Review by BigWorldJust

"It's GTA Portable, what couldn't be better?"

The PSP is in desperate need of a killer app, and many have thought that Grand Theft Auto on the PSP would provide that requirement. As to whether or not it does, read on. Also, please keep in mind that I utilize the entire scale of 1-10 for judging a game, with 1 being a crap game and 10 being perfection on a little disc.

This is not the first portable version of Grand Theft Auto. The series actually made its handheld debut way back with the Gameboy Color with both Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2. Of course, recently Grand Theft Auto Advance came out for the GBA as well. None of those other titles are remotely comparable to the PSP's GTA: LCS. This game blows all previous handheld versions out of the water in terms of graphics and gameplay.

Please Note - Because this game only supports Ad-Hoc multiplayer modes and I live in Hickwater, Kentucky, I am unable to review this feature at this time. As soon as that fact changes, I will update this review accordingly.

Story -

This game takes place before Grand Theft Auto 3 in the same location, Liberty City. As the manual proclaims, Liberty City has once again been voted the worst place in America to live, so you know that a whole lot hasn't changed. Prostitutes still walk past old men, it still rains far too much for anyone to feel the least bit positive, and cars are still cheap and infinite. Also as before, the main character has a few problems to work out.

Tony Cipriani has just returned from a necessary "vacation" and is looking to get back in tight with the Leone family. After a series of insults, it becomes pretty clear that it's going to be a long ride back to the top. That's good for the player, since that means there will be plenty of missions to choose from.

The story of a mafioso's rise to fame and fortune might be offensive to some, and to them I recommend not picking up this game. To anyone willing to look beyond that, or even people who couldn't give two hoots about any kind of storyline, this one is probably worth getting. Why? It's all about the driving, man.

Gameplay -

Driving through Liberty City on the back of a late 90s crotch rocket is an experience that no one should miss. The sheer sense of speed, hurtling past the snail-like traffic and looking for oncoming turns is absolutely addictive. As with the other games that featured the motorcycles, you can shift your weight, pull off wheelies, use the handbrake in all kinds of unique ways, and generally make a public nuisance of yourself. Go too far with it and I highly recommend finding one of the required Pay N Spray stores. Then go rinse and repeat. It's that much fun. It's a shame that some graphical and system problems get in the way of flawless enjoyment, but it's still a total blast.

Overall, GTA: LCS takes FULL advantage of every button that the PSP has to offer. No longer limited to a "D" pad and four buttons, Rockstar definitely unhitched their belt in order to make more room. Weapon control and lock ons are dead on, the camera is tolerable and for the most part controllable, and cars vary just as much in control as they ever did on the consoles. After a good ten minutes or so of adjustment, you'll be sitting down to play this game without a single thought as to what you're trying to do. Just...uh...don't try to swim.

The other note of concern, and a reason why I can not give this game a ten, is the fact that you can only save from your HQ. While this is natural for the GTA series, it's really a setback for a handheld game that should be as "pick up and play" as possible. If Rockstar chooses to release another GTA game for the PSP, I would highly recommend that they pursue some sort of real-time or quick-save option. Even if it requires a bit more of a loading time to get back into a game, the ability to quit any time without losing twenty minutes of progress is well worth it, if you ask me.

Graphics -

For the most part, the graphics in GTA: LCS will blow you away. The crispness of the 3D models, the fact that they almost have complete and working hands!!, and the atmosphere of the city itself all make the transition smoothly and pretty much seamlessly. The occasional torn texture or "dotted" landscape are forgiveable considering how early on in the life of the PSP we are. If you want to show someone why you bought a PSP, this is a game worth using. One look at the graphics on this game and they'll think about picking up a version for themselves.

Unfortunately, as mentioned in the Gameplay section, there are times when the graphics or the system limitations get in the way of the gameplay. You'll be racing down the road on the back of your favorite bike or in your favorite car, go to take a sharp turn, and....wait. Wait just a little bit more. Just one more second. And go go go! Yeah, the lag can be extensive on occasion. While just as with the console version you do not have to have load times to drive the city streets, the real time streaming is not quite as primed as it could be, especially if there is a good deal of traffic or pedestrian activity. It's not the least bit of a gamebreaker, but it's certainly noticeable and worth mentioning in this review.

Sound -

Anyone who has played a console version of GTA has to wonder how the sound is on the PSP version...especially the radio. My radio station of choice is the talk radio, partially because I've always been a big Lazlow fan, and I'll say that for the most part the experience is still complete. The absolute crackpot theories, radio call-ins, and talk shows are definitely there. The downside is that they seem to have been downsampled a bit for the size of the UMD. Using my favorite and most trustworthy pair of headphones, I still noticed a slightly tinny touch to the audio on all the stations. If you're not listening for it, you probably won't notice. Unfortunately, it's my job to listen for it.

Beyond the slight downsampling, there is a TON of voice work and music on this disc. Multiple radio stations with a variety of styles, fully voiced cutscenes, pedestrian and motorist comments, etc. It's all there, intact, and fully understandable. I had subtitles on simply because I'm used to doing that, and not because it was necessary. All voice actors were clear, easy to understand, and most importantly passionate. Major, major recognition on the sound work. Even with a bit of downsampling, this is what every PSP game should aspire to when it comes to the audio experience.

Wrap-Up -

If you're looking for entertainment on your PSP and you've been wondering what to get next, try this game. You know what you're getting when you pick up a GTA game, I would hope. I don't think it could possible get more press with regards to its content, so you should be going into it forewarned. If you're on a long trip but might have to shut it down at any point, just cruising the streets for half an hour can be an absolute blast and you won't have to worry about losing any part of an incomplete mission. Beyond the thin surface of street riding is a fully realized story, hilarious radio stations and commercials, well voiced and interesting characters, and hours of gameplay that are waiting to suck away your will for homework or any other work. It's not quite a killer app, I don't think, but the PSP hasn't had a game come closer since the release of Lumines, and I sincerely hope that this is the start of an entirely new trend in quality. This game definitely deserves the score of 9.0. With a little less lag and the ability to save anywhere, it would have easily gotten a 10.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/03/05

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