Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was hailed as the “killer PSP game.” The popular GTA series had to make its way onto the PSP sooner or later, and its PSP debut is great.
The game takes place, as the title suggests, in Liberty City, which is the city where Grand Theft Auto III (the first 3D game in the series) is also located. Rockstar Leeds just turned the city into the UMD and changed a few things to make it look more modern as LCS is established after III. That said, the only real changes are the stores, which have different names and styles, which is quite disappointing. A new city to explore would have been so much better.
You play as Toni Cipriani, a serious guy who is willing to do anything and eliminate anyone who gets in his way. Unlike GTA III, he can talk, which improves the scenes. The basic story mode consists of missions that tend to get repetitive. You’ll go to a guy on your map, they’ll give you a mission that usually involves killing someone, and they’ll pay you once you’re done. Once you have completed enough missions, you will proceed to the second island of Liberty City. There are three islands in total and you unlock them over time. It’s a nice incentive to complete missions, but for people who have played GTA III, there is nothing really new.
Although the game is focused on missions, the ability to roam freely is truly magnificent. You may find yourself playing over and over again and rarely get tired. There is no free roaming mode, in fact there are no modes, the game just loads when you turn it on. Whether you decide to participate in a mission or not is up to you. If you choose not to, you can freely roam the city, wreaking havoc or just exploring. You can also collect a number of weapons, ranging from pistols and UZIs to rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and sniper rifles. You will also have melee weapons like knives and baseball bats. Or, if you want to do some ranged damage, use a grenade or a Molotov cocktail.
The cops are still around, so if you blow up too many heads, you’ll be a bit enraged. The police are divided into levels with the usual system. You have 1 star at the beginning, and if you keep blowing things up it will eventually increase to 6 stars, and you will have the army behind you.
The vehicles in the game are again similar to the previous versions. Veterans will remember the Patriot, Cheetah, Infernus, Banshee, etc., although some have redesigns that look more modern. You can also have motorcycles, which have never been seen in Liberty City before. Motorcycles are generally faster and have better handling than cars, and they make it easier to perform single jumps, etc. There are no bikes in the game, which was a nice addition to San Andreas. As you progress through the game, you will also have the opportunity to ride boats. It’s not as fun as it sounds, and it’s never been in any of the GTA games. The handling of the boats is slow and it is not fun to drive them. You can no longer fly. Anything. It’s not a thing. The Dodo was a GTA III plane that was located at the airport, which you could fly to, or at least try. This time there are no Dodo, no helicopters, no planes of any kind. It really feels like a missing factor, although in one of the missions it is possible to steal a helicopter, so the physics and controls are still technically in the game. Why there are no planes to fly is confusing. The police still have helicopters following you, so be careful.
A new means of transport is the ferry. It’s basically a slow boat ride and you can’t drive the boat. You even have to pay for the service. However, it is a quick way to go from island to island, and you can stay with your car.
The general controls of the vehicles are good. Sports cars have great speeds and handling, and slow cars have reduced turning ability. The foot controls have been drastically changed. Use the small analog-style stick to control Toni and the vehicles. The directional buttons are used to switch weapons and start various side missions. Of course, the PSP has fewer buttons than the PS2 controller, so condensing everything was not an easy task. Sometimes the controls feel very complicated and it can be frustrating when you need to focus things quickly.
Adding to the “Toni can’t” list is the ability to swim. Implemented in San Andreas, this feature is absent. It is only lost when you fall off a cliff into the water, as you could swim to the side and get out. Instead, Toni just drowns. All stat boosting abilities are no longer present, but not particularly lost.
Toni can change her clothes and there are some good options. He cannot change specific body parts, instead he chooses from full suits. Although changing clothes is a small part of the game, you would probably never notice this option if it was not needed for some missions.
If you don’t want to do any main quests, you can take part in some of the side quests. Famous in all PS2 GTA games, these usually include taxi missions, in which you act as a taxi driver and deliver the passengers before time passes. Ambulance missions, where you take the sick to the hospital. Fire truck missions, which involve putting out fires like burning cars. A new side mission is the dump truck mission. You simply need to collect all the green trash cans within the time limit. All of these missions are basically the same repetitive actions. However, the rewards are worth it.
There are also hidden packages throughout the game in various locations. Nothing new in the series, but collecting all 100 adds weapons to your stash. Single jumps are big jumps where the camera changes and goes in slow motion. When you successfully complete a single jump, you will earn money for your effort. While these things are by no means new additions, they are nice to have and it expands the game.
We all know that the PSP has wireless capabilities and Liberty City Stories takes advantage of that. The wireless multiplayer action is astonishingly good. You must have friends with PSP and copies of the game, but if you do, you’re in luck. The game allows total free play with your friends. There are many different game modes that adhere to the premise of capturing the flag. Most games work this way. Liberty City Survivor allows players to play against each other. This is the way you will play non-stop. Even after you’ve finished the game, you’re unlikely to get bored with the multiplayer action.
Liberty City Stories has the same radio themed soundtrack. When you enter a vehicle, you can choose from several radio stations, all of which have different styles of music. The soundtrack has some well-known tracks from the period, but nothing too impressive. Compared to the Vice City and San Andreas soundtracks, this is substandard.
The graphics in the game are quite cartoonish. The series was never intended to be a simulator, but some smoother graphics would have been nice. Sometimes it can appear that Toni has multiple legs when you are running. Also, sometimes the frame rate has trouble keeping up, but only when there are many on the screen at once. For the most part, the frame rate holds up well. Loading times are acceptable. There is a loading period at the beginning and then when crossing between islands a loading screen will appear, but only for a few seconds.
Overall, it’s a great addition to the Grand Theft Auto series and the PSP lineup. You can’t help but feel like it’s just a watered-down version of a PS2 GTA, or just an expansion pack, that doesn’t expand much. However, the single-player action, and multiplayer in particular, is well worth the purchase.