| 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 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
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
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.