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Platform

PlayStation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Rockstar

 

Developer

Rockstar

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2006

 

 

- It's only $20US

- Decent enough story

- Enjoyable meat and potatoes gameplay

 

 

- Visuals look upscaled from the PSP version, and got uglified in the process

- Some may be sick and tired of mob stories at this point

- The GTA radio stations are trying too hard to be edgy

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PlayStation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PlayStation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (Playstation 2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PC)

 

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Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

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Last year, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was released on the PSP, and it turned a lot of heads for offering a solid GTA experience on a handheld system.  Now, Rockstar has released the game on the PS2 at a budget price for those who missed out last Fall.  By and large, the content translates very well onto the home console, presenting a fun, if a tad cookie cutter, mafia story.  However, the visuals are muddy, and the overall experience has a “been there, done that” veneer to it.  Nonetheless, Liberty City Stories is only twenty bucks, so gamers can expect some decent bang for their buck here.

 

Seeing as this is a port of the PSP version of the game, it's important to note what hasn't come along for the ride in the transition from the handheld version of Liberty City Stories to the PlayStation 2 version.  Firstly, there is no more multiplayer options for the game, so don't expect to play alongside your friend.  Second, custom soundtracks are gone, so it's nothing but straight GTA radio this time.

 

At its heart, Liberty City Stories is all about the mafia.  It’s a decent enough story with more than its fair share of clichés, but it manages to remain entertaining.  What will be the real hook in the game’s narrative, though, is how it ties into other games in the series, particularly Grand Theft Auto III, as this game takes place in the same city, only three years earlier.  Over the course of the game, players will take control of Toni Cipriani, one of the Leone Capos from GTA III, and see just how he rose to his position.  In this regard, Liberty City Stories offers some interesting background information on how and why certain things are the way they are in GTA III, as well as letting players know what happened to some of the other characters in other recent GTA games.  It’s a nice little added value feature that helps bring a little more meat to the game’s story for long-time fans of the series.

 

While actually playing through the missions, there is a strong sense of familiarity to Liberty City Stories.  This doesn’t just come from the fact that players are more or less going through the same town that they did in GTA III, but also because the basic gameplay very similar to that game.  The fancy dressings found in later games in the series are largely absent in this title, but it isn’t detrimental to the enjoyment of Liberty City Stories.  All of the basic elements that a player 

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needs in order to have fun in a GTA game are still present here: lots of weapons, responsive controls, tons of vehicles, and challenging missions.  At its core, there is plenty to enjoy, and most who play the game will likely be able to overlook the lack of advanced features thanks to the budget price of the title.

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In actual fact, the missions this time around are consistently very challenging, and a ton of fun to play through.  Generally speaking, players will need to use their heads a lot more this time, as a run-and-gun approach will usually land Toni in the hospital, leaving players to start the mission all over again.  One aspect of the missions that could become annoying, though, is that ones that require a lot of driving require players to really baby their cars, as some of them are quite fragile this time around.  This can be exceptionally tough if your tires get shot out, as it will cause most cars to fish tail a lot more, slamming into other vehicles, or to at least slow down your ride, allowing enemies to smash into it some more, which could blow up Toni and whoever he’s supposed to be escorting.  

 

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However, despite the gameplay being fun, it would have been nice if the visuals were a little prettier.  Firstly, the detail is lacking, and looks like Rockstar simply took the PSP version of the game, and stretched out the images to fit on a regular TV.  Secondly there’s clipping and draw in all over the place.  And lastly, the frame rate is a bit lacking, making things sometimes feel a bit clunky.  Granted some of these are problems that every PS2 edition of a GTA game has suffered from, but there is this undeniable lack of polish to the overall presentation of the game in Liberty City Stories.

 

Of course, the other area of presentation that GTA games are known for, and for which the series usually receives plenty of accolades is the audio, more specifically the radio stations.  By and large the different stations are quite satisfying, with some decent music, but it feels like Rockstar was trying to hard to make the talk radio over the top, and controversial.  Flashback FM has a host that seems to be some sort of deranged dominatrix, while many of the people on Chatterbox seem far to perverse, troubled, et cetera.  The only interesting thing to come out of the talk radio station is that players can see the early part of Lazlo’s Liberty City career.

 

In the end, though, Liberty City Stories does manage to provide some good times.  While the game isn’t as robust as, say, Vice City or San Andreas, there is still plenty to keep one’s self busy, and the $20US price tag certainly doesn’t hurt either.

 

Mr. Nash

(June 3, 2006)

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