games / Reviews

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (PSP) Review

November 6, 2009 | Posted by Adam Larck

Title: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Genre: Action-Adventure
Players: 1-2 Players
Rated: M for Mature

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the same game that was released earlier this year for the DS. To make some differences for the PSP version, various new missions and radio stations were added to the game. However, does this help GTA overcome the differences from going from the DS to the PSP? Read on to find out.


Chinatown Wars has you following Huang Lee, who travels to Liberty City to give the Yu Jian sword to his uncle, Wu “Kenny” Lee, to try and become the next Triad boss. Long story short, Huang gets jumped, loses the sword and gets left for dead in the water before you finally take control of the character.

This game is still the GTA we all know. There are various missions to do from different people you meet in the game. Not only that, but there are also side missions you can randomly find to do as well.

However, you don’t want to hear about the stuff that you expect from GTA games, you want to hear about the new items, such as the minigames and PDA.

First up, I want to cover the minigames that can be found throughout Liberty City. To transition from the DS stylus controls to the PSP, the analog stick and L and R buttons are now used for most of them. The controls still work well to play them.

To hijack parked cars, a few games can be played. You can hot-wire the car by twisting a screwdriver in the ignition slot, unscrewing and actually hot-wiring the wires or by hacking the coded entry using a PDA. The type of hijacking used depends on how fancy the car you’re stealing is. If you fail, you can still drive the car, but the car alarm goes off for a bit and will alert any police if there are any nearby.

Another minigame has you putting tattoos on gangsters. You follow analog motions on screen to make the tattoo on the person. The controls aren’t bad, but sometimes the game took one control to mean another and gave me a penalty. Thankfully, these penalties never cost me when I was trying to beat it.

The final one I want to talk about is the one that got the most controversy before it came out on the DS: the drug dealing. It’s really about following the market. You’ll meet a lot of dealers throughout the city, and will receive e-mails telling you when a dealer is having a sale or is buying at a higher price. You can then try to buy or sell to make a profit. If you get busted transporting the drugs, you just lose them all. There really isn’t much else to it. I normally didn’t bother with this game just because it got tiring trying to drive all the way across the city to buy one item on sale then waiting to sell it when someone was offering a deal.

There are many more minigames in the game, such as a delivery service, scratching lottery tickets, finding guns in the garbage and more. The point I’m trying to make is that the minigames aren’t necessary, but have transitioned nicely to the PSP and are fun to play.

The PDA in the game has quite a few useful features as well. It allows you to check your e-mails, which tell you about missions, drug deals and other things. You can see the map and set a course with the GPS. You can view your stats and the various drug markets in the game with what they primarily carry. From the Ammu-Nation add-on, you are able to buy guns that will be transported to your apartment. Also, you can start up the multiplayer from here.

In multiplayer, you can race another player, try to hijack a van with drugs and score it before the opponent does or try to defend a base with another player. No matter what you choose, you can only play with one other person online. Another online feature, the Rockstar Social Club, allows you to connect your game with Rockstar’s site to get new missions and extra money and items.

In your apartment, you can save the game, recharge health, stash drugs, replay missions to get the best time for bragging rights, or use your laptop to check e-mails and your friend’s stats in the game. Normally the only time I came here was to save and leave.

When you’re running around the game, the cops seem a lot harder to tick off. I was brushing them with my car and they didn’t care. The only time they normally took an interest was when I killed someone or head-on smashed into them.

After getting a wanted level, you can just take out cops to lower it a level or evade them. If you’re a 2-star level, you have to take out two cops. 3-star, three cops, and so forth. You can take out cops by wrecking their vehicles or running them over.

I do have a few miscellaneous things I want to mention. This guy punches extremely fast. It’s like he has machine gun arms. Each car still handles different, with some being quite touchier than others. There are security cameras to destroy in the game that are hidden, much like the pigeons in GTA IV.

Finally, for all you helicopter fans, you’re going to be disappointed since there are none to fly around the city. You do fly a few for some missions, but you’re never able to actually take one and just fly around. It’s probably better, though, as the overhead perspective wouldn’t let you see the clearance over buildings.

