Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 7, 2006




By Tareq Adnan

The last time a game caused me to live of a couple of hours of sleep for two straight weeks was back in 2004 when San Andreas came out. This time it's Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.

This game is all about nostalgia. While playing the game you'll come across moments that'll cause memories of GTA 3 to flood your mind.

Initially Liberty City Stories was released on the PSP on which platform it's one of the best. On the PS2 it still manages to be quite a memorable game, thanks to the feelings of nostalgia that this game creates.

This time around you play as Toni Cipriani. The GTA veterans will probably remember him as the guy who handed missions from the restaurant in GTA 3. Now however the things are different. Toni has just returned from a bout of laying low which he was forced to do after killing a made man. Only after he returns that he finds out that things have drastically changed in the Leone Family.

Toni is no longer a part of the Leone hierarchy and finds that a person who used to be his junior, Vincenzio, has filled his place. Forced to work for Vincenzio you can obviously guess at Toni's frustration. Vincenzio on the other hand is also enraged that Toni is back since his position in the Family might be compromised. Due to this a certain enmity has arisen between the two. Thus things between the two start of on the wrong foot and Vincenzio makes life all the more harder for Toni.

Vincenzio isn't however the only problem in Toni's life. After returning he soon finds that his ornery old mother, Ma Cipriani, is really ticked off that Toni hasn't contacted her in all this time. In her eyes Toni can do no right and isn't even close to what his father used to be. His mother taking such a view only prompts Toni to prove himself to her. Try as he might Toni fails to live up to his Ma's expectations, which subsequently causes her to call a contract on his life. Tough love…

As you can see the story is as good as it ever gets. This game offers everything that people have come to expect from a GTA game. The witty dialogues, the hilarious cut scenes are all there, making this a great game.

Graphically LCS is uniquely GTA-esque. The game play is simple with an easy learning curve. The voice acting is as good as it gets and the radio shows are at their wackiest to the point that one of them actually features a Hindi song (that old Hare Ram Hare Krishna song). All these mesh beautifully to give a realistic feel of a city breathing and throbbing like it's real life counter parts. The driving and vehicle physics have been improved and you'll find that cars control and work better.

Although LCS lacks the sheer customization features to its character that San Andreas offered it does have a few features that are unique. First of all Toni has a larger closet than Tommy Vercetti and Claude Speed (the mute guy from GTA 3). Throughout the game after completing certain missions and feats new costumes for Toni are unlocked. Like the masked overalls costume you open after completing the Vincenzio's last mission.

Like all the previous games the story-based missions are prominent and must be completed to open up certain parts of the city and a lot of other features (like new weapons at Ammu-Nations). However there are tons of side missions that can be done just for fun if the story missions are boring you or if you're stuck. Like always the vigilante police, ambulance and fire truck missions are all there but along with them there are new ones like car salesmanship, Avenging Angels side missions and motorbike salesmanship.

And even if those aren't enough to hold your attention then there is the feature that makes GTA, GTA. The free for all open game play has propelled GTA into the gaming history books and has yet to fail enchanting the masses. Roaming Liberty City, jacking cars, squishing pedestrians, giving the police a run for their money, breaking hell loose is what GTA is all about. For the veterans exploring Liberty City and doing new missions there and playing a whole new game in a familiar place is what this game offers. I spent the first hour of playing LCS exploring Portland and the visiting all the places that I can relate to from GTA 3. Roaming into Chinatown, fixing a car up at 8-Balls and then blowing it up right in front of the police station, sniping unsuspecting pedestrians from the atop the overhead monorail lines was enough to keep me awake for a whole night, miss a World Cup match and subsequently ditch all my classes the next day.

However the second you start playing the game you'll notice that although things are familiar they're also quite different. Things like new cars right down to the characters are different form how you knew them from GTA 3. Salvatore Leone is at his paranoid worst and characters such as Luigi and Asuka are missing. In there place are whole new and even weirder characters such as J D O'Toole. But that doesn't mean that the old characters don't make a comeback. Watching Donald Love's question of cannibalism answered and an uncorrupted Inspector Ray was a treat to the eyes.

