GTA: Chinatown Wars

Posted on 23 July 2010 by Fahad Majidi

When Rockstar first made Chinatown Wars, they tailored every aspect of Grand Theft Auto to fit the DS. Out went the perspective, replaced with a top down view similar to the early games; out went the voice-overs and one of the game’s islands; in went frequent mini-games suited to the touchscreen. They published the DS to its outer limits and tried to utilize every one of its unique features.  The PSP port of Chinatown Wars is just that – a port. It’s sharper and better lit than the DS original, it has a few extra missions and more complete soundtracks, but it’s fundamentally the same game underneath. Thankfully, that game is a great one.

Chinatown Wars opens with a Huang. Arriving in Liberty City to avenge his father and deliver a family heirloom, Triad member Huang Lee stumbles into the midst of a power struggle to take up his father’s vacated position. The structure is familiar – carry out a member of missions for a bunch of different people but its feels much more tongue-in-cheek than previous games. The (unspoken) dialogue is hilarious and conspicuously well written.

Liberty City has lost little of its life or atmosphere in the shift to a top down perspective, and the more helpful GPS males it easy to navigate in a slightly more limiting view. The vehicles and environments have been made a bit cleaner and more realistic than the DS version but, weirdly, character sprites are unchanged, making them seem a little incongruous. As Liberty City Stories proved, the PSP is definitely capable of better visuals and audio.

The usual side missions are all present and correct, but there’s a great deal of variety to the main missions too. One minute you are rounding up immigrants to shore up the Triad’s numbers, the next you are sabotaging someone’s car by stabbing the engine with a screwdriver and dumping a rotten fish inside. Between jobs you will also have something more meaningful to get up to, thanks to the compelling drug-dealing activity.

As a talking squirrel or visiting policeman probably told you back in infant school, drugs are bad – but they are the lifeblood of GTA’s criminal world. In hindsight, narcotics distribution is something that should have been included from the beginning of the series, and now that it’s here it feels as fundamental to the action as stealing cars or evading cops –we’d be lightly surprised if it wasn’t made a central feature of the inevitable GTA5.

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