Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review
PSP | DS
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars box art
System: PSP, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Rockstar Leeds 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Rockstar 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 17, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Criminally Good
by Adam Brown

The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) franchise is no stranger to this generation of portable systems. There have already been two great GTA titles released for the PSP in both Liberty and Vice City Stories. While each of these games still provided an entertaining GTA experience, they always felt like scaled down console experiences. However, while these titles were clearly meant to closely ape their console brethren, GTA: Chinatown Wars (CW) actually strives to take several steps towards originality.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot

Some of these unique choices were perhaps made necessary by the technological limitations imposed by the DS system itself. Since the DS is graphically less powerful than the PSP, the same third-person over-the-shoulder approach used in its games just wouldn't have been possible. Instead, CW adopts a more top-down angle, looking like an equal mixture of a three quarters and a directly overhead view. Although this view can prove helpful for scoping out more of your immediate surroundings and rarely gives you a bad angle, it often makes seeing oncoming vehicles and obstacles while driving rather frustrating.

Of course, this slight drawback is understandable and is about the only sacrifice that GTA: CW suffers due to the system it's on. Actually, CW manages to more than make up for this by squeezing just about every ounce of functionality and power out of the fairly aged DS. The game's presentation is second to none, making use of an interesting and beautiful cel-shaded aesthetic. While this does make the game look more cartoony than realistic, it looks great in motion and is quite impressive when compared to other DS titles.

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Being exclusively a DS entry, CW obviously also tries to make use of the system's touch screen. For anyone worried that the majority of gameplay would be complicated by these controls, fear not. Throughout CW the touch screen is actually used quite intelligently, usually being reserved for various mini-games or for quickly navigating menus. Most of the mini-games that utilize these controls are also quite entertaining, such as making Molotov cocktails at your local gas station by positioning a spraying gas nozzle above an empty bottle, filling it, and then cramming a rag into its neck.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot

Another good example of the touch screen's use comes whenever you attempt to steal a parked car. Upon entering the vehicle, one of three timed mini-games will appear on the bottom screen. Players will need to either ram a screwdriver into the steering column and twist, unscrew a panel and splice wires together, or hack a number lock before a time meter depletes in order to avoid setting off a car alarm and attracting unwanted police attention.

If you do manage to attract a police pursuit, CW allows for a new way to deal with this situation. In previous GTAs, a player's only option was to run from the police, hopefully finding a secluded place to hide or a pay and spray along the way. Any further aggression towards the police resulted in making matters worse and driving up the player's wanted level. Thankfully, in CW players are actually encouraged to take out the police cars that follow them Burnout-style to help lose the pursuit.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars screenshot

As your wanted level increases, so will the number of police cars that need to be ran off the road or slammed into other cars. With a three star wanted level, taking out three cruisers will reduce your stars by one. At two stars, two cars will need to be crashed to reduce it to one, and so on. This actually makes quite a bit of sense considering that there shouldn't be an infinite number of police cars following you at any point. Aside from just making logical sense, this also allows for some very enjoyable car chases that may have otherwise become too frustrating due to the game's unfriendly camera angle whilst driving.

Screenshots / Images
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