Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories PSP Review

Rockstar is a company that nearly all its fans have huge faith in. They almost never release a bad game with their only truly bad title being Manhunt, released just over two years ago. Rockstar is also a company that helped make the Playstation2 what it is today; sure all the 3D GTAs are available on the Xbox now, but when GTA3 was a PS2 exclusive it drove millions of people to buy the console, and made people salivate as each title was released in consecutive years.

Now Rockstar (queue people falling to their knees in adoration) have turned their attention to Sony’s little black beauty with Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. The company surprised many when they didn’t go back to the 2D roots, or create a mission based game for the PSP. Many thought the true free-roaming could not work on a game you carry about with you and many will still doubt this fact until they get the game in the palm of their own sweaty hand. Can GTA work on the move? Let’s find out!

Gameplay

GTA: LCS takes place a few years before the interesting events that occur during the course of Grand Theft Auto III. Cleverly, this also mean the bridges between each of the islands have yet to be built. In LCS you play as Toni Cipriani and you advance through the main mission the same way you do in the console versions. It has to be said that none of these mission are highly memorable and are just created using the same formula that most will have played during the course of GTA3, VC and SA. Most missions just involve going from point A and to point B, performing a certain task, and returning to point A. Even though this is the formula that made the GTA console games so famous it does not work as well on the PSP. Also, a few missions can get very frustrating!

All in all, the game is still a lot of fun to play but some small part of this fun has been drained away in the change to a smaller screen. The controls seem to work very well; my main fear before playing the game was that most of the controls would not map well onto the PSP but all fear diminished after a few minutes play. The lack of the extra shoulder buttons on the PSP does not hinder the play in any way. It has to be said that even though LCS is a portable game it does not, in any way, feel like one. The only change is that a few of the missions are slightly shorter but everything else remains the same. You still have to get back to a safehouse to save the game and you will still lose all your weapons if you die, or get busted. For those of us that will be truly playing the game on the move (on the bus or trains) this could get annoying, but the GTA purists and those that play their PSPs at home in a nice comfy chair should be smiling from ear to ear! LSC is GTA in every sense of the word; cops will still beat you down if you cause too much wanton destruction, hidden extras are still there for the snoopy people to find and all those jumps are still in place around the islands. This is GTA in the palm of your hand; a feat which many thought was impossible less than six months ago.

Graphics

The game’s graphics definitely have a GTA feel to them. If I was to compare it to the console GTAs, it is almost equal to GTA3 which is now a four year old PS2 game. At times though, the game suffers a few frame rate problems which makes it look a bit worse than it should. Overall though, the game is a technical marvel and Rockstar must have used some crazy black magic to get it running on a PSP. When you realize that you can now drive around a whole island without loading, just like you did on a top end (at the time) console almost four years ago in GTA3, you have got to be a bit more than slightly impressed.

Each island in the game is almost identical its PS2 counterpart in terms of layout. The textures, however, are slightly less detailed but still manage to look nice. The characters also look great, are nearly identical to the PS2 version of the game, they move realistically and are well animated. While driving a car or riding a bike some pop-up is noticeable but it is not too annoying as you”ll be concentrating more on where you should be going rather than looking at the horizon waiting for the next building to appear. Finally, the load times are not as crazily large as they could have been; after an initial heavy load when you start the game none of the following loads between missions are that large, and rarely go over ten seconds in length.

Sound

Where to start!?! We all know GTA games are top notch when it comes to music, so let’s start there. While the game does include some licensed music, a lot of the tracks were custom written for the game. Many of the old radio stations make a return including K-Jah and Double Cleff FM with its classic music, which is a nice accompaniment to mowing down people with your car on the side walk. Commercials are as clever as ever with lots of laugh out loud moments along with a few digs to a certain lawyer that some of you may have heard of.

Eccentric DJs are also back with my favorite being Reni Wassulmaier of Flashback FM, who is probably my favorite DJ of any GTA ever. Lazlow also returns to make the talk shows better than ever. My only small complaint is that due to the restraints of the UMD platform some of the stations can get a bit repetitive, but the custom soundtrack option can cancel that out rather quickly if you have the time and patience to download, and set up, the custom CD ripping application that Rockstar have kindly provided.

Lifespan

If you are just going to stick to the main story and play the main mission then LCS will last you about 14-16 hours, but of course you are not going to do that as you’d be missing more than half of what LCS (or any GTA game) has to offer. In fact, the main missions just add up to about 40% of what LCS has to offer and the other 60% is all obtained by messing about with the other things Rockstar has included for you. The rampage missions are back, as are the secret package collecting, pizza delivery, vigilante, taxi service and ambulance missions. The title also has a nice multiplayer mode which allows up to six gamers to mess about with deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill modes. Extra characters for these modes are unlocked by playing, advancing in, and completing the main game

Overall

Waiting for a killer app before you get a PSP? Well you got one! Complaining your PSP is home to a never ending line of racing games? Well you’re right about that, but now you have something else to play around with! GTA: LCS is a fantastic addition to the PSP line-up, is a very respectable GTA game in its own right and it would not look out of place on a home console. The only thing that is a slight letdown with the game is that the main story is not half as exciting as its console counterparts and some of the missions leave a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, the game does offer loads of exciting standout moments and when you get to play something of that quality on the move you’ve got to be impressed. If you have a PSP this is a must buy!

9 out of 10
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