Now that I've sung all the paeans of praise that I can for this game how about discussing the bad stuff? On the PSP LCS is a great game and one of the best; sadly that is not the case on the PS2. When compared to the awesome library of games on the PS2 LCS fall short. Even when compared to the previous GTA games LCS feels almost tame and not quite polished like it's previous counterparts.

Then there are the missions themselves. Some of them are plain boring, something, which I thought, wasn't possible with a GTA game. Other missions are irritating like that mission where you have to take control of Paulie Sindacco's car and mess up a meet with the Forellis. And even then you come across missions that are so time consuming and travel based that it's really disheartening. Also the targeting system is really off in the sense that in the middle of a furious fight you'll find yourself aiming at harmless pedestrians and not at the AK-47 totting Sindaccos. The only thing saving LCS's story missions is Salvatore Leone who you'll come to root for and the great cut scenes. In the end the game balances out nicely and the only reason LCS stands out is because of its story and the fact that it's GTA.

And for all you people cursing me for spoiling this game for you with some spoilers and the bitching, then I guess it's really your fault you read this review.

After losing this article three times thanks to the electricity going bust on me I think this is enough. Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories was a treat to play and I guess writing this article was nice as well. If you're a fan of GTA then this game is a must for you.

By Gokhra and Mood Due

Yes, the art of vanning is likely to elicit such a reaction. It's a crazy concept just like most crazy concepts including the one about writing this article. Customising a car is understandable but there is a fine line between cool and hilarious. Cool is when the Discovery show called Overhaulin takes a junk old car and turns it into a beautiful hot rod. Hilarious is what we see mostly on Bangladesh's streets. Truly hilarious are the ones that look like they will go so fast that they will fly but actually can't do anything. Oh yeah, there's a term for these. These are called 'ricers'. We assume that is because of how dull rice can be on its own.

But vanning is a mystifying concept. I mean, you take a van and build it into ………….something. Basic vanning techniques include adding all kinds of cosmetic kit to make the van look like it is a space ship. The Japanese have a special affinity for these types of custom jobs where a van can have a spoiler that can even be used as a skateboard ramp. Except that it isn't used as such or else the paint will be scratched.

Vans or what we like to call microbuses aren't generally meant to look good except for the latest Voxy, Noah and their ilk. They are very good looking in an ugly brutal manner. These are currently very popular with the vanning crowds. We have seen a few modded versions here on the streets. They come with original bodykit that is low and slick but cerates problems on speed bumps. But hat is all a bit low keyed compared to what we are displaying here.

Vanners don't just stick to exterior modifications of the extreme kinds. They also take it inside. Interiors are sometimes tricked out to look like anything from a techno geek's emporium to a tropical paradise or even a pimpmobile. Stereo systems take dominance over all else. I Tokyo there are groups of young people who go with their tricked out vans and invade empty parking lots. There they park, and with a few remote controlled mechanisms turn their van into a mobile dance club. Plasma displays swing down, speakers loud enough to melt your ear wax swing outward and even glittering disco balls pop up. And then they play English pop songs and videos and copy the dance moves to the letter.

Some claim that vanning was born after the introduction of the panel truck in the 1940's. Many restored and customized panel trucks can be seen at truck-ins and other vanning related events and car shows. These vehicles are still turning heads and winning trophies.

The first fully contained, self- propelled box on wheels that might be recognized as a van today would have to be the Volkswagen "microbus." Introduced in the 1949, the VW Transporters and Microbus paved to way for the van craze of the United States in the coming decades. Smaller than the typical station wagon, cheaper to own and operate, easy to repair, and often seen with peace signs and flowers in the 60's, young people found the "bus" as being the first vehicle to offer the option of a complete and efficiently designed camper in an everyday vehicle.

On August 10, 1973, Vanning truly came into its own when a huge event was organised to bring all vanners together. Over 1000 vans attended the event held at Tiger Run, Colorado, located high in the Rocky Mountains.

With ideas garnered from friends and family, the van had become a "hot" item. The thought of taking a standard factory issued van and painting it, customizing it, and redoing the interior was just natural to some people, particularly among the younger set.

