An hour into the latest entry in this revered line of open-ended, third-person crime actioners, we've got a problem. The Sindacco crime family is sending waves of enforcers to blow up a casino we've been charged with protecting. The trouble is, there are only three cars full of the pompous bastards, and we can't decide which way to ice them all.
The first group was easy - we just let them drive up, then ran over them one by one with the semi truck we'd jacked. When the second carload turned up, we got more creative, first chasing their car around, trying to run it into the wall. When they snaked out of that jam and ran up to the casino, we unloaded with our Uzi.
That'll do the job, but still doesn't net you many style points. For the third group, we'd had time to steal and wreck so many cars that we'd blocked off the nearby streets and created a traffic jam. The Sindaccos had to park farther away and approach the casino through the one narrow crack we left them - which brought them right into range of our flamethrower (which can also blow up entire vehicles if you torch them well enough) and when it ran out of juice, our chainsaw. Ewww.
That, in a nutshell, is what the GTA games do so very, very well, and what no other game has even come close to matching. They give you a huge, living city and tell you, "It's yours. Go tear it apart any way you want. Steal cars. Drive them. Jump them. Wreck them. Steal boats, cop cars, fire trucks, taxis and other stuff, too, and play with them. Blow stuff up. Or not. Do whatever."
That would be enough for most games, but the GTA titles wrap a decent, adult-themed gangster story around the mayhem - though you can also ignore the story if you feel like it - toss in some black-hearted, dead-on parody, and voila! You've got a modern masterpiece.
Liberty City Stories is no exception. Originally a PSP exclusive (see our review of that version here), the game casts the player as Toni Cipriani, a back-in-town mobster working his way up through the ranks of a crime family. The setting is the same city that you set aflame back in 2001's original PS2 bombshell Grand Theft Auto III, but the action takes place a few years earlier.