GTA: CHINATOWN WARS / Rockstar / PSP
 
 
GTA: Chinatown Wars is a trip to an alternate dimension where GTA never went to 3D, instead continuing to develop in the 2D overhead-view style of the original two games (and the GBA game.) This is a strange dimension, and not one you want to spend much time in.

What you've got here is basically a string of the shittiest types of missions from the previous games, but now featuring worse combat and MUCH worse driving. Remember the obnoxious "pay phone hopping" missions from the original game? The "stick you in a shitty vehicle that can't take much damage and force you to drive some longass distance while aggro cops/gunning crooks spawn magically near you endlessly?" Welcome back! Welcome back! Weellcoome Baaack!

Driving is the biggest problem here by far, and it's also unfortunately what you spend about 90% of your playtime doing. Your forward view in 2D is just too limited; add in overly narrow and cramped streets, too much slowass traffic and overpasses obscuring your view and you have a stop-and-start, crash-filled nightmare every time you take the wheel. The new GPS feature (which allows you to plot courses manually to wherever you want to go, and switches course automatically as you drive around) is a nice touch, but problematic. It plots routes assuming you're going to follow traffic laws, which is completely impossible in this game unless you want to spend 30 minutes every time you drive from point A to B. This often leads to terrible detours if you follow it blindly, where it'll send you around through multiple roads when you could just cut directly across some train tracks or someone's yard or somesuch.
 


Though driving is the game's worst problem by far, it's not the only one. Combat is a headache whenever large groups are involved. Shitty Flash-caliber mini-games are constantly popping up; they're supposed to make the game more interactive and immersive,  like forcing you to manually break into and start cars, but they end up getting repetitive and annoying really fast. The other issue with these is that they originated on the DS, and I'd imagine the touch screen was better suited for them; trying to do half-circles with the imprecise PSP analog nub is a nightmare.

Aesthetically the game is ... OK, but not impressive. There's some nice buildings, but the vehicles are just OK and the sprites/human animation are subpar. The stiff Flash-esque cutscenes that advance the story just look cheap, and there's no voice acting. There's no talk radio or "big name" licensed music, but a lot of smaller/more obscure bands and DJs got their music licensed; basically the music consists of nearly all instrumental fare. A lot of it is actually pretty good, but it's kind of a jarring change in tone from all the other GTA games.

I'm baffled by the 90%+ aggregate scores for this game. It really looks like a low-budget knockoff farmed out to a B squad at Rockstar. I don't doubt the mini-games are better with the DS stylus, but that doesn't explain any of the rest of it.
 
 
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