Except that in some cases the ideas fermented for too long giving birth to really crazy pieces of sculpture. Frankly sculpture would be a better way to describe these creations.

Review by Gokhra

Remakes and glorification of old hit TV series are great business for Hollywood. It takes little creativity and a lot of money to make a reasonable hit. Hence it was inevitable that the cult hit series Miami Vice was to be made into a full-length movie. So how does it fare?

The original, if you were old enough to see and remember, was considered quite the gritty urban tale of crime and heroic daring. It was even thought to be very realistically portrayed by many critics. The criminal element was decidedly rough and edgy. But that was back in the 80's when sneakers worn with suits were considered cool. You watch the old flicks now and they seem decidedly corny.

So it would have been a disappointment if the movie version was a period piece with the actors sporting pink shirts and baggy trousers and puffy hair. Nope, this is a much modernised adaptation with all colour dragged out and replaced with a sullen, ashen palette. And that's the trademark of writer-director Michael Mann.

The new Vice is much different from the original 1984-1989 series with Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas speeding around in a replica Ferrari looking for trouble. The new one has considerable visual craftiness as well as considerable frustrations.

The new Sonny Crockett is played by Colin Farrell with long flowing hair and his voice pulled down even lower than his usual one. Jamie Foxx appears with a sharp little goatee and co-stars as fellow vice cop Ricardo Tubbs. Mann doesn't give the two characters any back-stories leaving the characters fixed in the present with no link to the originals.

These men are portrayed cool. Gone are the garishly coloured suits replaced with crisp outfits all around. Everything is a bit dark if nothing else. Mann has boiled down the television show to its essential dynamics -- the cops versus the cartels -- while globally expanding the parameters of the drug trade.

One surprising thing about this particular movie is that it has heart. OR rather the two lead characters do. In typical Michael Mann movies all you get are workaholic characters who hardly have time to breathe let alone romance. In Miami Vice, along with its harshly desaturated colour scheme, lies an interest in romance.

Sonny and Tubbs job involves going deep undercover to infiltrate an ostensibly Latin American trafficking syndicate with vast international reach. As if drugs weren't bad enough the cartel was also hooked up with a vicious white supremacist outfit. And in the middle of it all is a bold Chinese-Cuban chief financial officer, Isabella (Gong Li), who catches Crockett's eye.

She's already attached to the overlord (Luis Tosar) running this operation. But it's a purely business arrangement with no love or anything else that stands in for love in Hollywood flicks. The boss makes the money and she being the finance genius launders it. Sonny Crockett takes her on trips of all kinds to show that there is life after drugs and trafficking. This does nothing but inflame the jealousy of Isabella's boss, Montoya.

The verdict:
While this movie offers more grittiness than the original, it's not easy to track the relationship between the white supremacists and the men with the pricey specs. The opening half-hour plays on leaving you wondering what is going on. And then there are all the drug lord and business student lingo that is loosely thrown about.

The cinematography is carried out with a marriage between different styles. The entire flick is shot with high definition cameras creating a menacing glossy effect. There's a chase scene with powerboats where some of the images veer into "Cops"-level graininess. Elsewhere Mann delivers gliding, controlled aerial perspectives.

The movie also ups the show's violent ante. Now the war on drugs looks and sounds like actual war. And where the show took advantage of the Florida sunlight, this film is exquisitely nocturnal. Most of the story unfolds beneath blood-orange dusks and inky skies.

Casting Jamie Foxx into one of the lead roles was an excellent choice as he graces this movie with a profound philosophical serenity. Also great is taking on Naomie Harris, who plays Tubbs's steely girlfriend and fellow cop. The movie has a huge gallery of great supporting cast but unfortunately Mann only puts them to adequate use. They should have had more parts such as Barry Shabaka Henley as Lieutenant Castillo, Ciaran Hinds as a craven FBI agent, John Ortiz as a splashy Colombian kingpin, and Elizabeth Rodriguez as the police sharpshooter who has the best line in the whole film.

And what would a cop movie be without a spectacular shootout? Vice does not disappoint in this respect with a mesmerising scene at the end where bodies fall in ways you never thought imaginable.

This movie is seriously entertaining.



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