Review by ChateauNoir

"Rockstar, you guys have done it again! Key word: AGAIN"

GTAIV is definitely one of the most hyped titles….ever. Even if you don't play games, you've most likely heard of it somewhere, probably from kids who play it at school, coworkers, CNN, radio, or even on a delinquent kid's permanent record. Let's agree, it's everywhere! However, the main question: Does this game live up to all the hype it's getting?

GTAIV takes place in… yup… you've guessed it. Liberty City. After seeing that exact same city in FOUR of Rockstar's games already, it makes you wonder why Rockstar hasn't thought to innovate instead of boring the same audience with a next gen rehash of the same game at the same location. Fact is- they haven't. They've promised us many things about this new gen, but besides the upgraded graphics and animations, I just fail to see what new things GTAIV brings to the table as opposed to the last generation of gaming.

Graphics (7/10)

I definitely give Liberty City some credit here – the city is relatively large. Buildings are huge, highways are rather complex, and there is a lot more detail here. Despite how massively flawed it is, the city is huge, and you'll just marvel at how big it is. I'd say that Liberty City has doubled in
size in comparison to the last GTA3. But however, this ‘marveling' will be short lived, especially when glaring flaws soon hit you right in the middle of gameplay:

Frames per second – For those who get queasy from some games that run at a choppy frame rate, well, this'll make a really great vomit inducer. The framerate is inconsistent with frequent drops throughout that the inconsistency has become consistent itself. Some games have problems with the frame rate being awful when a lot of action is on screen. Well, the frame rate will drop anytime, even if you're running through the park. Of course, I'll have to take into account the big city and the pedestrians being a factor, but seriously, the last thing I need is a bunch of framerate drops with cops and crooks on my tail.

Visual quality – Apart from Skyscrapers and overlapping highways, the visual quality doesn't even pass up to be decent. Looking afar ahead of you, everything is incredibly blurry. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating or even kidding, it is incredibly blurry, and this may just ruin the whole atmosphere for some people. And for those queasy people that I mentioned, this'll be another great reason to have a bucket next to you when you play. When driving, looking into the blurry and jaggy distance will almost guarantee a headache. You'll probably say one word when looking at this: Ew. Up close, things do look better, however jaggy they may be.

Pop in – This is definitely a problem here. It really does get bad. People, cars, buildings, trash cans, mailboxes, lampposts, and signs all pop in at times. Usually, it's far away, but often times, it's fairly close and you'll sometimes bump into things you don't see, causing the police to go into alert. This gets a lot worse when you're driving fast. There was a mission where I was chasing someone on a motorcycle at blazing fast speed, the road became completely blank, and 3 seconds later, textures and objects just popped up. The thing is, Rockstar tried to go for realism in GTAIV, however, they must realize that pop ins like this do lose that sense of realism and immersion.

The physics engine has improved a whole lot here. Shooting people while they're running will make them trip and fall. It's quite funny to shoot someone on foot just to see this happen. However, it seems as these pedestrians are really, really weak while at it. I mean, just walking against someone would literally make them fall to the ground. However, you're really weak as well. You might want to seriously avoid even slow moving traffic. Even a car that runs at you in 2 mph will knock you to the ground making Niko squeal in pain.

Gameplay (6/10)

If you've played any of the past series, the gameplay hasn't changed here much. It's still the same old GTA with the same classic style of missions – drive here, shoot someone, shoot a bunch of people, try to get away from someone, deliver something, etc, rinse, repeat. Yay, fun, right? It's doing the same exact thing the past versions have done except with different cutscenes in between. It's definitely an easy way out in order to play the safe game. There are, however, things about this gameplay that has changed:

Shooting – The controls have been a lot more revamped and resemble more of a linear third person shooter now, much like Kill.Switch, Uncharted, and Gears of War. However, this isn't done too well, considering this shooting system just doesn't work in a type of open world and non-linear game such as this. You press L2 halfway to go into free aim, you press L2 all the way to go into lock on. People here move quite fast, so most of the time, you'll just end up going back to the lock on system. Anyway, while aiming, it brings you into an over the shoulder view mode, but I can definitely say that there was not much thought into this. The over the shoulder mode just doesn't work in this type of game - In this free, open world, you need to view more of your surroundings, yet, it focuses up on what's in front of you, something that would only work in a linear game. The only time it works is during the linear missions, but it's still an annoyance every where else.

