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Being the poor work experience kid at Rockstar who is kept safely away from all the game development rooms so he doesn't spoil them on his badly spelt blog later and is instead confined to reading the endless hate speech from GTA 'fans' on forums and taking notes must be tough. For one, your atrocious acne and social skills ensure you probably won't start dating until your late twenties at best and for two, GTA fans, like all gaming fans, are more twice as evil as the Nazis and half as literate.
Fans of Grand Theft Auto seem to fit in to two camps. There are fans who like the gritty, edgy, realism of GTA4, a game so far up its own arse it barely warrants me ending this metaphor. Then there's the fans of the good ol' days, when the series was brightly coloured, the focus was on mayhem, dark humour and fun. Of the two camps I probably sit more in the Vice City playpen full of toys rather than the filthy bathtub full of grease and broken glass that is GTA4, but it's worth noting that Rockstar did try something new with one of the biggest franchises in gaming. Yes Niko Bellic wasn't exactly Mr Smileychops but do we have to play as Captain Quirky in every sandbox game?
Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is very much in the Vice City playpen of ridiculous one-note characters, a stupid story and an emphasis on mayhem and destruction. At first it seems like this is a bit of a middle finger to handheld gaming as if Rockstar don't believe a deep and dramatic story can be achieved on a handheld (it can), but rather than deplore the game for what it's not let's praise it for what it is: absolutely brilliant.
You play as a man of Chinese descent (read the title of the game) and as usual I won't tell you who he or the plot of the game because that's something you should experience for yourself when you play it instead of being spoilt in a review. The writing not bad but it's not up to the series standard. There's a few good lines but nothing that will stick in the memory and it's all a bit too meta, such as one character, a corrupt cop with a drug problem. A corrupt cop character with a drug problem that's self-aware that he's a cliché is still a clichéd piece of writing. Why do so many recent games think that simply highlighting one of the games problems with a throwaway gag is better than simply taking the problem out of the game. Duke Nukem Forever ends with the Duke saying "what kind of BEEP ending was that?" hahahahahahahahaahahahahahaha THAT DOESN'T STOP THE ENDING FROM STILL BEING BEEPING BEEP IN THE BEEPING BEEP HOLE and likewise making jokes about how one dimensional and clichéd your characters are doesn't stop them from being one dimensional, clichéd and ultimately forgettable.
Didn't I claim this game was brilliant a mere paragraph ago? Oh yeah, well that would be down to the huge map (2 of the 3 islands from GTA4 are here, even if it is all from a top down might as well be 2D perspective), the excellent handling of all the cars and some for the most satisfying police chases this series has yet accomplished. Once you've ran over an innocent old lady to many you have to avoid the police and unlike the GTA's of old where you just fled the scene and hoped for the best, there's now a little more skill to it. Cause the police cars to crash when they're pursuing you and a huge cartoon X will go flying over the bonnet of their totalled vehicle and your wanted rating will dip slightly. This means car chases are now probably the most fun part of the game, so breaking the law (a.k.a. the point of GTA) is now encouraged, rather than frowned upon like in GTA4 which never understood why gamers wanted to do all that fun illegal stuff anyway when they could enjoy the tedium of taking their cousin bowling. Missions aren't bad bet the targeting on guns can be patchy at best, and although there's a decent amount of variety in here it's the driving missions and the rampage side quests that you'll probably get the most fun out of here.
One irritating little feature is the constant minigames you're forced to play to steal cars, open dumpsters, assemble guns, etc. These were crowbarred in for the DS version (and weren't great then) so it's not exactly filling me with joy to see I have to still play them every time I steal a parked car but now without touch screen controls. But how were Rockstar to know that repeated mini-games would eventually get frustrating and dull? They could only have discovered that by playing every other game that has repeated mini-games that has ever been released EVER. But I digress, the minigames get annoying and break the flow of the game sometimes but they add a bit of novelty value to the whole package and make police chases a bit more challenging (e.g. you can't just jump into any car while the police are in pursuit and drive off, you might have to hotwire it, losing precious seconds). Like I said before, the car chases are what really make this game exceptional.
I'd recommend the PSP version over the DS version, as the wider screen really does help (plus you get a few more missions and radio stations on PSP). Whatever platform you go for this is a great GTA game which feels more focused on fun than the series has been since Vice City.
