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Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Score: 83%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Mission-Based Driving/ Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is the latest iteration from immortal (and now infamous) developers RockStar Games. Like many folks out there, I proudly hold the honor of purchasing the original, top-down GTA. Even with its lackluster graphics and wonky controls, you could tell these Rockstar guys had something special cooking.

This GTA:LCS may look familiar to many of you - that is, because it was just out on the little Ďol PSP. In all sense of the word, this game is pretty much a direct port from that pint-sized system (oh but how sexy it isÖ).

Graphically, you can tell it was a port from a sub par creature. While it looks a tad better than the original GTA3, the engine is starting to show its age. You wonít see new fangled dynamic lighting, or gross physics effects, but that doesnít necessarily mean the game looks bad. Since the engine is dated, the developers have had plenty of time to iron out the kinks; frame rate is silky smooth, little pop up occurs, and there even seems to be more cars, pedestrians and other stuff that adds to the vibrance of Liberty City. The models are a tad rough around the edges, but everything animates beautifully and the vast array of vehicular and citizen models are staggering, to say the least.

In the sound department, everyone who hasnít been under a rock the last several years knows GTA literally rocks. The in-game radio stations continue to sizzle and pop with a plethora of radio styles, from the hilarious talk shows, to dance, to even classical stations sporting Bach and Mozart (my personal favorite when performing dirty deeds). Sadly, unlike the other two recent GTA titles, there isnít much licensed music here, aside from a little DMX and some unknown hip-hop stars. Beyond the always outstanding radio, you have a wide array of cityscape effects, like the endless bleating of horns, to the constant chatter of the various denizens of Liberty City. Also worthy of note are the excellent voice actors and well-written script that reminds you of the classic gangster movies.

You are one Toni Cipriani, a low-down thug who is employed by equally despicable Salvatore Leone (and others) to do his bidding. From here, you will launch into some hellishly fun, time-tested missions in classic Grand Theft Auto fashion.

Lemme break down the general GTA gameplay format for you: run around a bunch, jack some cars, toss a few Molotov cocktails, pop a few wheelies (yes, motorbikes are here) and generally rain down mayhem, death, and destruction as you go on your merry way. Like past games, you can always goof around and just go on random killing sprees; drive over old folks and steal their pensions, gun down some cops, or find some random rampage power-ups that enable some really insane carnage. If bloodshed isnít up your alley, you can always grab a cab or ambulance and race against time to save a life, or drop off someone before an important date. And finally, my dreams of being a pizza delivery boy finally come true! The money you earn goes towards weapons purchases, new paint jobs (to avoid the fuzz) and more.

Or, if you like a damn good storyline, you can delve into missions that advance the main game and ensnare young Toni into a web of intrigue and gut-busting calzone. In a nutshell, you are embroiled in a turf war with the Forelli and Sindacco crime syndicates. These Mafiosos are some mean hombres, so donít drop your guard for a second, or Toni will be sleeping with the fishes. There are over 25 separate contacts and key figures in this game, all of which coexist in a pretty believable, living world. Many of these missions range from escorting key figures to all-out assaults on rival headquarters. Many of the toys from earlier games return; machine guns, uzis, shotguns, chainsaws, flamethrowers and more provide plenty of tools to shed some blood.

However, donít expect the plethora of customizable options seen in San Andreas. You canít ďpimp your rideĒ(or your body) or buy that dapper pin-stripe. Lastly, there is no multiplayer to speak of; something that apparently was a big hit on the PSP.

Well, if you have played any previous incarnation of GTA, you really should be right at home here. The mission structure and general gameplay is shockingly familiar, and as long as you keep your wits about you, and remember to keep in a vehicle during crucial chases, you will come out just fine.

Game Mechanics:
As always, the controls are spot on. The various vehicles all handle a little differently; the massive semis can clear a wide swath down the interstate (or knock down those pesky police barricades), but handle like a brontosaurus. On the other hand, the lithe ninja bikes are the epitome of sleek fury on wheels. Even the speedboats glide through the water effortlessly - just beware of those pesky buoys. A whole afternoon can melt away from a few lengthy police chases, as you hop from car to car, dodging bullets from cops on foot, and in the air from their helicopter perches.

The left analog stick is the main stay of the action, controlling your character in every facet, while the shoulder and face buttons allow for the wide array of combat. Surprisingly, the gameís targeting system is still a bit funky. It often gets stuck on an unwanted target, and heaven forbid a bunch of enemies are mashed together. Worse yet, it often locks onto figures behind walls or structures, wasting precious ammo as your own blood continues to stain the pavement. Thankfully, an on-the-fly camera shift is available that allows for some easier use of targeting, as well as driving.

All in all, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is another fine addition in the stellar library of the PS2, and long line of classic GTA titles to grace its screen. With a new storyline, and the same old solid gameplay, sounds, and graphics, this title looks to spread this glory even further. Plus, a $20 price tag out the gate ainít too shabby either. My suggestion, go pick this title up - especially if you donít have any other GTA title. Considering most rentals these days are $7 or more, it makes more sense to just buy it, savor every moment, and save some money in the long run.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

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