Product Type: Rockstar PSP games
Newest Review: ... 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 ca... more
More Fun Than Shooting Actual People In the Face. Probably.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (PSP)
Member Name: TimStain
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (PSP)
Date: 02/08/12, updated on 25/09/12 (17 review reads)
Advantages: Great car chases, decent graphics, easy to play for hours on end or just 15 minutes on the bus.
Disadvantages: Rubbish minigames, If you drop the PSP on your feet while playing your toes will hurt
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.
Summary: The best handheld GTA, and a great game in it's own right.