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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Classy debut for GTA on Sony PSP

It is time to return to the Liberty City of Grand Theft Auto 3 in the most intense epic created for the PlayStation Portable (PSP).

Terrorising the handheld amid the usual fanfare, the biggest-selling action series of all time retains the same free-roaming gameplay, high production values and tabloid-baiting violence as players grease the crime ladder for the Leone family.

Befitting the format, missions are easier and more potted than on the home consoles, delivering quick bursts of crime to your thumbs.

The action hardly deviates much from GTA's best-selling formula, while rage missions, hidden packages, and lashings of side tasks keep things busy.

Once again the presentation is impeccable, with lengthy cut-scenes driving the story and an urban sprawl that is even easier on the eyes than when we first made the merry trip to Liberty City on the PlayStation 2.

The radio stations return and, although offering a less memorable collection of tunes, the ability to rip your MP3s is a big plus. The voice talent, although competent, boasts none of the star turns that characterised previous games.

Power hungry

It is not all hunky-dory in Liberty City, though.

While pushing the infant PSP like no other game, Liberty City also exposes the machine's hardware failings.

The stiff, shallow analogue stick is unforgiving and difficult to control. It is no substitute for the PlayStation 2's Dual Shock controller.

The machine's tin-pot speakers whimper out the licensed soundtrack like a mouse's death rattle, while the limited battery life means you must stay close to a power socket.

Still, there is much to admire here, including wireless multiplayer death matches and racing for the masses.

Hardware issues aside, Liberty City is simply an incredible technical accomplishment for a handheld, delivering a dose of Grand Theft that outshines the original PlayStation 2 GTA3 and redefines what portable gaming can be.



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