Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-11-03 PS2 Action M (Mature) Rockstar

Having played the three PS2 outings in the GTA universe, I was expecting something that could stand up to the reputation of its predecessors. Waiting in line at Target for my copy, I patiently awaited the moments when Liberty City would once again be mine for the taking. But maybe I should have waited just a little longer...

Before we get into the bulk of the review, I think it should be immediately noted that this entry into the GTA universe in no way compares to the grandeur that we've all come to love from San Andreas. If you are expecting a title as good as LCS's predecessor, I'm sad to say that you will be greatly disappointed. However, if you can try to stray away from the million and one comparisons that one could make, it does let LCS shine a bit more brightly on its own.

Back are all the great features one can expect from a GTA offering. The car-jacking, prostitute killing, free roaming world that we had already come to know and love is back, waiting to be explored and appreciated by all of us franchise fans. And let me tell you just how nice it is to start playing a game when you already know the way around? It allows for a great "grab and go" aspect.

Most of the upgrades found in the later two installments (Vice City and San Andreas) are back as well - slight things like the radar blip turning into an altitude marker, or the fact that during races, each checkpoint has an arrow in the direction that you need to go. However, it is the lack of other features such as the weight training, relationship building and others, plus the overall lack of depth of the title that brings it down. I know I said we shouldn't compare this to past offerings, but when one has been spoiled like we have with the greatness that is GTA: SA, I find it hard not to point out the major differences.

However, there are a couple of new features that save the title from being a complete copy of its predecessors. Fairly early on, a hit is placed on your head, which constitutes a mission. Once you kill the hitmen that are in your vicinity, you will be confronted by one every now and again during free play, which does make walking seem less profitable, considering as how the hitmen are in cars or on bikes that can easily mow you down and waste you.

Most of the missions are very straightforward, even to the point of being on the verge of boring. Simple "drive here, kill so and so", rinse and repeat missions are a bit disappointing as a whole. Also, since this is a port from the PSP version, the graphics could have been better. Not that I'm expecting perfect realism in the sprawling world we have been given, but certain things could have been improved during the switch. One major thing being the fact that there tends to be a lot of clipping, concerning pedestrians especially. Being able to drive through someone instead of watching him or her bounce off the hood of my car has a very draining effect on my excitement level.

Surprisingly though, one of the best parts of this particular game is the fact that for the most part (90% of the time or more), the voices match almost perfectly the lip movement, something that even the greats like Square-Enix haven't been able to yet master.

Although it may seem like a trivial thing, one of my biggest about the switch is the disastrous weather system. In one second it's raining, in the next it's not, then the rain is back on again. Literally. Take a step forward and it's dry as a bone, take a step back and it's a downpour. There even came a point where I could actually see the line where the rain stopped and started as I was driving along near the Portland Docks. Also, this might be a nit-picky thing on my part, but the roads (the actual streets, not the dirt) are really fugly.

What of the radio stations, you ask? In GTA: III, my favorite station was LIPS, but now that the licensed tracks have been added to The Liberty Jam, I have switched alliances this go around. It's great to listen to those old rap songs that I fell in love with all those years ago. As for LIPS, it has been forced to play a bad medley of wannabe boy-bands and teenybopper girl tracks. Don't get me wrong, I loved me some Backstreet Boys and N Sync back in the day, but these imitation tracks just make me want to cringe. Emotion 98.3 this is not...

Overall, if this were a regularly priced release for the PS2 (in the $50 range), I might tell you to pass it up, or at least wait until a price drop. But since this is a budget title to begin with, some of its faults can be overlooked for the simple joys of blowing things up that the game still provides. If you've got a twenty burning a proverbial hole in your pocket, by all means, add this fourth installment to your collection. Just don't go in expecting true greatness.