|System: PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar Leeds||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Earlier this year, before Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (CW) was released exclusively on the DS, there were many who doubted its ability to capture the classic GTA feel on such an underpowered handheld system. Unfortunately, despite a majority of critics, including myself, heralding it as an amazing GTA game, CW on the DS's sales still failed to match its quality. It seemed as though the majority of the DS's user base were just more interested in younger-skewed and simpler games like Nintendogs and Brain Age rather than a mature, compelling, and lengthy GTA experience. Thankfully, the fantastic CW has been given a second lease on life with the PSP version of the game, which will hopefully find more success this time around given the more GTA-friendly PSP crowd.
CW puts players in the shoes of Huang Lee, a spoiled rich kid living off of his father's success as a high ranking member of the Triads (Chinese mafia). After his father's death he's called upon to deliver a symbolic family sword to his uncle, but things begin to go wrong immediately upon his arrival in Liberty City. After getting robbed, shot, and left for dead, Huang finds himself mingling with the seedier side of Liberty City in order to survive and find out who was responsible for his father's murder. It is certainly a compelling tale and one that is absolutely full of great dialogue exchanges between Huang and the various characters with whom he comes into contact.
New to this version of CW is Melanie Mallard, a wannabe reporter trying to create her own big break into mainstream journalism. To make her dream a reality she is attempting to make a documentary where she exposes the Triad involvement in Liberty City's drug trade, which is where Huang comes into the equation. So, in a series of escort missions, you'll need to take her through the ins and outs of the drug world, all the while protecting the camera hound from the things she so desperately wishes to film. One of the more memorable Melanie missions has you tossing samples of a new drug to random junkies on the street. This new drug tends to make its users extremely addicted, insane, and violent which results in hordes of jonesing druggies chasing after you in hopes of securing their next fix. In short, it was a fantastic GTA level full of both humor and challenge.
One of the best things about the DS version of CW was that it really played to the strengths of the system it was on, and for the most part the same can be said of the PSP version. This version of CW maintains the same visual style found in the original, which is a great cel-shaded/animated look. However, on the PSP the visuals appear much cleaner and pop so much more because of the higher resolution screen. The fully 3D world found in the game also feels more alive due to some much improved lighting effects that are instantly noticeable, especially when playing at night or during a rain storm. This makes the pulsating glow from distant police lights or even self-made Molotov fires that much more dramatic.
The larger and wider screen of the PSP also lends itself well to the vehicle-based gameplay found in CW. Whereas driving on the DS could sometimes get a tad frustrating due to the inability to see oncoming vehicles and/or buildings in your path (somewhat due to the overhead view as well), it is comparatively easier on the PSP. You may still find yourself hitting the occasional pedestrian or even sideswiping a cop car or two on accident, but getting around in a vehicle seemed worlds better in this version. Making driving even easier is an option that allows you to lay your GPS directions directly over the city's streets, cutting down on having to look back and forth between the GPS in the corner of the screen and your fast moving car. Plus you also have the ability to use the more accurate analog nub to steer, although if you prefer the D-pad you can always switch between the two in the game's options.
However, as far as the majority of gameplay is concerned the two versions of CW are on equal footing, except for this version's additional content. You're still able to tool around GTA IV's Liberty City (minus the Alderney island), finding a slew of drug dealers to buy and sell narcotics from in order to net large sums of cash. Police chases still consist of Burnout-style takedowns as opposed to just trying to run and hide from the law until they forget about your crimes. Guns can still be purchased online and delivered to your nearest safehouse in order to fuel more bullet-oriented mayhem. Also, every mission in the game is replayable, in case you wish to go back through specific missions or just improve on your original outing's performance. Players can still hook up with friends locally (not online) to battle it out amongst one another in numerous multiplayer modes. Everything you'd expect to be in a GTA game is here and works at least equally as well as it did in the DS version, except for one thing.