Since nobody really plays Playstation portable games (at least nobody that will admit it), Rockstar finally did the smart thing and ported the best selling PSP game ever to the Playstation 2 console. I am happy to report that Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is here, for the PS2 in all of its greatness with a budget price tag. As one would expect, it has all of the great replayability one would expect from a GTA game, however it has the graphics one would expect from a PSP port too. The …reatest thing about this game has to be the idea that this is just GTA III part 2. Of course, it could be argued that this is the worst thing and a simple rehash of a past game. However, you would be overlooking quite the little gem.
Ports are always troubling as you have to consider the source. If it is coming from a superior system, then usually the results are quite effective. However, if it is coming from a level or even inferior product, the product can be a hard swallow. Unfortunately, this is the later. I mean this game is coming from a portable machine that is barely in the league of its big brother console. The first thing you will notice is that the graphics appear muddied. Upon adjusting the brightness and switching the display to widescreen it does improve some, but not enough. To be honest, it is comparable to GTA III. So it is serviceable, and can be played through.
The faces and characters aren’t as jagged as one would think and cars are easily distinguishable from others. There is one thing that will happen from time to time though. Due to certain glitches in the graphics or perhaps it is just some sort of collision detection issues but the camera will just go full blown zoom and you will get a full facial of the main character. It will also hide things from time to time unless you get a good angle on it. All that aside, this doesn’t happen that often.
The Grand Theft Auto series has always had good music and good effects going for it. The radio station could keep flipping and you would always find something interesting. Liberty City Stories seems to boast a rather varied soundtrack, however none of the songs seem to be all that distinctive. The music is very clear though, and the effects are as just as good as any other GTA Title. Dialogue is also clear, even with the many accents by the numerous characters. (but this dialogue is defiantly rated M for Mature). But, the best showing of sound has to be (as usual) the talk radio which provides a ton of funny one-liners and classic banter back and forth.
In Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, you play the role of Toni Cipriani, underling for the Leone family. From what I gather, Toni used to be a big timer, got some heat, and now is seemingly at the bottom again working his way up. Not a bad story to be honest. Set in Liberty City circa 1998, you perform small jobs at first as you work your way to the top of the crime family. Primarily as expected, you spend a lot of time in your car driving around which handles pretty well. Cars are usually responsive to your controls and are realistic in damage control. The same can be said of the bigger vehicles that you encounter. The bikes do have issues with controls, but they are the blast when you need to get a certain area by yourself really quickly. Drive-bys are also handled well, though it is still hard to hold down R2 or L2 and shoot at the same time.
Other times in LCS you are primarily on foot. This is exactly like GTA 3 and Vice City where you can walk or run for a while until you run out of breath and pant like an out of shape beast. The good thing is that it isn’t jerky and well controlled. Gunplay is familiar too as you can auto target and free aim to decide where to shoot the vehicles and people you decide to gun down. The only problem results from rampages where sometimes the targeting just doesn’t work fast enough. Other problems include jumping and swimming. These problems, which have been present for a while include the every jerky jumping which never lands exactly where you want. Guess what, your character still can’t swim either. Makes for everybody to shriek, “I’m melting, I’m melting” like the Wicked Witch of the West when you encounter a situation for swimming techniques.
For better or for worse, the challenge in this game is very easy. There are some tougher missions later on and some of the bonus stuff is particularly tough, but overall the gameplay is simple. This can be due to the fact that this is in an already known Liberty City (from those who played GTA III), but it is also because this was originally designed to be on a portable system. Portable system games are designed to be pick up and play meaning shorter periods of playing time, shorter duration of difficulty. But with this easiness of gameplay comes superb loading times. This is the fastest GTA game ever for the Playstation, with everything just clicking away and very little slowdown.
Even though this game is easy, don’t think there isn’t a lot to do. There are tons of missions and a ton of variety. Naturally, you have the normal story missions, but also Taxi, Vigilante, Firefighting, Hospital, and Chinese Take-Out missions. The best thing is that all of these missions have a point and are fun to play to boot. There are also little things to do such as unique jumps off random ramps across the city, rampages (where you have to destroy people or things in a certain time frame), and even collect 1 of 100 little packages scattered across the city. There is so much to do and you have a scrolling screen of stats you can access to see your progress. Sitting here, I probably forgot a couple more things that you can do. This game is just plain fun.
This game upon release will be unfortunately compared to the current GTA monsters in III, Vice City (still my personal favorite), and San Andreas. Even though San Andreas is so much more complex, and Vice City has the best music; Liberty City Stories fits nicely into the mold. It has great gameplay and super fast loading times. Furthermore at $20, the wealth of missions and extras are tremendous value and certainly better than any of the clones out there such as Driver 4. If you can get past the easiness and collision detection the game sometimes faults from, you will find this game very rewarding and overall just fun to play. You never know, if this title does well (which I hope it does), it could lead to a few more ports from PSP games. I would defiantly welcome some of the better ones.