Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Review

posted 11/11/2009 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PSP
Half a year ago I played through Rockstar Games' very first Nintendo DS title, the ultraviolent Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.  At the time I was floored by how well Nintendo's handheld could reproduce the sandbox experience.  I ended up giving it a high score, complementing its pacing and even compared it to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon.  But since then I've been troubled with my review.  It's not that I dislike the game, but the more I dwelled on the minor problems the more they bothered me.  For months I've wished that I could go back and rewrite my Chinatown Wars review, explaining in greater detail what works and doesn't about this handheld action game.  Now, thanks to the recently released PSP port, I have that chance to expand on my original thoughts.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the PSP is exactly what you think it is, it's a direct port of the Nintendo DS on Sony's four year old handheld.  There have been some changes made, including better graphics, better radio stations and the removal of any touch screen action.  Despite these changes, the game remains the same, featuring the same story, cinemas, world and bonus content.


In Chinatown Wars you play Huang Lee, a 25 year old Liberty City native returning from Hong Kong with his family's heirloom sword. As the story opens we learn that Huang's father, a Triad boss, has been killed and it's your duty to avenge his death. It doesn't take long to get the story rolling, especially when your welcoming committee is made up of a bunch of murdering scum who ambush you, shoot you in the face and then leave you for dead in a car sinking into the Liberty City waterway. Thankfully you are able to escape from what looks like certain death, but not before the ancient sword is stolen and passed to every crime boss with a foreign sounding name.

Before long the game places you in a traditional Grand Theft Auto world with familiar missions, characters and themes. You start out gaining respect and running errands for your uncle, then move up to dealing drugs for money and eventually get involved with crooked police officers, crime bosses and other untrustworthy Liberty City natives. All the while you will be on your mission to figure out what happened to your family's sword, avenge your father's murder and get away from all of the inside politics that happen in the wake of the untimely death.


It will take almost 60 missions before you get some resolution to your quest. Along the way you'll run into a lot of colorful characters and get yourself involved in the kinds of outlandish situations that we've come to expect from the Grand Theft Auto series. Veterans of the series will no doubt recognize many of the missions, which often have you protecting somebody, taking out large groups of bad guys or just driving people around like an overpriced chauffeur. However, as you get further into the game you'll discover that there's much more for you to do, including everything from pretending to be a Chinese dragon performing tricks during a parade to working in a tattoo parlor. The game does a good job of giving you missions you haven't seen in other Grand Theft Auto games; which helps set this game apart from those recent console titles.

All of the game's missions feel like they were designed with the idea of a portable game system in mind. Very few of the missions run for more than a few minutes, most resembling their tactic when making Liberty City Stories for the PSP. That's not to say that the missions aren't as interesting as their console counterparts, but you rarely have to deal with missions having more than two or three different parts. The game's short missions help keep things moving along at a quick pace, which in turn allows the developers to add more variety to the mission types.
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