Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Game Info
Rockstar Games
Rockstar Leeds
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs
The Good

• Huge gameworld with lots of missions
• It's impressive that they squeezed this onto the PSP
• Wi-Fi multiplayer

The Bad

• Suffers from slow down
• Camera and lock-on are poor
• Not really portable


Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series has established a standard for free-roaming gameplay in a massive gameworld on the home consoles over the past few years that has been often imitated without the same degree of success. When word got out that they were going to place GTA on Sony's PSP handheld, there were skeptics about how it would turn out. Now, with game in hand, I would have to say that the company has done wonders the make the transition so successful. The story of Liberty City Stories occurs three years before Grand Theft Auto 3. After some time in hiding for killing a made man, Toni Cipriani returns to the Leone family to regain his place in the syndicate. Unfortunately, he finds himself having to work through the ranks, deal with strikes, and even weather his mother's constant badgering. The story features many familiar cast members and more than a few locations that will have changed over the three years between games.

Liberty City Stories offers the player "sandbox" gameplay, where you're placed into a living gameworld and left to do all manner of missions. There are often multiple people you can meet with to get missions that progress the story along. These missions often break down to driving places, killing people and pick-up-and-drop-offs. The early missions slowly introduce the player to the mechanics, but as you progress, expect to have missions require more and more from you just to complete them. As always, Rockstar does a good enough job to make the objectives fit along a storyline to keep them from seeming to ridiculously mundane.

To accomplish your goals, players will find the controls from the console version packed tightly into the PSP unit. You can control Toni with the Analog Nub (or switch it to the D-Pad in the options). The X Button allows you to run for a short burst of time and the Square Button lets you jump. As you buy/pick up weapons, the D-Pad allows you to switch weapons, while the Right Button allows you to select the nearest target. The Circle Button lets you fire any equipped weapons or perform a melee attack. The Triangle Button lets you enter or exit any nearby vehicle.

Once in the vehicle, the X Button is gas, the Square is brake/reverse. You can also use the handbrake for hard turns and even move the camera to the sides for the times you want to perform drive-by shootings. The default setting for the camera/handbrake controls seems a bit unwieldy, but fortunately, you can switch it to something more to your liking.

Outside of the main story, you can grab certain types of vehicles to perform side missions, including Vigilante missions with a police car, taxi missions, delivering noodles on a "noodle scooter" and even a gunman mission where you ride on the back of a motorcycle and shoot enemy targets. As with previous games, you can hunt down hidden packages or perform stunt jumps. Those who managed to get all the packages from GTA3 will find that Rockstar has gone out of their way to hide the packages in all new places.

Along with the lengthy main story is the availability of Wi-Fi Ad-Hoc multiplayer modes that allow you to play with up to six people at a time. Modes available in multiplayer include deathmatch, capture the flag, checkpoint races, survival and defend the base. I found the multiplayer modes were actually quite fun and I hope that Rockstar implements something similar with the console versions in the next generation.

I guess one can't review LCS without commenting on what improvements have gone into the game and what has been left out. While you can change outfits (like Vice City) there's no serious customization and don't expect to have to workout or go for food (like San Andreas). You can ride motorcycles, but once again, you can die if you go into the water. On the whole, there isn't a lot of gameplay improvements over GTA3 in here, but considering that this is a handheld game, I imagine many things had to be kept out.

From a graphics standpoint, I'd have to say that I'm pretty impressed by the fact that Rockstar managed to pack the massive game world of GTA3 onto the handheld. While there are some noticeable changes in the city (intended to reflect a city that's three years in the past), most of the city looks pretty close to the original. As with the console games, GTA:LCS features a large, seamless gameworld, only broken up by load times when you go into cutscenes or between one of the three islands. The city streets are filled with NPC pedestrians and vehicle traffic, giving a certain bit of life to the streets. The locations show enough detail to make the world feel as deep and intricate as the console versions. While the vehicles do have some nice modeling, the character models are a bit underdetailed, even in comparison to what the series has presented previously. Textures and effects look decent, but neither will impress. There isn't any singular aspect that stand out, but the package as a whole really delivers, especially on the PSP.

Honestly, the audio portion of LCS is almost on par with the previous titles. Not featuring any big name talent this time around, the voice cast is decent and carries the story along. Sound effects are good and show a good bit of variety from weapon to weapon and from vehicle to vehicle. As with GTA3, the music is based on a series of radio stations that play while you drive. There aren't any big name acts involved and most of the radio stations are immediately recognizable from the last visit you made to Liberty City. The talk radio station and commercials are an absolute blast to listen to. It's just unfortunate that the PSP speakers don't seem to be up to snuff for what LCS has to offer, leaving some of the voices and songs sounding a bit "tinny".

Try as they may, Rockstar really didn't do much to make the gameplay more portable. You still only have limited save points available to you and many of the missions do not feature quick resolutions. LCS obviously pushes the PSP to the end of what it can handle as many times, you'll find the framerate stutter or just stop for a second when there manages to be too much on screen. Also, the controls can be a bit iffy as the lack of a second analog nub makes camera control an issue. And, then there's the fact that the target-lock system seems no better than what was in GTA3 (which was less than wonderful then).

Even with obvious signs that the game is overly ambitious for the handheld console, Liberty City Stories is quite enjoyable. While the game retreads familiar territory, in more way than one, it does offer enough for fans to sit down a play for hours on end. The story may not be too in depth and the characters don't endear themselves as previous titles do, but for those that bought a PSP, Liberty City Stories pays off big.

- - Vane

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