In an odd twist of fate, we see the first PSP to PS2 port in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (LCS). When LCS was released for the PSP in October 2005, it was big news. Rockstar took everything about GTA III — and more — and put it on the PSP.
It doesn't really matter if you are a fan of the series, having LCS running on the PSP was a milestone event for handheld gaming. Now, eight months later, the game arrives on the PS2.
It is hard to imagine a game coming from the PSP would have anything missing, but it does. Liberty City Stories on the PS2 is missing the multiplayer mode. This was a fun diversion to the game, and a welcome feature on the PSP.
Multiplayer added a lot, even if it was out of place. Split-screen would have been fun on the PS2, but the mode has been completely stripped out.
Custom soundtracks are also missing, but this has more to do with the technology available on the PS2 than anything else.
Another missed opportunity, the PS2 version of the game could have interacted with the PSP version. This has been done in games such as Daxter and Jak X: Combat Racing, and others.
All is forgiven, however, when you take a look at the price tag. For $20 you will get more than 20 hours of game play out of LCS. A brand new PS2 game for $20 does not have production values of this caliber. Ever.
Considering the PSP version was a $50 game, this is a slap in the face of many PSP owners. But now you get to reap the rewards of this "budget" title. Rockstar is going to take this one strait to the bank, considering how many more PS2 owners there are.
The major problem with LCS on the PS2 has nothing to do with the game play, presentation, or graphics – the issue is rooted in the fact that this has been done before, the novelty is gone. When LCS launched for the PSP, it was unprecedented.
In contrast, the PS2 has a vastly larger game selection, both in quantity and quality, and the "sand box" genre on the PS2 has many competitors. Liberty City Stores doesn't have the edge on the PS2, plus it is fighting with its relatives with GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas. Directly compared to the other three GTA games, it does not stack up, not even to GTA III.
What PS2 owners do get it a compelling Italian mob story set in Liberty City, with all the trimmings that have become common place for the series. Anyone familiar with 2001's GTA III will be at home in LCS.
The always-colorful cast of characters is back, and many plot twists await. The game is identical in every way to the PSP release (without the multiplayer of course) so there are side-missions to complete, hidden packages to find, and everything else from the original PSP game.
As with the original LCS, you are Tony Cipriani, part of the quintessential Italian mob family. The Leones are at war with two other families trying to take control of Liberty City. As Tony, you help Salvatore Leone, and the ample cast of characters in Liberty City. You complete missions on all three islands, just as in LCS, and GTA III before it.
Since the game was built with the PSP in mind, the missions are all short in nature. This is quite different from the other PS2 Grand Theft Auto games. Take that for what it is, but you will not be going on any deeply involved missions this time around.
The for-cash side jobs from Vice City and San Andreas are back. You can hop in a cab, or an ambulance to make a few bucks as usual. But there are many other ways to earn money, one of the better side-missions in LCS sees you in the role of a car salesman. Complete the required sales to earn cars for yourself. You will also be delivering pizzas and noodles for extra change.
The PSP and PS2 versions are graphically identical too. The PSP might have a slight edge just because of the screen size makes things look crisper, but there is very little difference. The engine has seen small improvements since GTA III, but is not on par with San Andreas. But this is to be expected, as it was once a PSP game.
Draw distance on the horizon is about the same, possibly a little better on the PS2. You still see odd pop-in happening on the PS2 version just as happened on the PSP. This is not the incremental step PS2 owners have seen in the progression from GTA III to Vice City to San Andreas.
But to be fair, Grand Theft Auto has never been about the graphics. They do the job they need to do, and nothing more.
Many issues that come to the forefront of a PSP game are small or even nonexistent on the PS2. Loading times are not as big a problem on the PS2, where this is a major problem with PSP games. Liberty City Stories on the PS2 loads just like any other GTA game, you won't be staring at the loading screen for long.
Without a second analog stick, the PSP had to work around that obstacle. Liberty City Stories controls better with two analog sticks on the PS2, if only because we have been with this design for three releases on the console.
Just like the PSP release, it can't be helped but to draw comparisons to GTA III. And considering this title is geared toward people who do not have a PSP, the comparison between the two is every bit as valid.
As stated, this is not an evolution of the series since San Andreas. In many ways, the style and flair that GTA III presented is missing from LCS. This is the fourth GTA on the console, and it is showing its age. That much has nothing to do with it being ported.
Liberty City Stories does, at least, incorporate bits and pieces from Vice City and San Andreas into the game. The targeting system is a massive improvement over GTA III, for example. It is hard to believe, but GTA III did not have an in-game map, LCS has a map similar to the one in Vice City. Also added is a long list of side-missions not in the 2001 hit.
Although Michael Madsen did not reprise his role as Toni Cipriani, the voice work is on par with the series. The cut scenes and story are the selling point to Liberty City Stores. The story is what keeps the game going, and it moves at a pretty good pace.
If you have the PSP version, there is no reason a buy the game you already have. However, if you are a PS2 owner who wants another whack at a Grand Theft Auto game, the value here cannot be beat.
At the end of the day, $20 for the full, non-watered down, GTA experience cannot be ignored. Go pick this up and enjoy it for what it is.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs. This game can also be found on: PSP.Powered by Sidelines