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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

New turf.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

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."

Croydon. Thursday. 3pm.

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.