Chinatown Wars on DS was one of the most fun Grand Theft Auto entries in years, pushing the handheld's technical capabilities to breaking point while offering innovative tweaks to the traditional top-down car jacking.
The PSP edition is, quite simply, a port. Visually the environments looks slicker and the lighting is fantastic, but underneath the technical tweaks lies the same great game we played on Nintendo's platform earlier in the year, albeit with a handful of extra missions.
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Newcomers are encouraged to read our Nintendo DS review for a detailed breakdown, but in summary Chinatown wars is an oldschool, tongue-in-cheek twist on the often murky home console GTA's. It's got hilarious dialogue, some of the most enjoyable story missions of the series and now - disappointingly - an all-round less intuitive sheen compared to the DS original.
On DS the simple task of hot-wiring a car was transformed into an inventive touch sequence involving screw drivers, wires and immobiliser codes, all made a satisfying and tangible task by the handheld's touch screen. Expectedly then on PSP, popping up a thug's car hood and placing a rotten fish inside with the L, R and X buttons simply isn't as satisfying, and ultimately feels like a bit of a waste of time.
Through these sequences, the midi keyboard soundtrack and low-res character sprites, it's obvious that Chinatown Wars PSP is a game intended for another platform. Luckily though the core of the game has made it over to Sony's handheld unharmed - and that core is a great one.
Compared to GTA IV's often by-the-numbers mission design, Chinatown Wars excels in offering a diverse, entertaining and explosion-filled offering of activities. One minute you'll be secretly lobbing goods from a loaded truck onto a pursuing triad car, then minutes later you'll be involved in a similarly inventive task such as carefully driving a hijacked ambulance, so as not to initiate a defibrillator mini-game scramble.
Drug dealing too, like the DS original, is at the core of Chinatown Wars and works well. Pulling up your GPS to navigate the city and arrange deals with other narcotics-types works just as well as it did in the original. There's no touch screen to dart and drag through windows, but the PSP's larger screen provides a clearer, more detailed view of your shady business - and thanks to the simple nature of menus this is one area where a D-Pad is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
But of course unlike the Nintendo DS, the PSP already has two better looking fully-3D Gran Theft Auto games that take advantage of everything the system has to offer. Do they damper the Chinatown experience? Not at all, as truth be told the top-down, chunk-ified take on GTA suites handheld gaming far better than the 3D behemoth 'Stories games.
Chinatown Wars on PSP was always going to be a port job, and though it soils some of DS original's intuitive mini-games it maintains the inventive, thoroughly entertaining and built-for-handheld mission structure of the original - and that's what we loved most in the first place.
A prettier GTA that loses some of its DS charm
- Looks even better on PSP
- Missions are (still) consistently entertaining
- Drug dealing/GPS works just as well
- Mini-games now feel pointless
- Built for DS and it shows