Rockstar Games will go down as a developer which has made the games that it wants to play, as proven by the recent 'Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis', rather than what market forces tell them to make. It just so happens that the games they want to play are also games everyone else wants to play, making them a hugely successful developer under the Take 2 development house. When the PSP came out it was inevitable that a GTA game would make its way to the system and Liberty City stories was that game. What came as a surprise was the announcement that it was coming to PS2 - not that surprising however that, rather than cashing in, Rockstar was giving something back to the fans.
LCS tells the story of Tony Cipriani, a famous gangster just out of jail heading back to Liberty City to prove his worth with the mob once again. Luckily for Tony, he happened to take the rap for one of the gang's biggest crooks and thus is seen as a hero by even the Don himself upon his return. However the Don has done a lot for Tony and expects to be repaid. So while Tony has the whole town to play with, he is still under the watchful eye of the local Don and law enforcement. Throughout the story you come across cliche twists and turns with various characters you will recognise from GTA3 as expected.
The game itself really is a completely rebuilt, somewhat expansion pack for GTA3. To label it only an expansion pack does Rockstar no justice as they took the portable series very seriously and crafted one of the most impressive PSP games around. However when it moves to the consoles it's obviously against much tougher competition and doesn't stand up as well. Rockstar, to their credit, are not calling this the new GTA. Instead it is a taste test and something to carry you over until the next big thing hits October 2007.
As you would expect the game is played from a third person perspective with the option to go first person with some weapons and for finding things also available. Again as expected the world is completely free roam but contains around fifty missions for you to complete with varying degrees of difficulty. It really is the same GTA style we've seen in GTA3 before so don't expect something completely new however there has been a few enhancements from San Andreas, such as motorbikes which can be commandeered around Liberty City, so its not all old news.
We do have one little whinge however and it's probably carried over from the port and that is the load times. They are absolutely abysmal. San Andreas loads quicker and has about 100x more things to load. It really is inexcusable and if the game wasn't so accomplished it would be a major problem. The thing is, the wait is worth it, it's just a shame it wasn't that optimized from PSP to PS2. Also Rockstar has decided to remove the multiplayer component of the portable game. It looks like we're not seeing multiplayer in GTA on console until they think they can get it one hundred percent right.
Now our little whinge is out of the way its time to tell you why this game is still worth buying. First of all it's fifty Aussie bucks, a whole half price of what a new GTA would go for. Second, it's as fully featured as its predecessor GTA3, but with a whole lot of new missions and enhancements. To really get the most of this game you need to think back a long time to when GTA3 ruled the land and completing that second last mission where you drive all over the place in fifteen minutes was a huge achievement. It is then that you will see how good this game is and how far the original GTA3 has come since its debut a long time ago.
Liberty City itself has been overhauled as well. While it is true you will have a huge advantage if you remember the areas and locations of buildings from GTA3, there have been cosmetic changes. The game is set quite a number of years after GTA3 so of course advertising and zones of the city have changed. The actual layout of the city is almost exactly the same and the bridges are of course still closed until certain missions are reached but other than that you will find a new living breathing city to take part in.
The game's visuals also could have done with a makeover but you will only find marginal improvement over the PSP game. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that people who play the PSP game then the PS2 game won't find that many differences in the graphics. The draw distance etc has been improved but overall it's only a small improvement. However with that said the graphics are not bad which speaks volumes for the power of Sony's little gem. The game also features voice acting like its PSP counter part which you would expect on the PS2 but once again Rockstar has crafted together an intricate story full of surprise which makes you wanting to play more.
GTA Liberty City Stories gives fans more of what they wanted before the next game in 2007. If you go in not expecting a brand new GTA you will find a nice cheap filler full of action and storyline to keep you going for a little while at least - easily a bargain for its AU$50 price tag.