The often-overlooked Liberty City and Vice City Stories have some of the best character development và the most cinematic moments in the franchise.

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City may be the better-known title, but Vice City Stories is also worth a look.Courtesy of Rockstar Games

Another year, another cascade of Grvà Theft Auto rumors, particularly as E3 approaches in mid-June. A 4chan poster who claims khổng lồ work in a “coordinating capacity” with the franchise's maker, Rockstar Games, recently alleged that the long-teased new GTA installment would take place across five sầu states.

But while much has been written about GTA V, which is still going strong online, & the classic 3 chiều Grand Theft Aulớn games, starting with GTA III, not as much has been written about its expansions. GTA: Liberty City Stories & GTA: Vice City Stories, released on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in 2005 và 2006, respectively, (và then on the PlayStation 2) also deserve sầu some love sầu.

Similar lớn the third or fourth season of a good television show, these two games give sầu important space to other characters và themes left out of the PS2-era GTA games. And using the same Rockstar funhouse versions of New York & Miamày from GTA IIIVice City, these expansions deepen & refine overall Grvà Theft Auto lớn lore.

Consider the late Liberty City Stories mission “Bringing the House Down,” in which main character Toni Cipriani is tasked with blowing up Fort Staunton. A prequel to GTA III, Liberty City Stories takes place three years earlier, in 1998, with Fort Staunton still in control of the Sindacteo crime family, rivals to lớn the Leone clan. Bombs go off, and the neighborhood is leveled from below, explaining why the 2001 locale in GTA III looks totally different và is in the control of a different criminal faction, the Colombians, who operate out of Panlantic Construction.

One thing the old GTAs have sầu going for them is that the world opens up in stages. There is no need for the same instant gratification served up in GTA V & Online. Cipriani, who’s been laying low the past few years, returns lớn the humble streets of Portlvà, looking across the river lớn the glistening Staunton Islvà skyline.

Cipriani rises through the ranks of the Leone crime family, chasing the coveted status of Made Man. He, along with Mickey Hamfists, ferry a bright-eyed J. D. O’Toole to lớn his initiation ceremony only lớn whack the snitch in a lonely Harwood Junkyard. Later on, in “Making Toni,” we tense up when Cipriani walks down a lonely alley on his big day.

Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories sometimes push you toward the fringes of the maps, forcing you lớn learn and maybe even learn to love sầu other sections of the familiar landscape from GTA III and Vice City. Portl& Docks & the Harwood Ferry Terminal now become the staging grounds for a whole labor union undercurrent.

The most notable moments in these early mafia Portland missions come from “Ma,” your own mother, who barks out mission orders from behind the curtains of her second-story window of Momma’s Restaurante.

Cipriani is always chasing his mother’s approval & never gets it, no matter how many bodies pile up on her behalf. And even after he leaves Portl& in his rearview, Ma continues to send random waves of assassins after hyên, a thorn in his side for much of the game.

I’ll let Freud unpaông xã all of that.

Gr& Theft Auto lớn is generally what I’d Hotline an equal opportunity offender—punching up, punching down, and flashing a stretch hummer full of middle fingers at “political correctness.” Often the only true north is whether you, the player, are titillated or aghast. Still, I think the series is smarter about power than it’s often given credit for, and the more barebones Liberty City Stories allows that to shine through.

On Staunton Islvà, Cipriani primarily takes missions from Donald Love, who may or may not be inspired by a certain truyền thông media mogul turned something else. Unlượt thích in GTA III, this younger & more erudite version of Donald seems straight out of Phillips Exeter và Yale, ranting to lớn “Antonio” about his political ambitions with sing-songy glee.

Cipriani makes an early mark on the new island by assassinating Mayor R. C. Hole, somehow only engendering a one-star wanted màn chơi (so really, how beloved was he), & then derailing the chiến dịch of Miles O’Donovan, who seeks the mayorship in the aftermath. In “Steering the Vote,” Cipriani, and by proxy, you the player, ride around in a campaign van spewing propaganda: “O'Donovan hates America" & “Donald Love sầu is a war nhân vật.”

Yes, the 2005 Rockstar classic predicted what even the savviest political scientists missed.

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Love, with Cipriani as strongman, sabotages ballots & voting machines, stopping at nothing lớn win. And with just enough plausible deniability that the Entertainment Software Rating Board didn’t slap an AO rating on this wild title, it’s implied that Donald Love sầu is also a cannibal, supping on the flesh of his adversaries, including Liberty Tree reporter Ned Burner và his former mentor, real estate mogul Avery Carrington.

