Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Get ready to hit the mean streets of Liberty City once again as the best selling game on PSP gets the PlayStation 2 treatment.
If you've ever played a Grand Theft Auto game before - and the chances of that are pretty high, seeing as it's consistently the best selling and most critically acclaimed franchise on PlayStation 2 - then GTA: LCS is going to seem pretty familiar. It's going to seem even more familiar if you've played GTA: LCS on the PlayStation Portable, as this is a direct conversion of the game that set new standards for handheld gaming and broke all PSP sales records.
It may not be quite as ground-breaking as San Andreas, but LCS offers another perfect slice of Grand Theft Auto gaming and is easily the equal of the other games in the series.
Give me Liberty or give me death
The game is set in Liberty City, last seen in Grand Theft Auto III (and visited briefly in San Andreas). You play Toni Cipriani, a hotheaded member of the Leone crime family freshly returned to the city after four years spent lying low for killing a rival gang boss. Having slid down the crime ladder in his absence, Toni must claw his way back into the favour of Don Salvatore Leone by doing jobs for a variety of shady characters all over town, ranging from a seedy strip club owner to his own disapproving mother.
If you've played a GTA game in the past these jobs will be familiar to you, taking in driving missions, hitman jobs, delivery assignments and a whole glorious spectrum of nefarious activities. The game retains the classic GTA third person perspective and simple control system, so even novices will be hurling themselves out of speeding cars and popping wheelies on motorbikes in no time. Combat is handled by a straightforward lock-on system, and there's a selection of firepower so comprehensive it would make Schwarzenegger blush. Added to this is a selection of over 70 vehicles, including fire engines, ambulances, police vehicles, speedboats, motorbikes and lots more, each with their own unique speed and handling.
Grand Theft Awesome
Despite having its roots in handheld gaming, Liberty City Stories doesn't feel like it has been scaled back from any of the previous PS2 Grand Theft Auto outings. The visuals have been given a polish for the bigger screen, with added lighting effects and a beefed-up framerate and draw distance over its PSP counterpart. Audio-wise, sound effects and music are excellent, while the talented cast continues the Grand Theft Auto tradition of top-notch voice acting.
While LCS may lack the finely detailed character customization of GTA: San Andreas, in many ways this is actually a bonus. As enjoyable as building your character up in San Andreas was, the constant cycle of eating and working out became a chore after a while. LCS leaves you free to get on with the business of building your crime empire, without having to worry about going to pick up a salad and run 50 laps in the middle of a mission. Because of its handheld origins, LCS is all about pick up and play gaming - a style that suits Grand Theft Auto just fine.
Big city life
Everything that makes the Grand Theft Auto series such fun to play is here in abundance. The city is huge and vibrant, teeming as it is with memorable non-player characters. The script is witty and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny - especially on the radio stations, which are packed with great music. The missions are varied and fun, and the story is compelling and exciting, packed with brilliant characters and unexpected plot twists. In other words, it has everything you could hope to find in a videogame.
To cut a long story short, Liberty City Stories is a Grand Theft Auto game in the great tradition of Grand Theft Auto games, and full of controversial, amoral fun. If you liked the previous games in the series you'll like this one too, and for a budget price you're not going to find a better source of criminal carnage on PlayStation 2.