Like tons of games now, a cover system has been implemented, although this one just isn't as good. First, you go into R1 to enter cover mode, with your side stuck against a wall. The reticle automatically pops up so you can blindfire here. However, it's quite hard to spray some bullets at many people at once due to having the game require you to hold down R2 just to continue shooting. If you release R2 at all, you'll go back into cover, so strategic shooting just doesn't work here, and you'll waste many bullets at once. Sometimes, when you're at a corner, you won't stick to the place that you want and will go to the other side. It might seem that the cover system just should've been aborted to begin with, it just doesn't work here, yet they try to heavily emphasize its use in missions, especially when your enemies use this system too.

The camera is another issue that has hindered the shooting. The camera now moves along with Niko to automatically adjust to facing the direction that Niko is facing. This is so the new over the shoulder view can work with the game. It's rather annoying, especially in the past when you could pretty much control the camera where you want to. Running quickly away from cops and turning around to aim at them is a huge annoyance here. It's a massive flaw and although it takes a while to get used to, I just wonder how much better it would be if they had kept that old camera system. It is just makes it an unnecessary nuiscance.

The driving physics have improved here a bit, although it takes quite a while for cars to accelerate, and accelerating at turns is just annoying. A big issue is the camera: the camera is just too low and hinders what you'll be seeing ahead of you. Cars here are still floaty so flipping around is just commonplace here.

Missions – Missions are now mostly cell phone based. Your cousin gives you a phone and him and his superiors call you and tell you what to do. It's pretty much the same phone as Liberty City Stories, except this one is more refined and is interactive. Rockstar has claimed that the game will take you about 90+ hours to complete. It sort of is true, especially since the game really doesn't have to end with its free roam. However, the missions here will probably take you only about 24 hours and even less if you don't die as often. The missions are just as repetitive as before, not many changes from what has been done.

Just like what Madden has done, GTA has done with their own formula. Same exact missions, just better graphics. However, there are some pretty neat mini games on the side. There's darts, pool, bowling, and even going to see a show. However, the idea of it is better than it actually is. These minigames just aren't fun and are quite simple and bland. You can definitely tell that they were more of an afterthought.

Story (7/10)

The story is what will compel you to finish the missions due to its repetitive nature. However, it's not one of its strong points, considering how many games have a much, much better story. You start out as a man named Niko Bellic, a Russian who is fresh off the boat. He is there to see his cousin, Roman, after hearing his promises of how great it is. Niko soon realizes that Liberty City just isn't the place he thought, but however, he is there for other reasons as well. There are quite a few twists here, but it still rates as something along the lines of a Hollywood B-type gangster movie. However, I must warn you, people just seem to spout a bunch of nonsense that have nothing to do with progressing, so you'll probably find yourself skipping most of the cutscenes if you're impatient.

Multiplayer (6/10)
There are many different modes here including Cops and Crooks, Bomb da Base, and Deathmatch. They are pretty fun, for a while, except it's really simple stuff. Finding weapons and shooting people. However, you can jack cars and ram over your opponent. This does get old quite fast due to its simplicity. There is no respawn count like in other games, it's just replaced by a now loading screen. There are also plenty of frame drops in multiplayer, it's as if the system just couldn't handle it much. Playing online with 15 other people while having cops chasing you is just a nightmare, especially for those people who think the smoothness of a game is important.

Conclusion

Although it's a good game, it just has done what is already been done. We have already seen this before, and by now, I'm beginning to think that maybe I've just outgrown GTA. There are better visuals, but it's the gameplay and innovation that made the previous titles great. GTAIV has just failed to do that for me. Maybe you're wondering whether this is a rent or a buy? It's a definite buy if you're a GTA fan, however, if you're looking for a deeper game or have already gotten tired of GTA3, it's a definite rental at best.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/30/08, Updated 05/20/08

Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)


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