GTA goes there, but with patented Rockstar humor. “Listen, Don, we need to lớn win this election. OK, we need khổng lồ make sure that there are no skeletons in the closet, if you know what I mean,” Cipriani warns.

And though Donald eventually escapes to Francis International Airport with Cipriani’s help, you’d be a fool lớn assume he won’t try lớn return to Liberty City soon.

Vice City Stories takes us back lớn the 1980s vibe of Miangươi, two years before Vice City. Only instead of Tommy Vercetti & a Scarface storyline, the saga centers around Victor Vance, Gr& Theft Auto’s second Blachồng main character after San Andreas’ Carl “CJ” Johnson blazed the trail. Unlike CJ, or Franklin in GTA V, Victor Vance has a military backstory, not one drawn from the hood.

Vance hopes to lớn collect a steady paykiểm tra from the military, but that goes up in smoke because of his corrupt cocaine-addicted superior Jerry Martinez. Kicked out of the barracks, Vance takes a series of odd jobs for arms dealer Phil Cassidy, who much like Donald Love sầu is at his most bombastic in this expansion.

In a highlight mission, "Boomshine Blowout,” Vance navigates a forklift through a burning warehouse to lớn retrieve crates of boomshine—not to be confused with moonshine. Only, with each successful crate delivered khổng lồ Cassidy's truông chồng, a new piece of debris reroutes your path. Another entry “Domo Arigato lớn Domestobokhổng lồ,” also plays on a ticking time bomb puzzle theme và involves controlling a Short Circuit-esque robot maid to crack a safe, all the while juggling (oh so tedious) domestic tasks. Both Vice City StoriesLiberty City Stories, rather than limited by the PSP, use the conventions of handheld games to lớn conjure up something pretty original.

Victor Vance is a bit too passive sầu in the early storyline, being pulled in many directions by other more dynamic and active characters, including Cassidy. A strong central character lượt thích Tommy Vercetti/Ray Liotta he is not.


Once Vance arrives on the second isl&, he does start to lớn pop a bit more. Too often in truyền thông depictions, Blaông xã main characters are alone on an islvà, without any Blachồng friends or family to lớn speak of—totally removed from their community. In Vice City Stories, though, it’s almost as if we get two main characters: Vance, who does everything by the books, & his brother Lance, the little devil on his shoulder. Soon the duo get in deep with the Drug Enforcement Administration, và I cannot reGọi the last time I’ve seen two Blaông chồng men working side by side for so long in a video game.

The game’s empire business side missions allow Vance to acquire property & earn money through a protection racket, drugs, và other smuggling work. This crude system is an early version of GTA Online’s elaborate business property options. Chechồng out the office ibé in GTA Online & then look at the identical one in Vice City Stories if you have doubts.

Perhaps the most controversial character in the game is Reni Wassulmaier, the gender-bending Flashbaông xã FM DJ, who becomes a living, breathing central character in Vice City Stories. While Reni’s depiction unfortunately resorts lớn transphobic tropes, she’s also the driver of some of the game’s most memorable and inventive missions out of InterGlobal Studios, & someone that Vance leans on.

Music has always been serious business in Grand Theft Aukhổng lồ games, with more than 30 hours of music in GTA V alone. Search Youtube for '90s classic DJ Quik or MC Eiht tracks và you’ll see a new generation of fans shouting out GTA in the comments, more proof that top-flight Clip games can have sầu as much cultural influence as film and television.

Additionally, in contrast lớn GTA III’s mediocre soundtrack, Liberty City Stories’ radio brings legitimate East Coast credibility with hip hop station Liberty Jam và even features three tracks by late legend DMX. Vice City Stories, meanwhile, builds on the solid foundation of GTA: Vice City with even more gems lượt thích Keni Burke’s “Risin’ khổng lồ the Top.”

One other radio-bound figure who becomes a real character in Vice City Stories is Phil Collins—yes that Phil Collins. After a series of earlier preparation missions, Wassulmaier’s “In the Air Tonight” has Vance foiling saboteurs looming in the rafters of Hyman Memorial Stadium. Who knew the beloved musician was in deep with the mafia? Once successful, players are treated lớn an uninterrupted Collins performance, fitting for a series obsessed with song.

With the love & detail even put into these PSPhường games, as always, there’s just so much else going on in Gr& Theft Aukhổng lồ. Now, Californian that I am, I’m going lớn vị some manifesting: GTA 6 will come out soon. GTA 6 will come out soon.

Ade D. Adeniji is a is a Staff Writer for Inside Philanthropy và an approved Rotten Tomatoes critic. He’s also written for outlets CBS News, Newsweek, PBS, Mic, and The Rumpus, & blogs about film, television, and the majestic NBA on his own trang web, 

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