Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Review: 5 Reasons to Buy

Cover art for Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Review: 5 Reasons to Buy

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is an action-adventure video game. Released in 2005 by Rockstar Games for PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 2, iOS, Android, and Fire OS. This game is set as a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III featuring a mobster Toni Cipriani and his journey of rising through the ranks of the Leone crime family. 

A Port of an Excellent Handheld Game

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories gameplay
Main protagonist Toni Cipriani roaming the streets of Liberty City.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is an astounding game. Easily the best in its genre. The only disappointment here is due to heightened expectations; players have never seen anything like this on a handheld system, and the extra power of the PS2 could potentially open up a world of possibilities. The fact that it’s budget-priced at under twenty bucks does give it a nice selling point.

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

Familiar Characters from the GTA Series

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories gameplay
Ride through Liberty City in style.

Tony Cipriani is the antihero of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. He’s a member of the Leone crime family, a well-established and well-connected organized crime syndicate with ties to city hall. The family is involved in territorial disputes with other crime families. Tony’s too low on the totem pole to concern himself 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 a handful of other crooks he encounters.

Work Your Way Up the Ranks in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories gameplay
Interact with numerous characters with either vocal or physical confrontation.

There is no shortage of interesting characters to interact with in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. They help move the plot along and allow Tony to earn some money to help finance his life of crime by purchasing body armor and exotic weapons. 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, extortion, and making the odd hit along the way. These are dirty jobs, but Tony’s a willing participant.

Weapons include a pistol, shotgun, mini-gun, machinegun, flamethrower, and 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. When put into use, the system doesn’t automatically target the most immediate threat; it will often target civilians or less-imposing thugs. While it only takes a second to correct, this second can cost the player. 

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is Easier Than Ever to Control

Grand Theft Auto Screenshot
Many modes of transportation in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.

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 comprises three islands. 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 missions are time-consuming and overused. Once or twice is more than enough.

Lots to Do in the City

A Steam promotional image for Grand Theft Auto V.
A personal touch of GTA: Liberty City Stories features cellphone conversations.

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

Final Thoughts

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is a summertime treat for PS2 owners who haven’t played the PSP version. Even though it’s almost a 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.

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