Certainly not one of GTA’s finer outings that can be sure. Sure it was a great way to show the power of the PSP in the early days of gaming, but the port for the PS2 manages to look even worse in comparison to the PSP. It seems like nothing changed from PSP to PS2, and if there was any it certainly is very little. The graphics are much like the original GTA III, yet some how worse as many of the darker textures make it hard to tell the difference between what’s solid and what isn’t. As well, the cutscenes are largely stiff and lifeless throughout the game, even worse off than GTA III’s. You’d think that Rockstar would upgrade at least the visuals for a PS2 port, but no, it’s just a PSP game blown up to look like a PS2 one. Thankfully the one saving grace between the two versions is the controls itself, as it’s much easier to control camera angles and move around using a PS2 controller compared to the PSP, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t suck. Mainly because the controller gives a better handling on already crappy controls. The soundtrack also seemed fairly limited compared to most GTA games, having lower amount of stations and songs for each station, making the majority of car rides the same songs over and over again. Again another problem that could have been addressed by the PS2 port, but wasn’t for whatever reason. Needless to say, the only real reason to get this port over the PSP game is because of the slight edge the PS2 controller gives you.
As for the actual story and missions, well, Liberty City Stories certainly feels more like an expansion of what GTA III was about, but not with nearly as great storytelling or compelling characters GTA III had. While it’s set as a prequel, and supposed to look a little differently compared to the original GTA III, it feels almost exactly the same, with little to no changes that really affect it. Hidden packages, item placements, and a few builds are left out, or new ones are put in, but overall it’s very much the same location as GTA III. The few characters that comeback from the original GTA III are a bit lackluster to begin with, not really explaining much of there character as the other games do and very little dialogue is had amongst Toni and them. Other returning characters seem only to be nods to GTA III, and rarely impact anything in Toni’s story. The new characters however are rather dull compared to the returning characters, and often get written out of the story way too sloppily to really have an impact. The missions are also another big problem with this game as the difficulty of the missions flux way too much for a GTA game which usually leads up to bigger and badder scenarios. The majority of mid-game missions are far harder than the final set of missions, but this isn’t because they were design that way. Rather the mid-game missions tend to have a lot of terrible placement and tedious ground work to cover to actually get to missions. The end game missions aren’t very hard either, as the majority of those missions are just tedious work, usually just being getting from one island to another . As I finished Toni’s story I really just felt relieved that I didn’t have to do it again as it just became way to monotonous. Toni’s story wasn’t even that engaging as the majority of what happens is, “someone wants to start something, Toni go do it”. At least Vice City and GTA III had a lot of interesting betrayals and characters. The writing was just way too predictable and lazy overall, killing off characters simply because they wanted to make sure to not ruin this game’s prequel stats, but all it really did was get in the way. Just really a mess of what could have been something good.
Aside from its status as a Grand Theft Auto game with the same basic mechanics as GTA III; Liberty City Stories delivers nothing really new or engaging as a prequel to GTA III. The majority of the landscape is the same, the missions are similar to other GTA games, but poorer on delivery. The PS2 port is also a wreck changing very little if anything at all from the PSP version, save for a better camera handling and terrible blown up graphics. Really just get any other GTA game save this one, it’s not worth it.