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Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Reviewed November 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Leeds / Rockstar North
Release Date: October, 2005
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Genre: Action
Price: $49.99

Over the past several years, not only has the Grand Theft Auto series seen releases on many different console and PC platforms, it's also become one of the most popular, not to mention controversial game series in history. Offering the type of wide-open gameplay most games could only dream of achieving, the games have gradually become more and more a staple of console gaming with each new release. With the release of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for Sony's PSP system, Rockstar has somehow managed to package the majority of the things that make the GTA series so exciting to play on the console systems, into a portable version that's not only one of the most ambitious PSP releases to date, but also a true console GTA experience that can be held in the palm of your hands and taken with you wherever you go. But the main question on GTA fans' minds is just how many corners were cut in order to bring this game to the portable PSP. And as shocking as it may sound, not many at all.

Story

In Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, you take on the role of Toni Cipriani, famed wise guy for the Leone family. Having spent the past few years in hiding after killing a made man, you return to the crime scene to set things straight once and for all. In a town that's now full of drug trafficking, homocide, and almost every type of theft imaginable, it's not going to be easy to carry out the tasks laid out for you by the Leone family crime bosses. To make matters worse, you'll have to contend with crooked politicians, trigger-happy mafia hit men, not to mention one of the most corrupt police forces in the world. Even with these nearly insurmountable odds, you're still going to have to fight tooth and nail to once again restore your reputation within the Leone family and take back what's rightfully yours in this city of turmoil.

Gameplay

The one thing that makes playing any GTA so much fun is the wide-open style of play, and this PSP version is no different. You can do just about anything you want, from stealing cars to beating poor pedestrians into a coma. The main part of the game assigns you different missions to complete. As you complete one mission, you'll return to the syndicate boss in order to get a new assignment. These assignments can range from taking out drug dealers who are invading your turf, to rescuing other members of your gang from harm's way. Along the way, you can even take on odd jobs, such as driving a taxi, in order to make extra money. In GTA, you can be sure that you'll never have trouble finding something to do.

The control system in GTA is very straightforward. You'd think in a game that allows your character to do so many different things that control might be a problem, but as in most previous GTA games, this one seems to pull it all off with great ease. Everything you do is marked on a tiny map for you that's always on display in the lower left of the screen. If you ever get lost and are not sure what to do next, just take a look at the map. The game also does a really solid job of explaining all of the different control moves found throughout the game. As you take on a new challenge that calls for new game play moves, the game guides you through the steps as you go, making it easy to get a firm handle on the many different controls found throughout the game. Everything from merely walking around, to driving various vehicles in the game is easily done after a short amount of practice and most controls in the game, no matter what they are, seem really spot on. Anyone wondering if Rockstar was going to be able to pull off the wonderful controls of the previous GTA games on the PSP need not worry. After a few minutes with Liberty City Stories you'll swear you are playing one of its console brethren. The bottom line is that what Rockstar was able to pull off with this PSP version of GTA is incredible and a true testament to the talent of their developers and the power of the PlayStationPortable.

Multiplayer

As much fun as the single player experience of GTA:LCS is, the multiplayer games are just as exciting. Using the PSP's integrated wi-fi, as many as 6 players can hook up and take each other on in the many different mini-games. Ranging from challenges in which you have to steal each other's cars, to driving an enormous tank around the city destroying everything you can within the time limit, there's tons of stuff to do with other players. There's even a survivor mode where it's just one all out war, with every man for himself in a driving, running, and shooting extravaganza. As if the single player game wasn't insane enough, leave it to Rockstar to amp it up a notch with some clever multi-player action. Easily one of the best sets of multi-player features we've seen to date in a PSP game.