My personal review for Grand theft auto: Chinatown wars (PSP)
Firstly , for a PSP game, it has really good graphic and sound quality. You instantly recognize the concept of Liberty City, even whilst being above - as you move around from a bird eyed view. The main features are the long lengths of story mode gameplay, which are exciting and then again confusing here and there. If you have signed up for PSN on the PSP, you can play multiplayer online which is merely fun. It is however fun by using cheat codes to spawn your best vehicles and having the best guns etc. But as i was saying previously, the game is based on a birds eye view angle, so in some points its difficult to see where you have to go, and you sometimes dont always have a good view on the action what happening below. As they tried to copy the DS version, they brought over some of the same mini games, and in mu opinion they dont go well with the PSP. They should of definitely made there own unique mini games for the PSP, it would of been 10 times better. The main missions you will find is basically you stealing other peoples cars and having firearms for protection, and running away from the police. But nevertheless, they are still action-packed and full of exhilarating game time which you and your family can enjoy together. You can reply the missions in this version of GTA, which is a first, as you could never before replay them. This is good as if you missed anything or did something wrong you can easily press 'replay' and it starts over from the beginning. Theres a wide variety of guns you can use. My favourite is the sniper rifle, but sadly they only put the sniper in a couple of the missions, which didnt go well with me; they should of gave a sniper in every mission. The thing everyone likes i must say about GTA games is the fact you can drive around in cars. Its just so fun and interactive. You can obey the rules and drive safely and stop at traffic lights, or go zooming fast and bash into anything that comes in your way. The games just pure mayhem!
Definitely a recommended game if you have a PSP, or DS. I am totally sure you wont be disappointed. You can currently buy the game from amazon.co.uk for £6.30, which is really cheap. A must buy game!
Chinatown Wars is a victory for creative ingenuity and rational design. PSP predecessors Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories were superb games and impressive technical showcases, but in bearing significant similarities to their console counterparts, it could be argued that they weren't distinctive in portable form. Recognising the difficulty of mimicking ever more technically elaborate GTA's on the current batch of handhelds, Rockstar instead focused on reshaping the gameplay element. The result is a refreshing take on the sandbox formula that's another excellent entry in the series.
The top-down perspective brings to mind the 1997 original Grand Theft Auto, though what on the surface appears a regression from recent entries, is in many cases a refinement, and Chinatown Wars represents the most forward-thinking and original GTA for many years. Initially released on the DS in 2009, the PSP port that followed a few months later sacrifices the defining touch-screen mechanic that was woven into many facets of the game. As compensation, the PSP version gains new radio stations, some exclusive missions and a significant graphical overhaul, meaning it remains an appetising prospect.
You play as Huang Lee, the son of a murdered triad and GTA's first Asian lead character (although one who, it has to be said, bares more than a passing resemblance to Will Smith), as he aims to avenge his father. He becomes embroiled in the dangerous business of gang succession as several suitors court him in their attempts to claim power. Those familiar with the series will know the score; you're given free-reign over your actions in Liberty City, so you can busy yourself in the morally questionable acts of killing people for their money, dealing drugs, stealing cars, or general joyriding. Also, you can help people in a typically GTA-like fashion by providing a taxi service for a bit of spare cash or by taking down criminals in vigilante missions. As usual, travelling can be done on foot, or in a myriad of vehicles that include sports cars, delivery vans, bikes, police cars, limos, karts and tanks.
Despite visual comparisons with the nineties instalments, Chinatown Wars doesn't look crude or rough; the city is replete with impressive touches and cool locales to explore, including a sizable airport, a go-kart track, "Happiness Island" with its mock-Statue of Liberty, various docks, housing areas and hundreds of back alleys, streets and yards to comb over. Ugly, simplistic character animations and the odd, very occasional glitch whereby roads are slow to animate mark the only blemishes on what is otherwise something of a visual triumph, even if it may not be blessed with the technical 'wow' factor of other GTA's. There's no question, Rockstar have delivered a significant graphical improvement over the DS version, with impressive lighting and an overhaul of the cel-style in favour of a smoother, more dynamic look that, along with the Manhattan-inspired setting, evoke comparisons with GTA3. But Chinatown Wars doesn't busy itself in past glories; instead it revels in a host of small creative flourishes.
