Remember Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference? No, not the one with the Vitality Sensor and Women's Murder Club, that was this year. And best forgotten. 2008 was when Nintendo showed off MotionPlus for the first time, along with Animal Crossing: City Folk and Wii Music. But the biggest surprise was the announcement the Grand Theft Auto series would be making its debut on the DS.
By this point around 98 per cent of the world's population owned a Nintendo handheld, so it made sense for Rockstar to target such a huge market. Turned out, though, that figure included an awful lot of eight year-old girls who would rather shampoo a puppy than shoot a prostitute. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars didn't sell as well as expected, despite receiving a critical reception warmer than the cleft in the Ready Brek man's buttocks.
Our very own Tom Bramwell gave the game 10/10. He described it as "a triumph - not just in terms of bringing a difficult game to a new platform intact, but because it actually improves it in the process, and demonstrates a mastery of DS form and function".
So what happens when a game so suited to one platform is transferred to another? Good things, according to Rockstar. "There are a lot of people talking online, saying things like, 'Oh, it's just a port' - that kind of thing," says the spokesperson showing us the PSP version. "Actually, what we've done is add a hell of a lot more to it than if it were just a port... We want both [versions] to exist, but to feel very much like they're games of their platform."
One thing both versions have in common is the storyline. Once again Chinatown Wars follows the adventures of Huang Lee, a wealthy young Triad trying to unravel the mystery of his father's murder. In the PSP version, however, there are six extra missions to complete. These introduce a few new characters and reveal more of Liberty City's drug trafficking underworld. There are also new Rampages, Turret Rampages and PCJ Playgrounds to enjoy.
None of the additional missions are being shown during our demo, however - instead we're seeing two familiar levels, Deadly Xin and Driven to Destruction. Liberty City is looking slicker than ever, or slicker than it did on the DS anyway. "We've redrawn how it all looks," says the Rockstar man. "All the textures are in much higher resolutions now. We've changed how Huang moves and the pedestrians have more movement in their animations. The fire effects have been completely redone. The night-time lighting effects look phenomenal because we can play around with bloom effects, so it all looks very different."
The bits between missions have been rejigged too to take account of the PSP's functionality. "For all the cut-scenes, we've kept the same manga-style art panel influence, but everything's much more detailed. Because the PSP only has one screen, we've done a split-screen panelling type effect." The cut-scenes certainly look sharper than ever, and the split-screen effect works well - in fact, it enhances the comic-book feel of the visuals.
The lack of a touch screen has also meant there have been adjustments to the control system. This is most noticeable in the mini-games - for example, you now unscrew car radios by rotating the analog nubbin. But Rockstar doesn't reckon this results in a negative effect on the gameplay; quite the opposite, in fact. "There was, for want of a better word, this disconnect with the DS version, where every time you did a mini-game it was a separate thing," says Mr Rockstar.
"We're happy with how the mini-games worked out, they were cool and funky, but you had to stop and take out the stylus to play them. With the PSP version, we haven't put quick-time events in there like everyone was worried we would. We use the face buttons, the analog nubbin and the D-pad to make it feel like something that's fitting for the platform. It's very tactile."
Other changes to the control system include the way you throw grenades - by using the nubbin to direct them and the left bumper to throw. (This ought to please Tom, who wrote in his review of the DS game: "Throwing Molotovs or grenades seems to want more fingers than I have available, although it's usually not a problem.") Otherwise it's pretty much business as usual: "We've tried to keep the controls as similar to the console GTAs and the DS version as possible," confirms the Rockstar chap.
One thing that's very different from the DS game is the soundtrack. No more plinky-plonky midis - the audio's been fully remastered and there's much more depth to it this time around. Plus there are more than two hours of brand new music, played across seven new radio stations. Good news for those who find the soundtrack to be an essential highlight of the GTA experience.
But is this GTA experience that much different to the one you get on the DS? Can Rockstar honestly say it's worth buying Chinatown Wars again for PSP? "Absolutely. In terms of what we've changed and redone, there's a bunch of new story missions, the way the mini-games work is completely different... There are enough changes between the versions for them to feel like separate entities on each platform," says the Rockstar chap. "Both have their own benefits." In fact, Mr Rockstar says he personally completed the DS game "one and a half times" already but is still thoroughly enjoying the PSP game.
Plenty of other people are likely to be enjoying it too come 23rd October, when the new version is released. There are no guarantees it'll sell any better than the DS game, though the GTA series has a better track record on PSP, with Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories both racking up big numbers. Judging by what we've seen so far, GTA: Chinatown Wars is likely to follow suit. It's no Women's Murder Club, mind.