in gaming world was rather surprised to hear that Rockstar was going to make a Grand Theft Auto
game on the Nintendo DS, in Chinatown Wars
It ultimately became a huge success, both critically and at retail. However, when I asked the chaps at Rockstar about the reasoning behind the upcoming PSP version of the game, I got the Rockstar equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘just because’.
This isn’t bad news for the rest of us at all, because Chinatown Wars
is a fantastic game on the Nintendo DS, and frankly the more people able to play this game the better. It fuses the gameplay elements from the classic top-down GTA
games with the expansive world and humourous stories from the 3D titles. It puts you in control of Hwang Lee – a spoiled Triad member whose father was mysteriously assassinated. Its story begins in Liberty City, with Hwang is about to deliver a family heirloom to his power-crazy uncle, but at the airport he is ambushed…
Cue absurd missions involving drag racing, drug dealing and turf warring, with the DS touchscreen used to good effect in activities like hotwiring cars. On the PSP version these interactive minigames are now controlled with the analog nub and face buttons, in a sort of QTE (Quick Time Event) scenario. Because you’re not wasting time getting a stylus out from the handheld, the minigames are paced a lot faster than their DS counterparts, which sort of makes up for the lack of a touchscreen.
The most obvious differences between the DS and PSP versions are in the graphics and presentation. Being widescreen and a bit beefier in the processing department, Sony’s handheld allows for a higher resolution and crisper, improved visuals. In terms of style and camera-angles though, Chinatown Wars
is largely untouched. Although Rockstar says they could have done the game entirely in 3D on PSP, they decided to maintain the unique experience that players would discover in comparison to say, GTA4
Playing the game itself isn’t much different to the DS, although the analog nub does provide a little bit more accuracy in control than simply using the D-pad on Nintendo’s handheld. Navigating through the Badger PDA appears to be a more user-friendly experience too, as the menu now closely resembles Sony’s own (ugh) “Xross” Media Bar. It’s somewhat harder to navigate around Liberty City due to the lack of interactive map, but the larger screen allows for a mini-GPS to be included in the corner so you don’t get lost.
There are seven new missions on top of a heap of brand new optional challenges littered around the map, along with a bunch of redone location and character textures, and higher-resolution manga-style cutscenes. To better illustrate this, I was invited to play two missions that are also available on the DS version – “Driven to Destruction” and “Deadly Xin”.
In the former, I had to pick up Triad member Zhou Ming (guffaw) in a pick-up truck and drive to the Jamaican’s turf, where Mr. Ming was merciless enough to pack a huge chain-gun to wipe out the rival gang members.
The latter involved covering for a chap named Xin as he does some dodgy dealings without getting caught by the cops. How, you ask? By nicking off with a great big hoofing N.O.O.S.E. tank and generating a top wanted level until he tells you he’s finished.
Swiftly taking on these challenges again on a larger screen was great fun, made all the more so with the addition of several new music stations, re-recorded audio and new lighting effects as Liberty City went from day to night. I’m still crap at deftly controlling tanks I’ve realized, as I got sandwiched several times by a million police cars (firing cannons usually helps avoid apprehension however), but I was able to kick it with some smooth Shaft-esque music while doing it.
If you’ve played and loved Chinatown Wars
on the Nintendo DS, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of new material that will warrant a purchase on the PSP as well. But with Sony kicking some new life into its handheld as of late, and Rockstar’s impressive track record with the system, this new version will no doubt help bring this game to a wider audience. Grand Theft Auto
: Chinatown Wars
hits the PSP on the 23rd October in both UMD and digital download flavours.