It's the missions that allow for progression through the game, and the majority of these feel fresh and engaging, as even if the template for many objectives feels familiar, the range of mini-games and little touches in and around them inject a bit more interest into proceedings. Fuel stations can be used to make Molotov cocktails; whilst quick-time events are implemented in various guises to hotwire high-end cars so as to avoid triggering their alarms. Along the way, Huang can also use these QTE's to give would-be gang members tattoos, use scratch cards, break padlocks, arm explosives and even assemble a sniper rifle. The developers have worked hard to maintain the distinctive nature of these diversions throughout the course of the game, and though the use of the analogue nub and buttons is not as novel as the touch-screen approach, it's never a chore and these little things add to the distinctive, portable-friendly environment of Chinatown Wars.
Somewhat controversially (at least, it would have been had anyone in the wider media paid any attention to the game), you get to deal drugs with some predictably shady looking types, who are alarmingly numerous and occupy nearly every "quiet" spot in the city. What makes it absorbing is the business element; the value of each product fluctuates, and so the knack comes in taking advantage of short-time offers that arise via emails, allowing you to cash in and buy new properties to use as save points. Chinatown Wars also has an excellent, versatile map and GPS system, and improvement on all previous GTA's. Another plus point is Ammunation's in-game website which, in a spark of satirical genius typical of Rockstar, offers a mail-order gun service that allows you to order a gift box of weaponry that gets delivered to the doorstep of your nearest safe house.
It's accessible and a lot of fun to play. The top-down viewpoint and narrow roads are a touch disconcerting to begin with, but given time, they make for some of the series most enjoyable driving sections. The handling is pin-point accurate, whilst the police chases are given an extra dimension thanks to the revised "wanted" levels. As before, the more severe your criminal activity, the more "stars" you'll accrue and the greater the fervency with which you'll be pursued by the authorities. Causing squad cars to crash either by smashing into them or by outfoxing them in traffic provide two means of reducing the wanted level. The higher the wanted level, the more police cars you have to take out, making for some really action-packed chases. It's a welcome change and a nice alternative to having to seek out pay 'n' spray garages to lose wanted levels.
Combat is uncomplicated but refined; 'R' acts as a lock-on feature allowing Huang to strafe around targets, meaning that with a bit of nous, cars, buildings and various other bits of scenery can be incorporated as cover. Unlike in GTAIV, targeting switches automatically when you down a foe, so you don't get stuck blasting bodies when you're in the midst of a shoot out. Projectiles, particularly Molotov cocktails, are great fun to use, and can be thrown either from a vehicle to hinder pursuers, or on foot, where they make for a particularly satisfying means of taking out a group of enemies in one well-placed attack.
A plus point of the PSP port is a slight increase in the game's already-sizable longevity. The previous 58 main missions have been ramped up to an even more impressive 65, as a new character (a journalist called Melanie Mallard) presents a clutch of new and well-realised sections complete with amusing verbal jousts with Huang. Getting 100% completion will take an age, but even playing the game through and sampling all the additional activities will offer a good few weeks worth of action.
Familiar troubles raise their head on occasions, but only intermittently. There are still some uncomfortable spikes in the difficulty level; a majority of the missions run smoothly enough but the odd one or two will lead to some grief. There's still an annoying propensity for situations that involve targets running away, escaping and thus failing the mission, though they are a less prevalent problem than in the console GTA's. You're given some choice as to the order in which you wish to tackle missions, but all in a batch must be completed to move the story forward and open up new ones. Credit where it's due though, Rockstar have made some common sense improvements that make the game flow more effectively. The best example is the "trip-skip" option, which means if you fail a mission, you can instantly restart it, bypassing the need for a taxi journey or trek back to the original location.
Taken as a whole, the presentation is pretty good, though in terms of the sound, this is not among the stronger Grand Theft Auto's. There's no voice-acting in the animated cut-scenes, sound effects are fairly standard and though the radio-stations have been expanded, there's little of note in terms of the usually sparkling talk shows or the music. The intro brings to mind a recycled version of Queen's "We Will Rock You" beat, only this time with a chain-rattle in place of the drums/claps; it deserves a mention as it's really rather funky. Script-wise it's still really good, as ever playing gleefully to sociopathic stereotypes, and thanks to some larger-than-life personalities, the story maintains a head of steam as you roll through the missions.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a full-sized, full-blooded sandbox extravaganza with lots of great new touches mixing it with the series recognisable high quality with regards to strong presentation, extensive longevity and a lively fun factor. There may never be another GTA like it, but though it may not look all that much next to the latest console entries, it addresses some long-term troubles in an imaginative and effective manner, and marks an ideal entry point for anyone with a handheld.