Until you play Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, you'll not realise just how impressive it really is.
The GTA series has had huge commercial success and critical acclaim since the groundbreaking GTA3, and this continues in LCS. You take the role of Toni Cipriani, a once trusted wise guy in the Leone family who has recently returned to Liberty City after been in hiding for years because he killed a made man. But when he returns he finds the streets of Liberty City in turmoil, warring Mafia gangs have seemingly have taken control as the town starts to crumble under political corruption, organised crime and drug trafficking. Because of the current turmoil, Toni is forced to fight for his life in an adventure that will shake Liberty City to its foundations.
LCS isn't the first ever handheld GTA game, all the older ones used the series older top down perspective on the action, but it's by far the best. If you look at the game from a technical standpoint it's impressive. The games visuals and sounds, surprisingly, match and ever better that of some of the PlayStation 2 titles, and that's an achievement Rockstar can be proud of. Yes it's true that the game has a pretty minimal frame rate, meaning that if you travel in cars at high speeds cars can just pop up in front of you and hit you, or there will be a slight pause every now and then when entering and exiting vehicles, but this will be the last time I highlight these points because the game is so good, and these problems are so minimal, that all I want to talk about is its good points. If you can remember back to playing GTA3 then you'll already know the entire layout of Liberty City on LCS, but that's not bad. While the layout of the city is basically the same not everything is the same, for instance, some buildings that were on GTA3 may not be on LCS, and some buildings and roads are on LCS that weren't on GTA3, so you still have to workout exactly where everything is, but if you played GTA3 that experience will help you out. Also some of the people that gave you missions on GTA3, like Salvatore Leone, also give you missions on LCS. People may think this is rubbish but you have to remember that a lot of the people you get missions off are wired to the city, just like they were on GTA3, so they are still important.
The story in LCS is quite solid but not as impressive as the stories on the PS2 titles. You get a basic idea of it and this stays for a while, but once you leave Portland Island, because of the bother both you and Salvatore Leone are in, the story starts to disintegrate a little. But this isn't that much of a problem because the fun part of a GTA game isn't the story but its brilliant gameplay and fantastic sense of humour. The missions in LCS are in the typical GTA mould, blow something up, assassinate some one, steal a vehicle, you know the drill, but it's the execution of the missions and the fact that they are fun to do that makes the game so good, you rarely have 2 missions the same in LCS and that's what makes them so great because you never get a sense of déjà vu. A new feature to LCS that didn't appear on the PS2 titles is the mission Taxi. This appears if you get busted or wasted on a mission, and if you get into it, it will take you back to the mission you attempted, which is a good feature but if you get busted or wasted you lose your weapons and if this happens you'll probably just reset the game and get them back instead of actually getting in the taxi and attempting a mission with nothing to defend yourself with. But if you die and do lose your arsenal of weapons you could always do some of the optional stuff, like becoming a car rep salesman where you sell cars by impressing the buyers, and you earn a fair few bob doing this.
But the one major thing that still remains in LCS, and one of the things I like most about the games, is the humour. Whenever I was stuck on a mission on the PS2 titles, or when I couldn't be bothered to attempt one, I would drive around Liberty City, or Vice City or San Andreas just listening to the radio and listening to all the crude, rude and damn right bizarre things that's said on each channel, and fans of the series will be pleased to know that you can still do this on LCS.
The one major thing that has been added to Liberty City Stories is that of a 2-6 player multiplayer mode. The multiplayer is only available over Ad Hoc Mode, but this doesn't subtract anything from the experience because the multiplayer features are great, but it would have been nice to be able to play it online. Also every player will have to have their own copy of the game to play. There are several game types on LCS from 'Liberty City Survivor,' the games Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch mode, to 'Tanks for the Memories,' which is like a King of the Hill game mode, except you have to enter and stay in the tank for as long as possible. And the other modes range from 'The Hit List' where you have to kill the marked player as quickly as possible and when you're the marked player you have to stay alive as long as possible, to 'Street Race' where you have to drive through the marked checkpoints and finish the race first in order to win. On every multiplayer mode you can chose which island, Portland, Staunton, or Shoreside Vale, you want to play on and this is great too, but the islands are big and if there are only a few players on it may take some time to find one and other. The multiplayer is great on LCS, and like I said earlier the only let down is that there is no online mode.
Until you play Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, you'll not realise just how impressive it really is. I know that from a technical standpoint that the PS2 is no longer as impressive as that used to be, but to have a game that matches or betters a PS2 game in visuals sound and gameplay on a handheld console, well that is a brilliant achievement. GTA: LCS is possibly the best ever game to appear on a handheld console, and it deserves that title.
Review by: James Widdowson