Graphics

It was easy to be skeptical when we began seeing screenshots of GTA:LCS. Most people assumed the worst when it came to imagining how the GTA experience was going to play out on a smaller screen. Sony has always made it a point to tell the gaming public that they designed the PSP to be a portable console experience, and Rockstar has now made it a point to bring that claim to reality. From the moment you fire up this game you'll know right off that never before has such a visually ambitious game been created for a portable game system. All of the 3-D graphics in the game look spectacular, even competing on some levels with the sights found in the console games. Everything has a nice, smooth flow to it that even further adds to the already realistic imagery found throughout the game's many areas. The character models in the game all look fantastic, with even the minor characters strung throughout the streets of Liberty City having a very realistic movement to them. It's easy to tell that a lot of time and energy went into the production of this game, and no matter how many times you play it you'll still catch yourself shaking your head at just what Rockstar was able to accomplish in bringing the GTA series to the PSP.

Sound

Rockstar didn't get skimpy with the soundtrack in the game either. You'll hear songs from almost every music genre you can think of, ranging from beautiful operatic vocals, hip-hop, and even some rock tracks here and there. It's like listening to the radio while playing a video game and it really adds yet another realistic twist to the game. You can't talk about a GTA game without at least mentioning the voice work. Once again, Rockstar has pulled out all the stops and brought together a stellar group of voice actors, and they all seem to pull off the mafia-influenced vocals to near perfection. You'll honestly feel like you are right smack in the middle of a Godfather movie. The sound effects are also worth noting, as everything from the tires screeching to horns honking on the streets sounds completely authentic. As great as the visuals in the game are, the music and sound effects manage to eclipse even them.

 

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Conclusion

If there was ever any doubt of the sheer talent and efficiency of the Rockstar development team, that's been safely put to rest with the release of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on the PSP. Not only were very few corners cut in the transition from console system to portable, there are some areas of the game that are actually even better than their console counterparts. If ever there were a game to drive home Sony's claims of the PSP being a console experience in the palm of your hand it's this one. You won't find a better overall package of visuals, music, and gameplay on a portable system anywhere else. Whether you like the GTA series or not, you owe it to yourself to at least give this game a look, if only to appreciate just how far portable gaming has come over the past couple of years. And if you're a fan of GTA, your prayers have been answered because you can now take the GTA experience, in all its glory, with you wherever you go. What more could you ask for?

Playing Hints and Tips

- Driving a car under extreme circumstances will become a major part of the missions in the game so don't be afraid to take the cars out for a spin in order to get a feel for how they handle.

- Take on odd jobs throughout the game, as it's a great way to make some extra money that will come in handy later on in the game. Everybody wants to get rich, and Toni's no different.

- If you're ever lost, always remember that everything is marked on your map for you. The map will soon become your new best friend.

- It's best to avoid angering the cops during your missions as you're going to have enough to worry about as it is. Save the cop antics for when you're just playing around.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

3-D visuals have never looked so good on a portable game system, and you'd be hard pressed to find an area that wasn't at least close to the console releases in terms of quality. Liberty City comes alive on the PSP screen and proves once and for all that you can get the console gaming experience, even on a portable game system, without having to sacrifice the game's visual detail. Absolutely outstanding!

Sound

Loads of tunes to listen to while playing the game, you'd be hard pressed to find this much variety in any other game's soundtrack. Top shelf voice work, and sound effects that will make you feel like your right there in the action, all come together to form one of the best sounding games to ever grace the PSP.

Fun Meter

Every gamer, no matter what your taste is among the different genres, can find something to like in GTA: LCS. Tons of missions to take on, not to mention the odds jobs and free-roaming gameplay, there's always something to do in this game. Even if you just want to steal someone's car and take it for a nice leisurely spin around the city at night, the sky's the limit. Add in the multiplayer portions of the game and you have about as complete a gaming package as your money can buy for the PSP.

Addictivity

Because the game tends to play out like a movie, you'll catch yourself wanting to experience it again even after you've completed the game. There's just something about it that just makes you want to do it again and again. It's like a really great movie that you love. You can seem to watch it over and over and never seem to get tired of it. The bottom line is, GTA:LCS is the type of game that will remind you why you love playing video games in the first place. If only all games could be this good.

Total Score= 4.875 Dragons, 97.5%



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