GTA: Liberty City Stories Review

With one mention of the name ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ a lot of good thoughts may run through your head. You start to think about the lengthy and deep plot, unique character builds, exhilarating missions and, of course, the ability to do what ever you want. The GTA series is well known for placing players in a city and giving them the freedom to do practically whatever their heart desires. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (LCS) is no different from its predecessors.

Okay, so it is a little bit different… LCS was originally a Playstation Portable title that has now been transfered to the PS2. The PSP game is truly breathtaking; never before has such a massive and immense world been created for a handheld. The graphics are drop-dead-gorgeous, almost unbelievable. LCS basically set the bar for first-generation games for the Playstation Portable like GTA3 did for PlayStation 2.

But own its own, LCS for PlayStation 2 doesn,t fair too well. Don,t get me wrong, it rises above the crowd compared to other games, but weighed against predecessors like GTA3, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas, the game falls short in some areas. The success of those games is essentially what pilfers from the overall experience in LCS. Besides the new-fangled plot and some fresh faces, you are able to approach everything in LCS with a ‘been there – done that" attitude.

The story in LCS picks up almost directly after the events of Grand Theft Auto III. Last time we saw Tony Ciprani he was a trusted member in the Leone crime family. After killing a very wealthy and well made man, Tony was forced to ‘lay low, for a period of time. Now he has arrived back into Liberty City, but things aren,t exactly how Tony expected them to be. The streets of Liberty City are once again in an uproar. Wars between Mafia-like groups have brought the city to the point of self destruction. To put the icing on the cake, political corruption, organized crime, union strikes and drug dealings have added much fuel to the fire. It seems that the once suitable city has completely fallen apart and it is your job, as Tony, to put everything back together.

Reminiscent of every other GTA game, you progress through the action of the story through a chain of missions. Some of these missions lead you further in the development of the story, while others merely bring in some money. Of course, LCS encompasses other side missions that are a lot more pleasing to carry out. You are able to play the role of a taxi or ambulance driver and earn some cash transporting the car-less or injured people, depending on which job you choose. If you,re feeling like a badass, then you can get a mission to steal cars in favor of other people and drive them to a garage. Besides the missions that earn you some ‘bling-bling,, others offer rewards like helpful weapons and good-looking cars.

As you start out the game, you become familiar with certain contacts who assign you missions. These missions will carry you through the tale of LCS, as you set off to mend the corrupted city. It,s important to know that the more contacts you have, the more missions you will receive. As you flow through the game, you will notice letters located on your map. These letters represent your contacts throughout the city. If you ever find yourself with nothing to do, just steal a car and drive to one of the letters to pick up a mission. You can only have up to three letters (or contacts) available at any given time to receive missions.

The game starts you out with a few introduction missions that serve to familiarize you with the story, controls, and how to play the game. After that it seems like you are immediately thrown into the action, as the game quickly picks up the pace. Tony learns that the Leone,s are at war against the Sindacco and Forelli families, each wanting a large slice of the crime society pie. Developing with the use of outstanding cut scenes, the story unravels with many plot-twists. You quickly start to establish both companionship and rivalry. Even though Tony left Liberty City in the GTA3 as a hero, when you return it seems like everyone just wants to use you like a spare tool in the shed.

Salvatore Leone is one dude that you,ll meet, and for Tony he is a life saver. Fed up with being a piece of meat, Tony is on the verge of calling it quits; he has no reason to continue dealing with the nonsense that,s constantly laid on his shoulders… Until Mr. Leone steps in, that is. Salvatore Leone is the entire reason that Tony re-thinks his decision to quit. Parting away from wanting the whole ‘money and power, thing, Mr. Leone,s motivation is the well-being of his precious crime family.

Although Leone provides you with the bulk of your missions, you will also work for other bizarre people who provide you with plenty of missions to complete. Take, for example, Donald Love. If you,ve ever played GTA3, you may already know what to expect. He,s a crazy man, and in LCS he appears exceptionally insane, more than any other person. Love is a cannibal and describes human as tasting "just like chicken, but more… sentient. If you know what I mean." One of your missions for Love is to make sure he gets elected as major of Liberty City. Then we have Ned Burner, a reporter from Liberty Tree, Liberty City,s newspaper. Ned will pretty much do anything for an interesting story, including making up his own. Ned mimics a priest in order for Tony to work for him. After assigning Tony some missions meant to cause chaos, Ned turns around and writes stories about the events that Tony plays a role in, and in-turn Ned becomes the first to report on the stories. Like I stated, many outrageous people exist (18, to be precise), but in the end it just makes the game a lot more interesting.

