadMau5. This change alone makes the driving around in the game much more pleasant than before. However, you’ll still be pining for the soundtracks of old, with licensed actual songs that complement the game style.

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    Final Thoughts

    GTA: Chinatown Wars is a complete-package kind of PSP game. With a single-player campaign of over 20 hours without even touching side-missions and multiplayer, you already have a game worth the price of admission. The graphics are phenomenal and the gameplay being such a throwback to the old-school GTA titles will also have those fans extremely excited. Assuming you enjoy GTA titles, this is one game that you should absolutely own.