Critical Reception: Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

This week's Critical Reception zones in on highly-anticipated PSP holiday release Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which is published by Take-Two subsidiary...
This week's Critical Reception zones in on highly-anticipated PSP holiday release Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, which is published by Take-Two subsidiary Rockstar Games and developed by handheld specialists Rockstar Leeds, and is the first 3D iteration of GTA to make it to portable systems. Apparently, taking the much-vaunted and sometimes controversial franchise to the portable market agreed quite well with reviewers at major video game sites, who awarded the game a 91% average score, according to review aggregatation website GameTab. As for the title's plot, GTA: Liberty City Stories revisits GTA III's fictional Liberty City, placing the player in the shoes of Mafia henchmen, Tony Cipriani, recently returned to the city, and eager to make his way up the ladder. While not a perfect recreation, the game brings much of the phenomenal gameplay and look of the Grand Theft Auto series to the PSP, as GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann pronounced: "...GTA: Liberty City Stories manages to cram in so much of the GTA experience that you're used to seeing on consoles." This is a sentiment that GameSpy's Will Tuttle echoes, but also comments that the game "...takes place in the same city and features many of the same characters and gangs. Despite a few minor alterations made to the layout of the city, the proceedings all feel familiar, and it won't take veterans of GTA III long to re-learn all of the city's important locations." While sporting the same mission-based gameplay and sandbox world, Liberty City Stories does manage to throw in some improvements, as EGM's Greg Ford writes: "Motorcycles, the ability to shoot car tires, San Andreas' handy waypoint system...all stuff not seen in GTA3. A local Wi-Fi multiplayer mode also makes a surprising and relatively successful debut, as do some new side quests." And while the game brings much of the glory of GTA III to the PSP, it is not without some hitches, as Dan Hsu, also of EGM argues: "I need to tell you about how Liberty City Stories' controls suck ass - it's difficult to drive around without a separate free-look stick (like you have on PS2 and Xbox) ... shooting/targeting is still horribly awkward. I need to tell you about the dark and blurry graphics that'll help keep an entire generation of Lasik surgeons in business." Hsu was a minority on his third point, however, as most felt the game's graphics were outstanding, including GameSpy's Tuttle, who raved, "Liberty City Stories is undoubtedly one of the prettiest PSP games we've ever seen. Its graphics are on par with those of GTA III, an amazing feat given the PSP's limited processing power. There are a few laggy moments (especially if you're thrown from a vehicle), as well as a rare long load times here and there, but it's nothing too troublesome." Overall, reviewers were quite impressed that such an epic urban tale was crammed into a single UMD disc, and while GTA: LCS has its share of minor shortcomings, it remains quite an achievement. With the massive popularity of previous installments, and with Christmas just around the corner, Liberty City Stories seems destined to be an M-rated holiday sales hit with a vengeance.

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