Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Review

GTA LCS

Title: Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Developer: Rockstar
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Grand Theft Auto has been a popular franchise for a long time, with games on nearly every console of this and last generation.  The handheld work remembers all of the “Stories” games that released on the PSP as well as one for both the PSP and the Nintendo DS.  This generation, though, has been shy of handheld GTA.  There was the iFruit Companion App that released on the PS Vita for GTA V, but not a fully-fledged GTA title.  It’s a shame, since the GTA Stories games were some of the best-selling PSP games in the West.

If you have a Vita or PlayStation TV and you want that open-world action, you must look towards backwards-compatibility.  I have touched on this subject before with my review of GTA: Vice City Stories from back in December 2013 when this site was barely a few weeks old.  Now, the better part of two years later, I’m going to continue the coverage of that franchise.  Without any further delay,  here is my official retro review of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories!

Story

GTA Story

The plot of the game takes place in Liberty City, several years before the events of Grand Theft Auto III.  Toni Sipriani, whom series veterans know as a major character in GTA III, has just returned to Liberty City.  Having killed an enemy of the Leone mafia family, he was forced into hiding for a set time.  As he returns, he plans on setting everything right and coming back to the Leone family to take over Liberty City.

During the events of the game,  Toni interacts with and proceeds dealings with many characters from GTA III as well as entirely new characters set in that time-frame, mostly with good reason why you see them in the city in this game, but not its chronological sequel.  Notable returning characters aside from Toni are Salvador Leone and a few others.

The thing to note about the story is that is very serious throughout the entire game.  You deal mostly with gang wars and side stories for business.  While Vice City Stories was filled to the brim with comedy, this has much more dark humor and retains a very serious tone throughout the plot.

Gameplay

GTA Game

Like the other 3D games, Liberty City Stories is an open world action-adventure games with driving and third person shooting elements thrown into the mix.  Whether you’re exploring the city or doing missions, you’ll be switching between driving vehicles through the streets of Liberty City or engaging in combat with enemies with various firearms and other weapons.

The first thing I want to touch on is what a feat it was that Rockstar crammed all of Liberty City into a PSP game.  The three islands in this game are the full and same map that players explored in GTA III, with some minor adjustments to accommodate the storyline differences of the fact that it takes place several years before that game.  But, all in all, every inch of Liberty City from GTA III is in this handheld game, intact and just as explore-able as it was in its original incarnation.

When you’re playing the game, you have a few choices of what to do.  You can go do story missions for the available NPCs around and advance the plot.  Or, you can go around and play mini-games at various locations or just run around and do whatever you want.  That’s the big gist of the GTA series in general.  This is a huge open sandbox world, where you can do pretty much anything you want.  The only restriction is that you only have access to 1 of the 3 islands and must progress through the story to unlock the rest.

Missions are pretty straight-forward for most of the game.  There will be checkpoints in the missions, but it will mostly be driving somewhere, combating enemies, escorting NPCs, as well as a few other things.  Every mission has its own special uniqueness to it, and the missions get longer the further you get in the game.  Your work doesn’t go unnoticed, either.  After you do a major mission, you can listen to the Liberty News on the radio as you hear how your mission impacts the city.

Apart from the story missions, there are also several types of Side Missions you can do for some extra cash or the fun of it.  If you find a certain type of vehicle, you can do special missions with it.  A couple examples of this are Firefighter and Taxi Driver missions, where you fight fires or escort drivers to their desired destinations.  The main story does give you a lot to do, but these side missions add a lot more content to the game.

Difficulty is also something to make mention of.  If you’ve played it, GTA III wasn’t the easiest game in the series, and neither is Liberty City Stories.  Many of the missions are tough, especially later on in the game.  To put it in perspective, there are many missions that I still have trouble with when I’m constantly inputting cheat codes for weapons, armor, and health.  Playing legit makes it that much harder.

If you go through this game without using cheats or a guide, expect the main story to take you from 12-15 hours to complete.  Add the side missions and you can easily burn 20 hours or more into the game, aside from mindlessly wandering around in the game.

Controls

The controls for the game aren’t bad, but they’re not optimal.  First of all, there won’t be a way to set the camera controls to the Right Analog Stick.  You hold L and then move the Left Analog to move the camera, so there’s no real way to emulate this with the right stick.

Now let’s talk about the other controls.  You use the D-Pad to switch weapons and radio stations and the Left Analog so move.  The R trigger allows you to lock onto a nearby target, and the Circle button can be used to attack with your equipped weapon.  Press the Square button to jump and the X button can be held to sprint.  On the flip side, you hold X to accelerate while in a car and Square to decelerate or go into reverse.

It’s not a hard control scheme to learn, and the game does a nice job at explaining everything to you.

Presentation

GTA Pres

First of all, the visual presentation isn’t bad, but isn’t great.  Everything is detailed, but it’s not short of jagged edges and blurred images.  Many of the billboards and signs are very blurry when you get up close.  Stare at them too long on the PSTV and you may very well get a little dizzy.  The presentation doesn’t look terrible, but it’s not fantastic, either.

The biggest thing is that it is widely accepted that Liberty City Stories as a digital download has lag and slowdown that makes the game completely unplayable.  I don’t know about the PS2 Classic version of the game, but I encountered nothing of that extreme when I was playing the game on my PlayStation TV.  The frame-rate isn’t perfect and it jumps every once in a while, but not to a terrible degree.  It’s not perfect, but it’s not as bad as people believe.

Summary

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is one of the largest games the PSP had to offer.  On the downside, the presentation is a little blurry and the frame rate isn’t perfect.  If you can handle a few jagged edges, this is an open-world game that is well worth any GTA fan’s time.

8/10

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