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Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - iPhone vs PSP vs DS

The Chinatown Wars wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - iPhone vs PSP vs DS

With a Platinum and two Gold Awards under its belt, Rockstar's handheld chapter of the massively popular Grand Theft Auto series is now tearing up the App Store charts after the iPhone version was suddenly and unexpectedly released.

And despite all three versions being the same essential game, there are distinct differences between the DS, PSP, and iPhone renditions of Chinatown.

We decided to throw the three handheld gaming platforms into a cage match and see which one was left standing.

GTA: Chinatown Wars DS (£29.99 RRP - available for £11.49 on Amazon)

Whether or not Rockstar always intended Chinatown Wars to become a cross platform franchise we really couldn’t say, but it’s not unreasonable to believe that it was the rabid reception the original DS version received that powered its conversion to PSP and iPhone.

Chinatown Wars was highest scoring DS game ever, which happened before the game even made it to the shop shelves. Critics universally loved it, not least because it lifted the Nintendo console out of a child-friendly slump and gave adults something to play.

Holding the console while playing is a bit tricky at times - trying to run the stylus in the touchscreen while pressing shoulder buttons - but the dual-screen system works beautifully.

A map and PDA being visible the entire time is the one feature that no other version of Chinatown Wars has been able to replicate, and was one of the major concerns when talk of PSP and iPhone version was first heard.

For some inexplicable reason, sales of Chinatown Wars on the DS have been quite disappointing, even though it received standing applause from the media. Perhaps the original platform wasn’t where the GTA gamers were hanging out?

GTA: Chinatown Wars: PSP (£29.99 RRP - available for £19.99 boxed on Amazon)

The GTA franchise epitomises hardcore gaming. Sales of the DS version of Chinatown Wars suggested that the hardcore don’t have a Nintendo handheld in their pockets, but the arrival of Huang Lee on Sony’s device was met with the sound of millions of PSP’s having the dust blown off them.

This is the portable console of choice for the hardcore gamer, and although many hadn’t used their PSPs in a while Chinatown Wars easily brought them out of the drawer.

The PSP version copes admirably with the lack of on-screen map and data provided by the PDA on the DS’s other screen. The extra width on the display also reveals so much more of the city suburb while speeding around like a maniac, and with all the PDA and GPS functions just a button away the lack of a second screen turns out not to be much of an issue at all.

The physical buttons, great screen, and availability over the PSN Store make Chinatown Wars about as vital as any PSP game ever released. Assuming you can afford it, which isn’t so much of a problem on iPhone.

GTA: Chinatowns Wars: iPhone (£5.99)

At first glance, the iPhone is lacking on a couple of counts when it comes to matching the prowess of the DS and PSP Chinatown Wars. The processing power of the PSP, the dual screens of the DS, and most importantly of all, the lack of physical buttons.

And yet, the newly released iPhone version is fully intact. The control system leaves a little to be desired, often feeling clunky and hard to land a solid fingerprint upon, but so long as you’re not playing on a first generation device it runs as smooth as glass.

The download size has been adjusted by reducing the number of tunes on your virtual radio, but this isn’t nearly the problem on an iPod that it’d be on the PSP. Music is always available on the iPhone and iPod touch, so a streamlined download is a benefit, not a problem.

With a slightly cluttered screen and lack of a targeting system to take up the slack on the controls, it’s probably reasonable to say the iPhone version of Chinatown Wars is third in line when it comes to playability.

But when it comes to cost and portability, the DS and PSP aren’t even in the running.

Which GTA should you buy?

So where does all this leave us when trying to decide on the ultimate version of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars? Well, what it really highlights is that Rockstar has created a franchise with foundations so solid it works on pretty much any platform - and that’s not something that many games can boast.

The DS game is a champion of its platform, the PSP version is the technical superior, and the iPhone Chinatown Wars is an unbeatable bargain at less than a quarter of the price of its two counterparts. So let’s look at it like this:

Chances are you own a DS, so if you want to play Chinatown Wars but don’t want to shell out for an expensive platform to play it on, the DS game is for you.

Need a reason to blow the dust off your PSP in style, or you demand technical excellence in all your games, regardless of price? Get behind Huang Lee’s wheel on the PSP.

Looking for a compromise between the two, and at less than a quarter of the price of the DS and PSP games? The iPhone/iPod touch is the king of Chinatown.

There is no out-and-out winner in all aspects of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - except, that is, for Rockstar, which has proven itself a master of the handheld gaming arena.