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GTA: Liberty City Stories

Could GTA: Liberty City Stories be the killer app the PlayStation Portable's been waiting for?

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First up, we hiked over to Don Leone's familiar hill-top mansion for our initial assignment involving a warehouse cash collection on the other side of town. A quick scout around and Cipriani was tearing up the tarmac in one of the game's new Leone Sentinel motors. As the sights streamed past on our way to the warehouse, we managed to take in a few of LCS' new upgrades, including a much-improved draw-distance - showing off the towering profile of shimmering Staunton Island, all the way from the slums of Portland - and a couple of new radio stations, including world music and hip-hop-themed inclusions.

On arrival at the warehouse, mayhem breaks loose and a rival Triad gang busts out an ambush, leading to the kind of crazed gunplay and intense adrenalin spasms the series is known for. What's more, we got to see the game's newly implemented combat system in action for the first time too: holding down the right shoulder button initiates the action while the d-pad's used to cycle's through nearby enemies - as with San Andreas, you can only target adversaries, meaning civilians get a break from the bullets. The next mission, fetchingly titled "Blow-up Dolls" and involving the delicate delivery of some high explosives to the doors of a rival outfit's whorehouse was equally GTA in its scope and unmistakable Rockstar humour.

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Last but not least, we hit the waves for some open-water abduction action involving the Mayor of Liberty City's influential assistant. The game now has a fully functioning ferry system, allowing easy access between the city's various islands and, this time around, Cipriani used his powers of persuasion to seize the assistant's vessel, causing hordes of nearby SS troops untold anguish on the hot end of our muzzle. The whole episode culminated in a typically spectacular and ingeniously orchestrated face-off with a barrage of rapidly descending SS choppers. More of this sort of thing please Rockstar.

So, based on our half an hour in the company of Tony Cipriani, does this return to Liberty City see the full brunt of GTA's genius successfully transplanted to the PSP? Well, it's pretty apparent that Rockstar hasn't skimped on any of the good stuff to squeeze its blockbusting series onto Sony's handheld - everything from the open-ended mission structure, foot-flooring driving, unmistakable humour and even full radio station roster has made the transfer to UMD.

If we have any reservations at this stage, it's that we're worried the wholesale duplication of the GTA III city layout is going to deprive series' old-timers of the joys of exploring new locations and earning the deservedly smug satisfaction of finally memorising every last highway and underpass in GTA's equivalent of The Knowledge. Also, despite the inclusion of quick-play telephone booth missions (which haven't put in an appearance since the original top-down GTA), we're not absolutely convinced the game is entirely suited to portable play - as with the rest of the series, you can only save in safe houses between missions, meaning you'll need heavy deployment of the PSP's standby mode if you don't want to lose your progress when your bus screeches to a halt at your stop.

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Of course, it doesn't matter what we say here - you're all going to rush out and buy it anyway. In all honesty though, it really doesn't look like you're going to be disappointed. Check out the new screens on this page, if you don't believe us.

GTA: Liberty City Stories is out in October.

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