October 11, 2021
October 7, 2021
Time to revisit Liberty City and uncover yet another crime family drama, but on your phone this time around.
If you ever wanted to revisit GTA III's rendition of Liberty City, now's your chance. GTA: Liberty City Stories (LCS in short) is essentially a prequel to GTA III, and you'll be meeting up with some familiar faces throughout the plot.
However, you'll immediately notice some changes to the old formula. The PlayStation Portable version was first released in 2005, and that one came with lots of goodies such as multiplayer. The mobile version (Android/iOS) was released in 2016 and already you would be able to see how revamped the visuals are in comparison to the original, with high-resolution textures, improved draw distance, and real-time lighting. The PSP version itself was quite an achievement, as few games on that handheld were able to fit so much content and deliver a smooth framerate at the same time.
In addition, you won't be getting a silent protagonist this time around, as LCS follows the "voiced protagonist" trend of Rockstar's subsequent titles after GTA III (It's argued that Claude Speed's "speech impediment" was not intended, but I digress.)
Meet Toni Soprano Cipriani (voiced by Michael Madsen, replacing Danny Mastrogiorgio), a Leone family mobster who fled from Liberty City after murdering a "made man". Many people argue that Cipriani was inspired by our favorite "The Sopranos" antihero, but, unlike the renowned capo of the Soprano family, Cipriani is not exactly a loving father and husband. Rather, he's a sociopath through and through.
People love talking about Trevor's ruthlessness, but if there is one GTA protagonist that deserves to be named the most despicable of the series, it's Cipriani. This is a guy who has no issue bombing an entire town for a measly $5,000. He's so brutal that, at one point, he literally butchers a butcher and sends his meat down to his own deli without so much as a retch. This guy is a sick bastard!
But, of course, as usually happens with most GTA protagonists, Toni is still able to possess "redeemable qualities" (unlike the "protagonist" from the Hatred game, but that's a whole 'nother story). He loves his mamma - who actually hates the poor lad - like a good Italian mafioso, and has an uncanny sense of honor. I'm not sure if I can find these qualities endearing, considering the stuff he's capable of doing in exchange for some spare change.
With that said, the characters here are not that memorable, to be frank. I didn't like Cipriani as much as Tommy Vercetti, Niko Bellic, or even Carl Johnson (he certainly beats Claude Speed, though.) The only person that I felt remotely worth investing in was Salvatore, and he was this game's saving grace.
In terms of plot, Liberty City Stories is quite a brief experience. You'll be expected to reach the end of the game after about 14 hours of game time, which is just 1 hour shorter than the game it's based on (GTA III).
It's probably one of the shortest games in the series, though I guess the characters would have overstayed their welcome were it longer. It also makes sense when we consider that this title was originally released on the PSP, so they probably had to cut back on content in order to fit this into a PSP's UMD.
GTA: Liberty City Stories is a third-person open-world sandbox game that takes place in the fictional Liberty City (a very small version of New York). You play as Toni Cipriani, a low-rank mobster that returns to the city after four years of living abroad following the murder of a full-fledged mafia member. The scenes in this game take place 3 years prior to the events that unfolded in GTA III.
The initial cutscene has you meeting with Don Salvatore Leone (voiced by Frank Vincent), who welcomes you back and puts you under the command of one of his lackeys: Vincenzo "Lucky" Cilli (voiced by Joe Lo Truglio). who is not exactly very fond of you, to say the least.
After the cutscene, you're introduced to the game's mechanics. You'll be prompted to get inside a vehicle and drive towards your next safe house, where you'll be able to save your progress.
Driving is an important mechanic in this game, though you can also reach places entirely by foot (except during driving missions, of course). This will segway into the first major rant, which is the way missions are structured.
I'm probably spoiled by the checkpoint system implemented in the most recent Rockstar titles, but failing a mission here means having to drive all the way back to the mission giver, which can already take quite a few minutes.
You could use the "taxi system", which carries severe penalties, including losing all your weapons and your body armor. If you had rare or expensive weapons in your inventory, you'll have to kiss them goodbye just so that you can skip the long commute. For me, it's not even an option worth considering, to be honest.
The missions can be accepted at your leisure. In the meantime, you're able to do side tasks and jobs to keep you busy. You'll also be capable of just doing your own thing or driving while listening to one of the 10 radio stations at your disposal, with lots of music and political/social commentary to boot.
This version of Liberty City (nicknamed "3D Universe Liberty City") is awfully small when compared to the much bigger GTA IV version. Just like in GTA III, the map spans three islands or "boroughs": Portland (Industrial Area), Staunton Island (Commercial Area), and Shoreside Vale (Residential Area).
There are some differences in the game map between GTA III and LCS. For one, Fort Staunton was an Italian district with a museum and opera house in LCS, while in GTA III it's a construction site. I won't be spoiling the details that led to this change (wink wink). You'll have access to more indoor areas than in GTA III, as well as approximately 20-30 more vehicles (excluding flying vehicles, unfortunately).
Finally, in this game, like in GTA III (and unlike in San Andreas and beyond), your playable character is extremely allergic to water (either that or the islands are surrounded by deadly acid) and can't climb walls to save his life. These are clear downgrades with respect to San Andreas, but you'll have to keep in mind that this one was made using GTA III's engine, so Rockstar had to cope with these limitations.
To conclude, I must say that GTA: Liberty City Stories is a very enjoyable game, with the usual annoyances present in most of the classic GTA games. It also won't compare to a GTA IV or even San Andreas in terms of story and scope, but there should be no buyer's remorse in paying full price for it.
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