PS2 REVIEW: GRAND THEFT AUTO: LIBERTY CITY STORIES

Rockstar is going to make you a $20 offer you'd be crazy to refuse. by Cole Smith

June 9, 2006 - Having played the PSP version of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, I was constantly hoping for something new to occur in the PS2 version. Of course I had to play through the entire game just to confirm that it’s virtually identical to the PSP version. The things I do for you guys.

Liberty City Stories was an absolutely astounding game when it debuted on the PSP in the fall of 2005. It was a great game, easily the best game in its genre. It still hasn’t been surpassed. So if this game was so great on the PSP, why am I a little disappointed with it on the PS2? It’s due to something called lowered expectations. We’ve never seen anything like this on a handheld system. The very fact that this game has been released on the PS2 as a direct port should indicate just how revolutionary this game is – for the PSP. But when compared to other PS2 games, it comes up a little short. Especially when compared to games from its own GTA series. The fact that it’s budget priced under twenty bucks is also a strong indicator that the developers didn’t feel it was strong. At the very least it shows that Rockstar isn’t about to take advantage of its fans.

Aside from some graphic tweaks here and there, the game is identical to the PSP version – except that the PS2 doesn’t include a multi-player mode. It’s not that great of an addition in the first place and I certainly won’t miss it. If you haven’t played it, you’re not missing anything either.

On the PS2 this is just an average-looking game. It’s not even in the same league as the classic GTA 3 – but at the same time it’s not being passed off as the second-coming either. Taken for what it is, it’s still a pretty good game, but it’s not without some faults. As compelling as the story is, it essentially follows the patent GTA formula. New characters are simply thrust into the thug roles with slightly different situations, circumstances and missions. In other words there is no shortage of crime, violence, vehicles, sexual references and ways to make a dishonest buck.

Tony Cipriani is the anti-hero of the game. He’s a member of the Leone crime family, a well-established and well-connected organized crime syndicate with ties to city hall. As usual, the family is involved with territorial disputes with other crime families. Tony’s too low on the totem pole to concern himself with directly with these affairs but as long as he’s got cars to steal, debts to collect and people to kill, he’s a happy camper. Starting at the bottom, Tony accepts a variety of missions from members of his family in addition to other crooks he encounters which includes pimps, dishonest businessmen and corrupt politicians among other low-life.

There is no shortage of interesting characters to interact with. They help move the plot along and allow Tony to earn some money which he can use to help finance his life of crime by purchasing body armor and exotic weapons. Things don’t start out with a bang mind you, Tony has to work his way up through the hierarchy. He begins by taking missions that have him making pick ups and deliveries, collecting debts and other items, hijacking cars, throwing the fear of God into some marks and making the odd hit along the way. These are dirty jobs, but Tony’s gotta’ do ‘em.

Weapons include a pistol, shotgun, mini-gun, machinegun, flamethrower and a rocket launcher. Nothing subtle here. There are two ways to conduct business with most people. One is with hand-to-hand combat and the other involves weaponry. In some instances you will find yourself on the defensive, instead of initiating the altercation or shootout. Early in the game you’ll find yourself under attack by a group of gun-wielding thugs, and another gang armed with chainsaws that literally want to rip you a new one – or two, or three…

You’re not very well armed at the outset and things can get quite frustrating, especially with the auto-targeting system that has a mind of its own; let’s make that half a mind. When put into the use the system doesn’t automatically target the most immediate threat, it will often target civilians or other lesser imposing thugs. While it only takes a second to correct, this second can cost you dearly. If you don’t have much in the way of health left, you’re going to get killed quickly. When you have to start over you’ll lose all of your rare and expensive weapons. To make matters even more frustrating there are limited saves. Put this together with some heavy trial and error missions and you’ve got a recipe for a controller embedded in the drywall.

One thing that the PS2 does have over the PSP is the control system. I don’t care what anyone says, two sticks are better than one. The right stick controls the camera while the left moves the character. It’s a very good system that feels tight and responsive. The vehicles are also a joy to control, and there are lots of them including sports cars, vans, trucks, ambulances, fire trucks, boats, motorcycles and semis. It’s a lot of fun to drive through Liberty City which is comprised of three islands. Unlike the PSP version there is more vehicular traffic and pedestrians. The streets are alive with various background animations and diverse buildings. However, many of the vehicle missions, which are time-based, will have you driving from one end of town to the next and back again. These are make-work missions that are overused. Once or twice is more than enough.

There is no shortage of action in Liberty City. You are free to roam about and explore the city while you encounter unique characters and are offered GTA-approved missions. There are 10 radio stations that will keep you company, offering everything from rock to hip-hop, talk radio to a station that specializes in boy bands. Okay, so there are nine stations. The DJ’s put their unique spin on things with hip vernacular and smartass comments. You’ll even hear reports of some of the incidents that you caused. It makes the experience more personal and realistic.

Liberty City Stories is a summer time treat for PS2 owners who haven't played the PSP version. Even though it's an almost direct port, the control system is vastly improved on the PS2 and the budget price just seals the deal for this full length GTA adventure. Pack your bags for Liberty City and paint the town red.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PS2)
3.8
Graphics
It's virtually identical to the PSP version.
4.5
Control
The PS2 controller is miles above the PSP as two sticks are better than one. The auto targeting system is awkward.
4.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great voice-acting. I love the different radio stations and the DJ commentary. Sound effects are loud and proud.
4.5
Play Value
You might want to replay the game to tackle some of the missions that you missed but these will just be minor missions with little depth. It's a full-fledged GTA adventure with no shortcuts. No multiplayer mode.
4.5
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PS2, PSP
Dev: Rockstar
Pub: Rockstar
Release: June 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best