Steal This Game!by Wootini
Okay, so I picked up my pre-ordered copy of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for my PSP, excited to play the first real "must play" game for my little portable system. I kept planning to post a review, but every time would be like, "Just a little more... one more mission...." and whatever. So apologies for the lateness of this review, but hey, if it's so good that I didn't want to stop and review it, that oughta tell you something right there.
Liberty City Stories is the latest title in Rockstar's popular Grand Theft Auto series, and if you've played the original GTA3, then you've basically played this. Sort of. The city is the same, with a few minor changes since it's actually a prequel to GTA3, and impressively enough, the graphics and sound is pretty identical to that first PS2 title. No, it's not going to be as impressive as GTA: San Andreas, but looking at a tiny little Liberty City with people walking around and cars to jack and skyscrapers to tool around, I was more than blown away. It's amazing that Rockstar was able to cram this entire thing into a tiny little UMD, and they've pretty much raised the bar as far as PSP software goes. Everybody else is going to have to quit making shovelware ports if they want to keep up.
As with other GTA games, the mission-based gamepaly keeps the story from ever really taking hold. Granted, I'm only probably 2/3 of the way through it, but even as I've moved up the ranks in the underworld, I haven't really gotten very attached to the lead character I'm controlling. On the other hand, one of your higher-ups is such a bastard that I actually took great pleasure in the mission that ends up with you blowing him away. I loved it so much I spent a minute or two kicking his lifeless corpse just for fun. He was really an asshole.
Another impressive feat of programming is the fact that there is a full range of radio stations to choose from every time you're in a vehicle. There's only a handful of licenced songs you'll recognize, but the rest are dead-on representations of various genres, like Euro 80s electro music, boy bands, and an uncanny Madonna impersonation that's better than anything on her last couple albums. Listening to the same stations over and over can get repetitive, but there's always something else to listen to. There's no stars in the voice cast, but they get the job done.
The PSP's analog nub kind of sucks for driving the cars, but you can switch the control scheme to the D-pad, which helps. Unfortunately, that makes the on-foot sections a little tougher. But the really rough part is the targeting system, which can make firefights insanely difficult when you're surrounded by enemies. On the other hand, since it's a GTA title, there's often more than one way to accomplish a task. Creative thinking is always rewarded.
This game is so much fun, it hasn't left my PSP since I got it. I play it every time I get a chance, even at home as my consoles collect dust. Even if you hit a frustrating mission, you can always take a break and look for hidden packages, stunt jumps, or do odd jobs like delivering Chinese food or selling cars and motorcycles. Liberty City is a vast city full of nooks and crannies to explore and fun to be had. So excuse me if I go back and see what Salvatore wants me to do now. Can't wait until I'm the boss...