Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
GTA returns to its roots of glorious, overhead mayhem in this PSP port of the acclaimed Nintendo DS game.
Way back in 1997 when mankind was ruled by animatronic squirrels the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series of video games were born into existence as a pair of overhead PC games. But since GTA 3 was released on the PlayStation 2 the series has taken the leap into a full 3D series, with the exception of spin off games appearing on the Nintendo portables. Now we have GTA: Chinatown Wars on the PlayStation Portable, a port of a Nintendo spin off that brings classic 2D game play along with some of the new features that we’ve enjoyed on the recent console releases.
Despite the overhead view not everything is sprites and fixed cameras, instead the world is rendered in 3D and the overhead view had a little tilt to it, unlike the early GTA games, which gives a good feeling of depth. The overhead viewpoint does have some downfalls, the most obvious of which being view distance. Races can be extra frustrating if you don’t know the route as you’ll only have a moment to react before you collide into an object you couldn’t possibly have avoided. The also ground combat just doesn’t work as well from above and you sadly won’t have many times when you can enter a building.
Each generation of GTA brings with it more complexity, new features are added and there’s more to do even if it isn’t immediately obvious, such as kidnapping the passenger of the car you just jacked. GTA:CTW pulls in a lot of these new features from GTA 4 and although the mini-games are absent most of the other new content is along for the ride such as hailing cabs and having to pay tolls. The touch screen events of the DS have made the transition into basic quick-time events. Hot-wiring a car will have you twisting the ‘joystick’ to undo screws and twist wires together. This feels like one of the DS features that the PSP could have done without, especially when you’ve got a squad of cops baring down on you. It’s a pity that the darts, bowling, pool or any of GTA4’s other events are absent from CTW, but the removal of these events also comes with the removal of constant phone calls from your buddies wanting to hang out, which isn’t a bad thing. Instead you’ll be spending your free time with a little drug trafficking on the side
Missions don’t pay squat in Chinatown, so you’ll have to make ends meet elsewhere. Although GTA: CTW does have small side missions as well as the classic taxi missions, vigilante etc. nothing puts cash in your pocket quicker than a little dealing. You’ll start off by picking up some cheap weed and selling it for a minor profit and later move up to selling harder drugs like heroin, for larger risk, but also larger reward. As you drive close to a dealer he’ll be bookmarked on your map and he’ll later send you messages to let you know if he’s has got any good deals going, either buying or selling. The drug dealing is an interesting distraction and it forces you to explore the city to find new dealers. Trafficing drugs pays off so well that you may find that towards the end of the game you’re making more money in a single deal than you did on every one of your missions combined. Also if the mood strikes you then you can trade your drugs with another player through the wonders of the internet and shared with any friends you’ve added through multiplayer.
Multiplayer in CTW offers several fun time wasters for you to try. Races and death match are of course included also along for the ride are coop defend the base modes and an assault mode where you and a team of AI will assault the enemy base and then reverse roles. None of these matches are going to be the core of anyones experience in CTW, but it’s still worth a look.
Presentation is kept at Rockstar’s usual high standard, interfaces are clean, art is well stylized, music plays from one of several radio stations while you cruise around town. However unlike the previous PSP renditions the radio and voice work is kept to a minuim due to the port from the DS. Voices are restricted to just the pedestrians in the street and their inane chatter and abuse, cut-scenes are told with text and static images, radio stations play instrumental tunes all day without the humorous radio presenters or ludicrous adverts. The cut-scenes tell more like a comic book and the dialog as well as story tell a good plot that makes the game well worthy of the GTA name. The radio also has different styles of music under each of its station, while I personally haven’t recognised any of the tunes they’re still good tracks.
For those who have already played through the DS version of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars then there isn’t anything here to pull you back for another look. Sure the graphics have been spruced, widescreen-a-sized and the music has been redone but the game is exactly what you’ve seen before. However unless you’re really into this touchscreen business and the lightning quick load times of the DS then you’ll find Chinatown Wars in the PSP to be the definitive version for newcomers to play.