Going back to Liberty City made me realize how much time Iíve spent there Ė heck, I think I know my way round its highways, streets and back alleys better than my home town, and I certainly drive and ride around it fasterÖ you see, Iíve made so many enemies that I darenít hang around in some neighbourhoods lest I get a lead-filled arse (Iím talking about LC now, not my real home town by the way).
Itís good to be back in LC, although visually little has changed, just some buildings that havenít been built (or demolished Heheh) yet, shinier paintwork on the cars and the fact that bikes and scooters can now be seen zooming all over the city. This time you play as Mafioso Toni Cipriani, a figure that will be familiar to GTA II veterans, as you got several missions from him. The story tells how he works his way up from go-fer to wise guy to Big Boss Salvatoreís very own Goodfella right hand man, and again takes you all over the cities three island districts, Portland, Staunton and Shoreside Vale.
Gameplay hasnít changed much, an addictive and exciting mixture of driving, running and shooting - and thatís both a good thing and a bad thing as the numerous missions, races, side missions and challenges will keep you busy for days or weeks, whilst sadly the targeting system is still the gameís biggest flaw. Rather than update that to the much more playable San Andreas method, itís basically the same clunky, infuriating mess as GTA IIIís was 5 years ago Ė not good. And whilst the cars have the nicer, shinier look of Vice City, there are no helicopters or planes to zoom around in; itís like the game got a sort of ďhalf-Vice City upgradeĒ, and so you still canít swim despite being surrounded by water (oh dear).
Regardless of the idiotic and annoying targeting/lock on system (itís so bad that it will needlessly get you killed at least once and made me swear like a chav) the overall experience is pure GTA, with all its joys; superb individual vehicle handling, comic book violence, variety, freedom and irreverent humour in game and on the radio stations (the soundtrack isnít great but the radio is still well worth a listen). If youíre new to GTA games then Iíd say donít start with this one (get Vice City first), but if youíre a fan (and most normal people are) then you obviously need to play this instalment through. Some control issues and a feeling that it could have been so much more if it had been given the full ĒSan Andreas treatmentĒ donít stop this from being one of the best games of the year so far, and light years ahead of most of the humourless, unimaginative and jaded rubbish out there.