Overall, Chinatown Wars is the same GTA that it was before with a few more features added in. It plays great on the PSP, and the extra features just help add more playability and fun.


The graphics are still the cel-shaded style that they were for the DS. However, there are a few differences.

The widescreen view allows more to be seen, which is nice. Also, because the graphic power of the PSP is better than the DS, it does look better. The game just looks more detailed overall.

The cel-shaded graphics look great in the game. Even though it is a big step away from the rest of the series, it still works out. The characters are varied and detailed, and Liberty City looks as good as always.

One thing to note is that the cutscenes are not actually cutscenes. They are just images of the characters that tie the text together. It still looks good, but I’m guessing this was just to save on space in the game.

The camera in the game goes back to the old overhead style of the early GTA games, yet the game still felt like the GTA that I was used to. There were only a few times that the camera was a little frustrating, and that was only when I was passing under a train track where I could lose track of my car.

Overall, the graphics are a nice change for the GTA series, yet retains the style and charm that GTA has come to have. They did a good job with the design and making Liberty City still feel like the city we’ve seen in previous GTAs.


I was worried about the sound when I first turned on the game. When I started thinking about the previous GTAs on consoles, I just didn’t think this would be able to compete.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The radio stations that have made previous games fun to listen to are back. Actually, the PSP version has a few new radio stations as well. While you still can’t listen to them while walking, they were great to listen to while driving from place to place or just coasting around.

Outside of the stations, the environment still sounds as good as always. The city still seems alive with car sounds and people.

Probably the only complaint I have are the voices, or lack of. The cutscenes in the game are all done with subtitles. There is no speaking during any of these. I know this was partially due to the smaller size the DS had, but why not include them in the PSP version that has some more space with UMDs or digital downloads now?

Overall, the sound was still great. It was just what I expected from this caliber of a game, and didn’t disappoint.

Lasting Appeal:

You never can run out of stuff to do in this game. There are a substantial amount of missions to do, and even more got added for the PSP version. If that isn’t enough, there are people to find out in the streets to help do side missions for as well.

The minigames are also always around to do. You can make money by doing tattoos, or blow money trying to win big with lottery tickets. Also, the drug selling can keep you preoccupied for quite a while if you like trying to manage your profit by buying and selling at opportune times.

If that wasn’t enough, there are trophies and mission rewards to get by doing various goals in the game. The trophies are just nice to show off, while the rewards have benefits such as regenerating health or an ammo discount.

There’s also the multiplayer in the game as well to hold you over. It’s fun for a bit, but there really isn’t much variety here. Chinatown Wars feels primarily like a single player game, but there’s still more than enough here to keep you busy.

Fun Factor:

Whether it was just driving around or doing missions, I had a great time playing GTA. The minigames were a nice touch that helped change the game up from the other games in the series.

Also, there are still side missions to do and hidden collectibles to find and destroy as well. Although it is a bit disappointing not being able to fly in this game, the game still allowed for many memorable things to occur throughout the game. Probably the most fun I’ve had with my PSP since Dissidia a few months ago.

The 411:

Overall, this is still the GTA you’ve grown to know and love. Even with the overhead view, the game was great to play. The minigames are fun, and a nice diversion from the main quest. Even if the added multiplayer isn’t your thing, the freedom to run around and do missions or whatever you want help make this game a great buy for PSP owners.

Graphics9.0The cel-shaded graphics really give GTA a different look, but it looks great. The overhead camera is great, and had very little problems with it.411 Elite Award
Gameplay9.0The minigames are still decent on the PSP, as the analog stick controls the movements nicely. Other than that, the missions are good and varied. It’s still the GTA you all know, just with new features. 
Sound9.0The music sounds great in the game. While it is a bit disappointing that there are no voices in the game, it doesn’t take away from the soundtracks and environmental sounds. 
Lasting Appeal9.0The story has quite a few missions, plus there’s always drug deals to do and hidden cameras to find. Also, the multiplayer gives you a chance to enjoy the game with friends to add to the replay ability. 
Fun Factor 9.0It’s Grand Theft Auto. Whether you want to complete missions or just wander around the town, there are always things to do and find for fun. 
Overall9.0   [  Amazing ]  legend

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Adam Larck
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