Review by Cowboys4u86
"Rockstar rock the new generation of consoles with it's best GTA title yet!"
Story - The Story in GTA IV is a bit deeper than most of the other GTA games that have appeared on home consoles over the past few years. Rockstar decided to put more of an emphasis on the main character's feelings and overall depth of the story. This results in a more enjoyable experience and more of an attachment to the characters than in previous titles like GTA III, Vice City and San Andreas. The story follows the journey of Niko Bellic, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who has come to Liberty City to make a fresh start and find some answers. Niko quickly becomes forced into a gun for hire role in order to make ends meet and keep his cousin Roman out of trouble with Russian gangsters, requiring you to do the usual kill him/her, go steal this missions that are essential to every GTA experience. As always there are plenty of twists and turns in the story to keep you intrigued and coming back for more and the game certainly isn't lacking interesting characters to keep the story going. All in all the story is one that is unrivaled in the GTA series, and while it won't stand up to the more story driven games on the market as anything special in this department it certainly does well in it's own rights.
Gameplay - Ah, the biggest reason GTA has been such a strong force in the video game industry over the past few years. You can criticize the story, bash the graphics but no game quite manages to shine in the gameplay department like GTA. GTA IV doesn't let the series traditions of fun, addictive gameplay down. Whether you want to run around filling innocent bystanders with lead or smash in a cars window and take it for a spin down the rammed streets of Liberty City there is no shortage of fun to be had. Rockstar have improved in almost every aspect of this department in GTA IV and I'm going to start with one of the biggest gripes fans of the series had, the aiming and generally awkward gun play aspects of the series. GTA IV has implemented a more tactical approach to gunfights this time. You can take cover and pick your shots from relative safety now, the problem is, so can your enemies, which make the fights more interesting. The cover system isn't without it's flaws though, getting out of cover and switching between enemies with the auto aim can get very frustrating at times and does take a little while to get used to. You can also crouch for better accuracy while shooting although to be honest it hardly ever comes into play as it goes forgotten in the heat of battle. The enemy AI is better too, they don't just stand out in the open waiting for you to mow them down anymore, rather they take cover to avoid your bullets when it's available. You can also blind fire, minimizing the risk of exposing your head in the heat of a fire fight. The hand to hand combat is leaps and bounds better than previous iterations, you can counter punches and use an array of attacks, form headbutts to punches and kicks and the pedestrians aren't exactly useless when it comes to throwing down, and are more than capable of dealing you some damage. The driving aspect of the game has changed as well, it's taken a more realistic approach, making it pretty much impossible to take corners at insane speeds and you'll regularly find yourself spinning out as you try and master the handling of the different car in the game, which admittedly gets frustrating in the beginning, but after a few hours you hardly notice the difference anymore as you happily fly about the streets of Liberty city in your dinged up stolen car. They have added some new things towards stealing cars as well, now Niko will smash the window of a locked car and some cars require you to hot wire them as well, which can be rather tense when you have a swarm of police hot on your trail. Niko also has the ability to fly out of the windscreen if you smash into something head on too fast, which is neat and frustrating after the novelty factor wears off. Shooting from the car is a huge change, no more going to a side view to do drive-bys, you can now free aim with your gun whilst still being able to see where you are going. Rockstar have also added some neat new features with the wanted rating, you can now see the police on the radar when you are wanted and you can see the search radius on the mini map which helps make it easier to run from the cops, you simply have to get outside of the bubble and remain unseen by Police for a few seconds to shed those stars. They have added a few toll booths, which if you refuse to stop for will garner you a wanted rating. Traveling around Liberty City is easy, you can hail Taxi's to take you to your destination and as usual there are trains, cars, motorcycles, boats and helicopters to help you move about eh city. There are no flyable planes in this game though, which isn't really a huge loss as a copter is more than enough to get around. There aren't as many goof off missions to do if you're bored with the main storyline. They have taken away the R3 missions in the Taxi's, Ambulances and Fire Trucks but you can still do the Vigilante missions by accessing the police Computer in the cars. You can shop for clothes, go buy food and surf the internet now, although all are shallow pursuits and get boring after the first few minutes. There are plenty of friends to hang out with, you can call them up and do anything from catching a show to playing pool and going out for a bite to eat. You can also date online to spice up your love life. They still have the races but they are a bit easy and really don't present you with any sort of challenge. On the whole GTA IV delivers a fun and addictive gaming experience and you can literally spend hours just goofing off around the city.
Graphics - This has always been a bit of a sore spot for a lot of gamers, GTA sacrifices beauty for size and fun factor. Well GTA IV has gone a long way towards righting those flaws. GTA IV looks amazing, and while you won't find it amongst the top games for looks it certainly doesn't disappoint. The City looks amazing, the character models area huge improvement and the cars, pedestrians and weather are all joys to behold. GTA IV isn't perfect in this department, but it doesn't have to be, the graphics stand up well tot eh competition and it makes up for it's flaws with the sheer size of the city. You can literally spend hours wandering the city just taking in the scenery and trying to find little areas that you didn't notice before. The weather looks great, and driving around Liberty City in the rain at night is an interesting experience. The detail to damage on the vehicles is great, you can smash a cars front end in so badly that it locks up the wheels. And the water between the islands looks truly amazing and really looks like some of the best water effects I've seen in a game. Nothing really looks out of place, everything blends in well together, the biggest flaw in the looks department might be the lighting, you might find yourself fiddling with the options a lot trying to get the right balance and even then some places just seem too dark.
Sound - The sound in this game is as always the case with GTA, great. Plenty of radio stations to listen to covering pretty much every genre, even throwing in some music from Niko's part of the world. The sounds effects for the guns, cars and all the passers by is as good as always. You can actually here the music thumping out of cars passing by and if you get out of your car and leave it running you can hear the music fade away as you wander off up the street. One gripe I had with the sound was at times during the cut scenes I found myself having to turn up the volume as it seemed to quiet and I have to have the sound turned up to a higher level in comparison to most games. But that's nothing turning on the subtitles won't fix, which is something I recommend you to do because some of the accents are so thick in this game you can't understand a word the person is saying. The voice acting is top notch and the voices really fit the characters well.
Online - This is the part of the game that disappointed me most, it felt just thrown in and really isn't something that will rival other games online experiences. But then again GTA IV isn't the type of game that needs to rely on a stunning online aspect to truly get your money's worth out of the game. Finding games is quick and easy, just go into your phone and pick the game you want, there is a character model you can customize and there are bunches of different modes to play. The single player part of the game is more than enough to keep you occupied and the online while fun, gets boring relatively quick but it serves as a good mode if you want a break from roaming around in the single player mode. All in all nothing special but it does have some fun modes to play.
Final Conclusion - The game definitely lives up to the hype and delivers a fantastic gaming experience, there is plenty to do and see as always with a GTA title and is in my opinion a must own title, no next gen library will be complete without it. I would say this is Rockstar's best GTA game yet, it got rid of a lot of the little annoying things in San Andreas and improved on all the good things in the series.
Final Score - 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/29/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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