Look outside; the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the dulcet tones of footy fanatics can be heard drunkenly roaring in the distance. In fact, it's the perfect weather to go on a killing-spree, but unfortunately (so we're told) they don't have widescreen tellies in prison cells, and we've still got to catch that all-important World Cup game this weekend, along with the alluring Heartbeat marathon on UK Gold. So thanks to this convenient PS2 release, once again we're going to have to depend on GTA-land for our illegal thrills.
Liberty City Stories, still one of the best games for Sony's handheld, has been lovingly transferred over to the PS2, and for the bargain price of 20 notes you'd be hard-pushed to leave it on the shelf. Minus a few graphical tweaks and the noticeable absence of the PSP's multiplayer mode, LCS retains the same familiar, yet proven take on Grand Theft Auto's first 3D incarnation. Liberty City is pretty much unchanged from the last time we saw it, although revisiting its familiar streets with bikes and new graphical splendour adds some surprisingly satisfying sandbox gameplay.
Although Liberty City Stories has slightly less complex missions and storyline compared to the series' previous instalments, it still remains the full-on GTA monty. As you'd expect, the mission structure and story are exactly the same as the PSP version and the missions are therefore a little more 'bite-size' when compared to its console brothers. No bad thing even, but it's still a massive game; the main story supplies about 40 hours of gameplay, and there's plenty of mini-games and city distractions to occupy you as well.
One of our biggest complaints about the PSP version was the tricky controls; the PSP's limited d-pad and analog-nub setup left for some harsh camera problems and equally troublesome combat situations. While not perfect, the move to the Dual Shock solves a lot of the problems that marred the PSP version. Thankfully the hectic shoot-outs that occur later in the game no longer have us pulling our hair out in frustration.
The real triumph of Liberty City Stories though is just that; Liberty City. Anyone who's spent countless hours battling through GTAIII - and lets face it, there aren't many of us who haven't - will be instantly familiar with the sprawling, yet easily remembered layout of GTA's first 3D locale. It's just like revisiting an old friend and the streets, alleyways and cleverly-concealed jumps are just how you left them, with more key landmarks like Ammu-Nation and your old-school hideout are all awaiting a revisit. Any GTA player worth their salt will instantly know their way around, and probably figure out that riding monorail tracks on a motorbike is a brilliant new discovery.
That's not to say we don't have some concerns raised by the Liberty City Stories' move to PS2 though. Moving past the obvious 'console port of a handheld-designed game' qualms, the first to cause us to raise our discerning eyebrows is the removal of the PSP's multiplayer mode, which, while not-crucial to the game was still a fun distraction and turned out to be quite the office favourite. Still PS2 isn't exactly known for its online credentials so we guess, no great loss.
Secondly, we can't play the game on the toilet anymore, unless of course we stretch our extension lead all the way to the cubicals. However we can't really ahem log that as a serious criticism.
In addition, When Liberty City Stories first appeared on PSP, it really was an impressive feat that Rockstar managed to cram the full GTA experience into a slick handheld. However, now that it's on PS2, Liberty City Stories has to stand toe-to-toe with the other crime opuses, and San Andreas simply outclasses it in every department. After spending so much time locked away with the last full-on GTA game, its hard not to run around Liberty City hunting for San An's extra attractions, and LCS feels a touch empty by comparison. On a handheld it was acceptable to have a few feature omissions, but on PS2 they stand out more when compared to San Andreas.