Five Reasons Why Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is Even Better on PSP

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Regardless of platform, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a superlative game. In fact, both Mike and I agreed in our discussion review of the DS version earlier in the year that it is the best GTA game yet. If you haven’t done so yet, go buy it!

Much of our DS review applies to Rockstar’s new PSP port, so if you’d like a more in-depth explanation of the game please give that a read. For today, though, I thought it would be fun to muse a bit about the new PSP version and share a handful of reasons why I think it improves upon the already-excellent DS version. Let’s get started!

1. Graphical Upgrades That Matter: When I first slipped the Chinatown Wars UMD into my PSP and booted the game up, I liked what I saw but wasn’t immediately blown away. Then I pulled out my DS copy of the game and held it side by side with the PSP version and was amazed by just how much the graphics have been enhanced for the PSP.

The graphical enhancements aren’t just for show either. In an open-world game like this they matter. Rockstar went back and reconstructed and re-skinned Liberty City with higher-resolution textures and dynamic lighting effects. The game doesn’t just look sharper and more detailed on the PSP, though, it’s also more immersive and atmospheric. Buildings and other objects in the environment cast real-time shadows on the streets as you cruise along, and as the day/night cycle rolls by volumetric bloom effects bring the game world to life with greater depth and realism. On a more superficial level, the higher-resolution cutscene illustrations and wide-screen display boost the PSP version even more with a slicker narrative presentation.

Of course, all the technical upgrades and the slower disc reading speeds of UMD do lead to slightly longer load times during game boot-up and cutscene-to-gameplay transitions, so the peppier DS version steals a point there. But the PSP load times are hardly egregious, and the trade off is totally worth it. I would be interested to see whether or not the PSN download version has any boosted performance in this area, though. There isn’t a data install feature with the UMD version that I could find.

2. Tighter Controls: Mildly annoying camera and targeting system woes carry over from the DS, but in all other areas the PSP version shows signs of improvement. Zipping through the mean streets of Liberty City is one of the best parts of the game, and with the analog nub the vehicle handling feels a little tighter and a little smoother (you can choose a d-pad control scheme as well if you so desire).

Rockstar did a great job adapting the DS’s stylus-based mini-games to the PSP as well, essentially turning them into simplified Quick Time Events. Take the tattoo parlor mini-game as an example. In place of stylus strokes on a touch screen you instead have to input a sequence of button presses and analog nub gestures within a time limit. Or like when breaking a lock you simply alternate taps of the shoulder buttons to knock it loose.

3. Interface: In tandem with the improved controls, Chinatown Wars on the PSP also features a more unified interface. Of course, this relates to my own personal preference of a more traditional d-pad/analog stick and face-button scheme over using a stylus on a touch screen, so I can’t speak for everyone on this.

To my tastes, having the GPS radar on the same screen is easier to follow compared to having to look back and forth between screens. I also much preferred having certain mechanics mapped to button presses rather than stylus inputs, such as tapping Select to pull up a radial weapon selection menu, cycling radio stations with the d-pad, and chucking grenades with a simple combination of buttons (hold the left shoulder and hit Circle) — all actions that, by comparison, require occasionally awkward touch screen interactions on the DS.

4. More Music, Better Audio Quality: Six exclusive new radio stations (in addition to the existing five from the DS) may seem inconsequential, but in a game where you spend a lot of your time driving around the added musical variety really does make a world of difference. It wasn’t a problem I felt really needed to be hammered on, but after a while in the DS version (and I played it A LOT) I grew tired of listening to the same few beats over and over again. That’s no longer an issue on the PSP with 11 radio stations in total and nearly two hours worth of new music from artists like Anvil, DFA Records, and DJ Khalil. What’s more, the sound quality is crisper pumping out of the PSP speakers compared to the more chiptune quality of the DS.

5. Fun New Bonus Missions: As if Chinatown Wars didn’t offer enough stuff to do already, Rockstar went ahead and loaded the PSP version up with more content – not a lot mind you, but more is always better no matter the amount. Along with extra Rampage challenges and a few other side activities, a new line of story missions has been introduced involving a wannabe TV journalist named Melanie Mallard who flirts Chan into recording a documentary about the Triad drug trade. This leads into a series of fun missions that involve you burning up weed plants with a flamethrower, destroying drug crates and tossing out “samples” to crazed junkies, all while you protect Melanie as she records the unfolding events. These missions really play up the GTA franchise’s brand of dark humor, and are also integrated into the flow of the game perfectly – unless you played the DS game you’d never even know they were new!

Agree or disagree with any of my points? Spot any other differences between the two platforms? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments!

Screenshots from bother versions are below if you’d like to get an idea of the graphical changes.

PSP:


DS:

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!