Review by Arquill
"It was fun while it lasted."
The first real GTA game has come to handheld consoles at last. It's been quite a trip for GTA, from the revolutionary GTA:3, to the massive GTA:San Andreas. Here, the series makes its 3D appearance on the PSP. GTA:LCS is once again, set in Liberty City. For those of you unfamiliar with the GTA scene, you are a one-man-army, free to roam liberty city on foot, or in a vehicle. As the name suggests, you steal cars (or motorcycles in this case) to travel. The storyline revolves around you working for different bosses as you make your way up the hierarchy to ultimately take over the city. There will be a plethora of weapons and mission types for you to beat, and the freedom of being able to just randomly drive around the city, killing people on a mindless rampage gives these games replay value.
Storyline - 8/10
The storyline of this game isn't utterly complex. You are Toni Cipriani, and you just arrive at Liberty city after spending a few years away, waiting for the authorities to lose interest in some past misdeeds you did. When you return, the Mafia boss, Salvatore Leone is there to greet you and hook you up with a job and a place to stay. As you complete missions, you gain the respect and trust of Salvatore.
There are no complicated plot twists, nor are you sitting on the edge of your seat just aching to find out what happens next. The storyline gets a little slow sometimes, and coupled with some tedious or hard missions, it may get you to put the game down...temporarily. However, the storyline delivers enough in a game like this, where gameplay is more important than the storyline.
Gameplay - 9/10
There are really two parts to the gameplay of any GTA game. One, the missions, and two, the free-roaming. The missions, I feel are the downfall of this game. They are absurdly simple, and there is very little difference from many of the missions. Many of the missions require you to do things like "Go to point A, get ambushed, kill everyone, lose the heat, and return to base". The complexity of the missions do not even come close to the complexity of GTA:VC or GTA:SA. There are some original missions, but they are usually the last missions you will complete for a particular boss.
Apart from missions you collect from mob bosses, you can do some side-missions, where you do things like pick up passengers in a taxi and drop them them off at their destination. You can also do things like vigilante, firetruck, or paramedic missions. All of them will reward you in some way that can be extremely beneficial to your character. These are generally tedious and boring, but they are a one-time thing so you don't have to bother with it consistently.
The free-roaming in the city is fantastic. Cars and pedestrians spawn regularly on the streets, so you can always jack a car for quick transportation, and you can always get off and just start killing people. Be warned that if the police sees you doing either, they will be on your trail. Killing more will result in more policemen. As you rampage enough, you'll eventually get the army, with tanks coming to get you, and you better lose the attention now, or you're toast.
You navigate the city by a birds-eye view radar. You can never truly get lost in Liberty City, and if you wish to find the shortest route to your destination, you can always pause the game to look at a map of the entire three cities. Your radar will be essential to navigate the city if this is your first time playing in Liberty City. Should you wish to save your game, you must make your way to one of the save houses, one on each island. There will be garages where you can store your cars, for quick transportation right after loading.
Controls - 7/10
The controls really let this game down, although it mostly isn't the fault of Rockstar Leeds. The PSP simply doesn't have enough buttons for this game to play like the console GTA's. There is one fault by Rockstar, however, and that is the fact that you can only choose either D-Pad or analogue stick to control your character both in-car and on foot. Running with the D-Pad is impossible, as your character stops if you let go of a button, and changing directions invariably requires you to let go. Driving with the Analogue stick is equally annoying, as you must bend your thumb backwards just to reach the analogue stick. Getting used to the controls takes maybe one day of gameplay, but the game would be a lot more playable if you could choose analogue for running and D-pad for driving.
Also a problem plaguing liberty city is the constant dropping of FPS, and occasional total freeze for a second of two. The PSP simply does not have the horsepower to run the game smoothly at all times. This is especially problematic when changing radio stations, or getting into a car. This is often very annoying when you're trying to escape from the Cartel shooting their M16's at you. You just have to learn to deal with it.
Graphics - 10/10
The graphics really shine on GTA:LCS, and I believe it is the only GTA out there so far which deserves a 10/10 on graphics, including the console versions. Although the screen is small, the textures are clear, and you don't see buildings pop up in front of you like the previous incarnations. The characters are well modelled, although the eyes sometimes freak you out. You can even see the emotions on the character's faces as they are betrayed by their friends. The PSP delivers very nicely here and that is all I have to say.
Sound - 9/10
There are again, two parts to the sound in this game. The radio stations, or in-game music, and the voice acting. I'll start with the good one first.
The voice acting in this game is superb. It does not feel like the lines were shortened to fit on the UMD, and each line is delivered well. Combined with the graphics, this makes watching each mission briefing a pleasure.
The radio stations however, are not so good. They are shorter than before, and while you may say this is understandable because this is a portable game, the UMD is capable of storing 1.8 gigabytes of data, and I believe GTA only filled up 1.2 gigabytes. There are also strange glitches in the playing. For example, sometimes you would press the button to change the station, but the station would not change. Also, the songs sometimes just end abruptly in the middle of the song and skip to some part of a different song. It was also strange to get into three different cars and hear the same song start playing from the beginning each time. However, when all of these things aren't bothering you, the selection of music is good, and there is also a custom soundtrack feature which allows you to play your music off of your memory stick instead of using the in-game radio.
Replay Value: 7/10
I hesitate to give this game a good replay value. It may just be because I have played GTA 3, VC, and SA so much that I am tired of killing random people (believe me, I am tired of it). It may also be that since I have already explored Liberty city in GTA 3, I am tired of the same city. Still, I believe the experience of truly roaming around the city and killing people resides on a big-screen TV, and GTA:LCS fails to deliver here. You can finish the storyline in around 12 hours, and if you take the time to 100% it it may take around 30 hours. I believe that if this is one of your first GTA games, the replay value will be much higher than for those who have beaten all the 3D GTA games, so I will just leave it to you to find out just how replayable this game is.
This game does not deliver as well in terms of gameplay compared to the console versions, but is on par in terms of sound, and much better in terms of graphics. Storyline has never been a strong point in the GTA franchise, and this game is no exception. The controls of this game were butchered, but the core functions are maintained and you can still play, almost as well as the console versions. If you are willing to look past these, you are looking at GTA in the palm of your hand, and it will hold your attention, at least throughout the storyline.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/05
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