Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories ReviewCain Dornan
One thought that comes to mind when playing Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on the PlayStation 2 is the reason as to why Rockstar decided to bring a game that was originally developed specifically for the PlayStation Portable onto a home console format. Was it simply due to Rockstars desire to allow their core fans the PS2 gamers who have stuck with the series through its three iterations on the console to enjoy their latest creation in the famed GTA universe? Or was it due to a more shady and greedy decision of porting the game to its home platform in an attempt to make a quick buck? Has Rockstar finally caved in and began milking the cash cow from their most famous and infamous franchise?
Given the popularity of the franchise on the PS2 and the widespread disappointment for many console gamers when Rockstar first announced the original GTA title for the PSP, were leaning towards the first option as to why Liberty City Stories has made its way onto the PS2, without the presence of a certain hidden minigame that caused San Andreas to cop so much flak from the mainstream press and family groups.
For the uninformed, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is a port of the same-titled game that appeared on the PSP last year. The game pits players into the role of the usual mobster, this time known as Toni Cipriani, who, after leaving the city the pursue other endeavors for some time, has returned to Liberty City to continue doing the dirty work for his old boss, Salvatore Leone, the king pin of the infamous Leone crime family. The game sees players working up the mobster ranks, performing the usual range of racing, transporting and killing tasks that the GTA series has long involved.
But while the game may have turned heads whilst running on a portable platform, the port to the PS2 has arrived on a much quieter, less noticeable basis. This is due to the simple fact that Liberty City Stories feels severely aged on the PS2. The missions are often far too short and simple, and the storyline doesnt offer the level of depth and creativity that the console-spanning series has long established. While this suited the handheld realm where quick ten minute play sessions are frequent, doing so in a console game isnt exactly appropriate, especially when recent editions in the same franchise has seen the introduction of longer, more engaging missions to involve yourself in. Of particular note is a particular mission that takes no longer than five minutes to complete, requiring you to simply transport an overdosed woman to several points around the city in search of her next drug fix, only to discover that each new destination that you are instructed to arrive at proves to be the wrong location. The mission ultimately sees you running around the city like a headless duck, with no particular reasoning or usefulness behind the mission. Hell, I dont think we even received a decent monetary payment for the worries.
Despite the occasional pointless downright frustrating missions that are on hand, theres no hiding the strong GTA charm that the game carries. Liberty City Stories is unmistakably a GTA game, one that offers all the cheeky and crude humour, violence and free-roaming city landscapes that we have all come to love about the series. Its this very charm that Rockstar manages to press onto each GTA game that keeps them ahead of the competition; one that often helps make-up for most downfalls that the game suffers from.
While some technical aspects of the game may have been altered and improved through the handheld-to-console transition, the gameplay remains to be identical to what was on offer in the PSP version apart from the much needed inclusion of camera control using the right analog stick in the PS2 version. The same can be said for the games sound and visuals, which offer a level of quality that may have been impressive on a handheld system, but looks and sounds severely aged on a more powerful console platform. Nevertheless, Rockstar never promised an entirely new, updated version of the game; instead, they are simply offering gamers who are restricted to console platforms the chance to experience what many handheld gamers have been raving about since the games release.
On the topic of graphics, Liberty City Stories suffers from a particular visual fault that often becomes distracting While we can appreciate that the blocky characters, vehicles and surroundings are due to the tight hardware limitations that the PSP posed on the original game, and can deal with them fine on the more powerful PS2 hardware, there are certain problems with the games graphics that can cause for some frustration when played on the PS2. The games weather effects are far from pretty, and can often restrict your view severely. This is particularly a problem when the games fog or dust effects come into play, which sees the screen becoming engulfed in weird colours that make it difficult to see any further than a meter in front of you. Given the games already slight discolouration through an overly dark atmosphere, and these weather effects quickly pose as a nuisance more than a welcomed atmosphere improver.
One improvement that we can applaud wholeheartedly is the improved controls with the PS2 version. While the game handled surprisingly well on the PSP, the limitations of the single analog stick resulted in some frustrating circumstances where we couldnt see what we were doing clearly. On the PS2 this is largely resolved, with control of the camera being mapped to the right analog stick. In addition, the PS2s controls are more smooth and less frustrating than its PSP brother, which suffered from slightly too sensitive controls during the more fine-playing sections of the game. This is weighed out with the absence of the multiplayer component in the PS2 version that was offered in the original PSP offering. We cant picture the multiplayer mode being as effective on the PS2 anyway, so its no great loss for fans.
In many cases, the original is always the best, which can be a perfect summary for the arrival of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories on the PS2. When played on the PSP, the game can be considered as being a technical feat, and is a perfect offering of GTA-goodness for gamers on the go. With the core design of the game being targeted towards a handheld platform, however, throwing the game onto a console platform without making any significant changes or improvements does feel rather awkward. Given the recent treat of San Andreas that we have all been treated to, going back and playing a game that doesnt offer half of the welcomed innovations that San Andreas included feels like a step backward. For true fans of the series, Liberty City Stories is the best fix of free-roaming, violent and humorous action that youre going to get for some time as long as you havent already played the game on the PSP.
We prefer to experience Liberty City Stories on the PSP over the PS2. But if you cant get your hands on a PSP, the PS2 version is the next best thing. Besides, PS2 gamers get to pick up a copy of Liberty City Stories at a budget price, which is a very enticing prospect indeed.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.