Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review for PSP

On: PSPiPhoneDS
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot

Outside of the standard actions, you'll also find yourself doing a whole lot of unusual things - from hotwiring cars to rummaging through bins to assembling sniper rifles. On the DS, all of these activities were conducted via the touch screen - a design quirk that I absolutely loved the first time around: one minute you'd be swiping the stylus to smash the lock off a security gate; the next you'd be rubbing the screen in a bid to perform heart massage to a dying man in the back of a stolen ambulance. This PSP version uses a combination of the shoulder buttons and the nub to replicate these actions, and I'm happy to report that they work almost as well. You don't get quite the same feeling of interaction, but you do get the same sense of glee when you make your first Molotov - and that's what counts.

It would spoil the fun to reveal all the things you'll do in Chinatown Wars - and in any case, it would take me ages - but let's just say that the game boasts some of the most inventive missions in GTA's history. Niko Bellic's adventures occasionally leant too heavily on the "go to place A, kill person B" mission template, but here you'll rarely be bored. It's quite a tricky game, however, and you may hit the odd difficulty spike, but there's nothing here that'll keep you stuck for long. When you do fail a mission you're immediately given the option to restart, and there's usually a "skip trip" option to save you traipsing across town. If you particularly like a mission you come across, you can also replay old assignments via a noticeboard in Huang's apartment. This is a long overdue feature for GTA games, so let's hope it becomes a standard issue for future titles.

While we're on the subject, Rocktar, I'd like every new GTA to include Chinatown Wars' drug-dealing mini-game. It's fun, it's satisfying, and it's almost my favourite thing about the whole package. In essence, dealing in this game works a bit like stocks and shares - only you carry the goods yourselves, and the cops will kill you for doing it. Huang is forced to start selling drugs early on in the game's plot, and from that point on it becomes your main source of cash flow. As you explore the city, you'll spot little blue dots on your radar; go and visit them and you'll find a dirty new friend who's eagerly waiting to sell you something. A handy little buyer's guide will tell you whether what you're getting is a good deal, and how much profit you stand to make. Buy low, sell high and you'll make a fat little profit.

As Wez said in his review of the DS game earlier this year, the whole drug-dealing element of Chinatown Wars is surprisingly full-on. You might expect a handheld GTA to be less "colourful" than its home console counterparts, but if anything it's actually more twisted than what we've come to expect. You'll get an email from a friend saying that he and his friends need some coke, so you drive around town collecting as much of the white stuff as you can. Then you head over to your contact, offload the stuff for a massive profit, and use some of the cash to load up on skag. It's immensely satisfying when you pull off a massive deal, and since there's always a risk that the deal will be crashed by the police, you're never 100 per cent relaxed. With past GTAs, being arrested was little more than a nuisance; here it's a threat to your livelihood. Oh, and the banter with your fellow dealers also contains some of the nastiest, most bleakly funny dialogue to ever grace a video game. "I was gonna use the ecstasy for personal entertainment," says one, "but if you want it, I'll just jerk off later instead."

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot

I'm running out of time, and yet there's still a lot of stuff that I've not covered. There's the new wanted system, evolved from GTA IV, which lets you lower your wanted level by trashing the cop cars that pursue you. There's the fantastic soundtrack, now boasting an extra six radio stations exclusive to the PSP, giving us a total of 11 options; each is mixed by a guest artist, and the contributors include Deadmau5, Tortoise and DFA Records. There's the never-ending hunt for CCTV cameras to destroy - Chinatown Wars' equivalent to the obligatory collectibles. There's the new PSP-only character - a deluded reporter with a death wish.

But you know what? I'm not going to say any more. I'm just going to say this: after thinking about it for a bit more, there's no doubt in my mind. GTA: Chinatown Wars is my favourite handheld game of all time. It's funny, it's full of great ideas, and above all else it's wickedly fun. Whether you're a GTA veteran or someone who's never played one of these games before, you should know that this is one of the best titles available for your PSP - or, indeed, for your DS. To miss it would be criminal.

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User Comments

PoWeRsTrUgGLeR's Avatar

PoWeRsTrUgGLeR

this game is strangely addictive
Posted 11:35 on 08 November 2009
pblive's Avatar

pblive@ renegade

Renegade, the 3000 is fine, it's not that much bigger than a Go and the battery life is better.

Hopefully the download version is out in the next couple of weeks. Next week, though, it's also Locoroco Midnight Carnival time!
Posted 09:07 on 21 October 2009
pblive's Avatar

pblive@ AngryVideoGamerNerd

Click for Image
Posted 09:03 on 21 October 2009
jamesandyori's Avatar

jamesandyori

I love all the GTA games for PSP! But this installment is the worst!

I HATE IT! Please who ever reads this do not buy it! I mean come on it's like a throw back to the games of the 80's. The detail and control in Vice City and Liberty City awesome! But this game is nothing like them! I am so disappointed I can't believe I coughed up 50.00 bucks for this!

But what boggles my mind is I can't find anything bad being said about it.

This piece of donkey dung is getting rave reviews!
Posted 03:59 on 21 October 2009
mikejosh1978's Avatar

mikejosh1978

well i considered tradin my 3000 to get some games for my new elite but i think with mstorm ,gt5 ,this & assassins creed i am gonno hold on to it a while longer.
Posted 16:42 on 20 October 2009
IndoorHeroes's Avatar

IndoorHeroes

Herc, I would suggest we not take scores so definitively across all platforms. For example there are Gameboy Advance games that got 10, does that mean THEY are better than Uncharted 2? Of course not, it's all relative to the platform :)
Posted 00:57 on 20 October 2009
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ AngryVideoGamerNerd

Well it started That way so why not
Posted 00:20 on 20 October 2009
Enkeixpress's Avatar

Enkeixpress

Nice, I'll take a look at it as soon as it's released :)
Posted 23:46 on 19 October 2009
Herc's Avatar

Herc

Ok i am not a fanboy...i love the GTA series..but you really give it a 10? i mean is it really that good as a third person shooter? and i know i will get flame for this, but is this really better than Uncharted 2? i know i cant compare handhelds to console..but I'm just saying...that is all...i still need to find a used psp (had 5, sold them all to get a slim, never looked back)
Posted 21:36 on 19 October 2009
AngryVideoGamerNerd's Avatar

AngryVideoGamerNerd

this should never be birds eye view gta should only be third person view
Posted 21:07 on 19 October 2009
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ IndoorHeroes

Oh yeh I know :D I just think the 3000 is a bit big, and im all for Digital on a handheld tbh :D Just wondering if it is planned to makes its way there :)
Posted 20:39 on 19 October 2009
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993@ IndoorHeroes

Do they? are you sure, i knew you could do it for films, but not games.
Posted 19:16 on 19 October 2009
IndoorHeroes's Avatar

IndoorHeroes

Renegade, you don't need a PSP Go to download digital versions, all PSPs have this functionality ;-)
Posted 19:15 on 19 October 2009
GeNeCyDe1993's Avatar

GeNeCyDe1993

O wow! a 10 :p didnt expect that!
Posted 18:59 on 19 October 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

Yessir, it certainly is.
Posted 18:25 on 19 October 2009

Game Stats

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
10
Out of 10
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • Filled with great twists and ideas
  • Drug-dealing is hugely addictive
  • A genuinely funny script
  • Quite tricky on occasion
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 23/10/2009
Platforms: PSP , iPhone , DS
Developer: Rockstar
Genre: Action
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 328 22
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