Review by MattVSin

"GTA Liberty City Stories Review"

Liberty City Stories arrived on the PSP in late 2005 to a waiting public. Finally, a full Grand Theft Auto game that was portable. The reviews were high as the game was full of all the GTA fun and with the added multiplayer experience. Due to its success, the Liberty City Stories game was released on the PlayStation 2 in June of 2006. While the game is basically the same as the PSP release, it suffers from some serious setbacks on the PlayStation 2.

Gameplay

Obviously, a Grand Theft Auto game has always been about open ended gameplay. Do what you want, when you want, and make the experience your own. This has stayed true in Liberty City Stories. The number of missions for the game is between GTA 3 and Vice City. While this is impressive for the PSP, nothing was added for the PlayStation 2 release. No extra side missions or anything different. Now, it shouldn't be compared to the PSP release but since everyone was expecting that it is hard not to. The side missions from the PSP release (car salesman) and the classic missions (Vigilante, Ambulance, Taxi, etc...) are all still there and help to break up the storyline.

The PS2 version plays almost the same to GTA 3. The controls and style is very similar even though they are 5 years apart. Water has become the death trap it was in all games other than San Andreas. Thankfully, alot more boats have been added so you can get your ocean fix. There is a good variety of car types as well as the edition of bikes. Whipping around Liberty City on a bike is one of the more enjoyable things in Liberty City Stories. Also, since the game is set in 1998 (3 years before GTA 3) the city has some minor tweaks to it that helps keep it fresh.

The only real problem I found with the gameplay was the controls of the cars. Some cars were just terrible to control and you'll find yourself bumping around like mad. Add to this the icy surface that the roads become in rain and you'll find it quite annoying at times. There is also no upgrading or learning of skills like in San Andreas so they problems won't improve over time. While most people should be experts at driving in GTA by now, some will find it a real hassle in some missions. Then there is the exclusion of the multiplayer. Rockstar stated that the multiplayer was more suited to the PSP and to include it in the PS2 version would be like a cheap attempt at multiplayer. They didn't want to do that to the fans. Well, whatever the excuse it really is a shame. I don't think it would matter if the multiplayer was just everyone running around Liberty City freely. It would have been a great edition and people would have enjoyed it.

Story

The story of Liberty City Stories follows Toni Cipriani in 1998. He returns to Liberty City after killing a made man a few years ago and going into hiding. Toni returns to find his place in the Leone Family has been filled by others and fights to make his way up the ladder and to help the boss, Salvatore Leone. Toni's character is a nice step back to Tommy Vercetti and Claude as he is a merciless killer. Contrary to the caring and feeling Carl Johnson, Toni has no problem killing and gutting others. The game lets you feel for yourself rather than CJ telling you it is wrong. This is a big improvement to me as that was probably on of the only weak points in San Andreas.

As Toni makes his way through Liberty City he will encounter the Forelli's, Sindacco's, Cartel, Triads, Diablos, and most of the other gangs found in GTA 3. We basically find out how things got to where they were 3 years later in GTA 3. It really is 'Liberty City Stories' as this background story is a great way to learn more about the Grand Theft Auto universe. The only thing is that the game tries to tell you too much about too many groups that some feel rushed. Interacting with the Triads or Diablos more would have been nice.

Graphics

The one place that really feels the sting of the PSP to PS2 porting. The graphics in Liberty City Stories are.........horrible for present day. I would say they are similar to GTA 3 but even GTA 3's graphics were clearer. It seems like there is always a blur on the screen and with no option to turn of 'trails' you have to deal with it. The drawn distance is further than GTA 3 but the loading between the islands is just unacceptable. Considering we saw San Andreas with no load times is a testament to the power of the PS2. But Rockstar simply choose to port the game direct without graphic polishing or a little time spent to take away the loading screens. It is ashame as all vehicle and character textures are bland and simple. The city itself has a good level of activity but nothing that is enough to slow down the game if the graphics were polished a bit.

This section really needed some TLC and it seems that Rockstar took the easy way out. Maybe it's our fault for simply buying everything related to GTA that they through at us. Maybe it's their fault for taking the easy way out. Maybe it's both.

Sound

Well, this part of any GTA game can make it or break it. The voice acting, radio stations, and pedestrian interaction are what give GTA games their feel. And thankfully, Liberty City Stories delivers. The voice acting is among the best in the series. It is ashame the character models couldn't be at the level of the acting as it would rival San Andreas. Every character has their own motives and personality and this helps to draw you into the experience of the game. The interaction between Toni and Salvatore Leone is what holds the game together. They speak to each other and you can feel the emotions and respect. The pedestrians also provide their own small comments which has always helped with making you feel apart of a city.

The radio stations return in Liberty City Stories and are good, as we've come to expect from these stations in GTA games. They're a mix between the GTA 3 style and the San Andreas style. More small shows are put on each channel and this helps with the variety. I personally listened to LCPR which had a small Chatterbox segment with Laslow. Problem was that when I got into a car the radio would seem to always go to a certain segment on that station (not Chatterbox) and you would have to listen through the same thing over and over again. It was as if it was stuck in a bad loop. It's almost a throwback to the old GTA games and I don't mean that in a good way. The new reports are a nice touch from San Andreas but a very weak and simple compared to them. It merely states what happened with not much personality to it (like Richard Burns in San Andreas). You constantly hear about an upcoming "extensive report" but none ever appear. But you still get to hear what you do even in the basic forms.

Replay

While getting 100% completion is always the ultimate goal in the GTA series (and it will take you awhile to get it) there isn't much to make you come back. No mission or side mission really sticks out in anyway and there aren't too many memorable moments. Some missions hint at some great moments or could be longer and more involved but you need to remember that this game was built for the PSP so that missions are meant to be short and sweet. Once you have finished 100%, I doubt you'll have much need for the game.

Overall

While GTA Liberty City Stories was a great PSP game it is a mediocre PS2 game. Weak graphics and reduced potential don't help the situation of this game on the PS2. While on the PSP this game may have shined, on the PS2 it is merely a step back from the huge success and innovation of San Andreas.

Gameplay - 7/10
Story - 8/10
Graphics - 3/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay - 2/10


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 08/24/06


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