Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review

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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

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The best ever handheld iteration in the GTA series to date. China Town Wars is a quality production from start to finish.

We like

  • The fantastic visuals
  • The typical sandbox-style GTA gameplay
  • The intuitive controls and interface

We dislike

  • Some of the mini-games, which don't have the same impact as the DS version

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

The mammoth task of shrinking the multi-award winning, multi-million selling, open-ended Grand Theft Auto series onto the PSP and somehow transforming it into a game that stands up to the quality of previous titles is an unenviable one, but Rockstar Games has done a magnificent job. Without compromising on the quality of the franchise, the developer has crafted Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars specifically to push the audio, visual and technical capabilities of Sony’s handheld to the limit. This latest entry in the GTA series was released with critical acclaim on Nintendo DS earlier this year, but this tweaked PSP port now looks set to score even more highly with Sony’s handheld audience thanks to its slick PDA interface, up-scaled graphics and silky smooth gameplay mechanics.

GTA: China Town Wars takes the sex, drugs and wanton violence theme that we know and love and expertly implements two of the defining features that have long been synonymous with the record breaking franchise: impeccable attention to detail and solid gameplay mechanics. Like every other GTA game before it you start off as a new face in a big city and begin your career at the bottom of the criminal underworld pile with the aim of making it big by throwing yourself into a variety of dangerous gun-totting and driving missions. As Huang Lee, you arrive in Liberty City to find out who’s murdered your father, the former head of a Triad gang.

The top-down bird’s eye view perspective lends itself extremely well to the small screen and the intuitive interface becomes an integral part of the gameplay. The mass of objectives and sheer scale of the city could have become overwhelming if it hadn’t have been designed with such clarity, but traversing the city is one of the many highlights. The interface makes things as simple as possible, but still offers you a wealth of features to get stuck into, including objective information, emails and a finely detailed map that shows up all places of interest. The clarity of the map and the excellent GPS system allows you to immediately get to where you want to with little fuss. You can also switch between objectives effortlessly, or even order weapons from with just a few presses of the button.

The main bulk of the action focuses on driving missions. Zipping around the stunningly detailed city, complete with familiar Liberty City landmarks, is a joy thanks to the solid driving mechanics, which are boosted by an auto-correct handling system. Fans of the series will be instantly familiar with many of the features in the game, including the ‘Wanted Levels’ that you attract from the police when you're caught dabbling in illegal activities, the Pay n’ Sprays shops where you can ditch the cops, the taxi missions, the street races, escort missions, drive-bys and much more besides.

Aside from the main mission, there are dozens of side objectives to get stuck into and everything you do in the City has real purpose to it, rewarding you well for your efforts. Bolstered by stylish comic book style cut-scenes, each objective more often than not has a cash reward, which affords you more power in the city to buy more property and weapons. The variety of missions is also a big draw because each has a different story behind it and therefore requires you to do something different in order to be successful. One minute, you'll be firebombing shop fronts and then intercepting the fire-engine before it can put them out and the next you'll be in the middle of a rampage mission, jumping out of your car and gunning down as many people as possible in 90 seconds, while enjoying racking up bonus multipliers by causing complete carnage. Despite the abundance of driving-based missions, it's the sheer variety of objectives that ensures that the gameplay rarely feels repetitive or boring.

Each car in the GTA world handles differently and the solid control mechanics, coupled with the superb overhead cam, ensures that it’s a smooth and enjoyable ride wherever you go in the City. Driving has an arcade feel to it as you zip along the busy streets handbrake turning around corners and weaving in and out of traffic to evade chasing cops. ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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