Liberty City is composed of three major islands, and traveling between them provides both delight and aggravation. Most of the aggravation comes from the missions that are related to the story. First of all, these story missions will take you to every corner of the map, and most of the time from corner to corner. Though the missions themselves are rather short, about five or six minutes, getting to where you need to be can be very time consuming. So it takes seven minutes to get to a destination. Add in a minute or two for load times and jut getting there takes more time than doing the actual mission. Plus you have to factor in the failed attempts, meaning you have to travel there several times…putting the total time to complete the mission at around a half hour.

Another complaint from me is that there are only a total of three safe houses in the entire city, one for each island. See, safe houses in LCS allow you to save your game, restore your health, and change your clothes. It,s a very important building, and also a rare building to find. Also, I like to play my game on the safe side and save often. Couple that together with my slothfulness and it equates to an irritated reviewer. Don,t take my word for it though, you try traveling the entire city for missions in addition to finding one of three safe houses to save your game.

The dire side of the game is, without doubt, overshadowed by the good stuff. Simply driving through the city,s streets and alleys offers enough entertainment to please anyone. The control technicalities are very polished and clean. Every automobile has its own handling and feel to it. Trying to take a sharp corner while speeding in a bus seems impossible, but you will turn with ease in a little sports-car. This adds more strategy to the game while, at the same time, makes the game more realistic. Try taking a 90 degree turn with a bus while going 60 miles per hour in real life and you will see exactly what I mean.

LSC packs in over 70 different vehicles to make cruising around the city a lot more enjoyable. You are able to place Tony in cars, trucks, vans, scooters, motorcycles, armored transport vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, boats… the variety seems endless. Choosing a vehicle that best fits the mission you are doing appears to be a good idea. Trying to run a big rig off the road with a pizza delivery scooter, for some unknown reason, was a difficult task. In some cases a mission requires a more precise angle to build a bridge between yourself and victory. Not a problem – LCS provides up to four different camera perspectives while driving. Simply put, a first person angle is better suited than a third person angle when dealing with some encounters.

What,s a GTA game without a radio? The radio provides many tunes for those leisurely strolls throughout the city,s three islands. In total the game has ten different radio stations available with (literally) a click of a button. If you can think of a genre, then you,ll probably find it in LCS. Seeking though the different stations I found myself jamming to rap, dance, rock, hip hop, reggae, and laughing at the humorous talk shows. Each station has roughly seven different melodies, as well as some officially licensed songs to fit within. In addition, there are also special broadcast bulletins that fly through the airways and interrupt your connection to the spiritual world. Normally I would throw a hissy-fit, but when the bulletin describes a crime that I just caused, a smirk appears on my face. Not only is this feature a bit funny, it also throws a pinch of realism into the game.

Controls for the PSP and PS2 version of the game are pretty much on the same level, because both platforms use the same button layout. The only exception that affects the game is the missing analog sticks for the PSP. Playing LCS on your PS2 gives you the opportunity to use both left and right analog sticks, while PSP only includes the leftmost controls. Like many GTA games before LCS, the right analog stick controls the camera angle while the left stick controls character movement. The absence of camera control for PSP is heartbreaking; LCS,s automatic camera is adequate, but at times it can put up a fight. Normally on PS2 you can whip that camera right back into place, but with PSP you have to learn to tolerate the sucker. That,s one perk to owning the PS2 version.

The graphics are amazing, for PSP at least. Reflections are apparent on cars, gravel details can be seen on the roads and the draw distance is astounding. It is basically the GTA3 graphic engine on a lot of caffeine. If you tried to tell me four years ago that a handheld system could produce graphics as good, if not better than, GTA3 then I would slap you across the face and call you a lair… and I,m not even a violent person. I think LCS for the PSP can be renowned for having the best graphics out of any game for the system. But for the PS2 version, the game lacks quality. It simply just doesn,t stack up to other games like San Andreas or Vice City – titles that came out way before LCS. The situation is easy to understand though, as I stated earlier, the PS2 version is essentially a direct port from the PSP title.

I think they forgot something while porting the game over, though. The multiplayer features are nowhere to be found in the PS2 version of the game. For many social gamers, the absence may be jarring, especially considering how enjoyable multiplayer play was on GTA: San Andreas.

All in all, LCS is a wonderful game. Although it introduces nothing new to the series, LCS stands well as a sequel to a game that started a video game revolution. Those interested in finding out where the continuation of the story takes Tony will find themselves caught up in another mess to clean up, and more people to run over. Though the PS2 game excludes some fun multiplayer features, it,s a good bang for the low cost price of only twenty bucks… after all, it’s Grand Theft Auto.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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