Review by Azinsuken

"Grand Theft Auto? More like Petty Theft...from my wallet. *Take Two*"

Herein lies a detailed explanation of why Grand Theft Auto 4 is not worth your money.

Introduction:
Grand Theft Auto 4 is an action, third person shooter, and sometimes platforming game developed by Rockstar Games. It has had 3 previous iterations of a core GTA game. In this series of games you play a character who is down and out at the beginning and works his way up to a higher status by the end of the game through means of violence, mischievous acts, and whatever grimy tactics R* can think up. And every one of these games uses satire and comedy to poke fun of American Culture. Now that you've gotten the basis of the game...it seems immigrants have been pulled out of the stereotype hat..

Let me introduce you to Niko Bellic, an immigrant coming to the America for a better life, thanks to the lures of his cousin Roman. He promised large mammary glands, and opportunities for a new life in his glorious mansion, and lied horribly. Roman got Niko into a mess of debt, deceit, and dealing with scumbags, and they both have to clean it up now. But Niko had his own reasons for coming to Liberty City....

Gameplay:
Here is the real meat of the game, you fist fight, drive, shoot, and kill your way through mission after mission with an assortment of weapons, that you can either collect from enemies, or purchase from the gun shop. The catch to this is, you cannot buy the weapons from the gun shop until you have obtained it from other means, like brutally beating a police officer to death for a pistol. Now many might not understand why this is such a glaring flaw so let me break it down for you. If you have the money to purchase the weapon and you're going to buy the weapon, then you have already got the weapon. It is as simple as that. Reduces the Gun Shop to merely "Ammo Shop" and only enables you to use the tools you already have, and destroys any chance of getting rewarded for your effort. Now let me break down the game play elements:

--Fist Fighting:
This is perhaps the only feature that was vastly improved upon in GTA4, with buttons to dodge, counter, kick, and punch your way to a beaten and broken opponent, sadly one of the most improved aspects is only a very small selection of scenes, for when you get a weapon, who would bring a knife to a gun fight? Let alone your bare hands?

--Driving:
The driving mechanics are very wish-washy, and you'll find yourself and your vehicle behaving unrealistically at times, especially turning -- the whole car looks like its flipping, lack of any seatbelt causing you always to eject from the front in a decent speed head on collision, losing your glasses through an enclosed helmet when you crash on a motorized bike. Not to mention falling from outrageous heights and continuing to drive, and for a game that was so heavily designed for realism, it sticks out. And this isn't even the half of the driving complaints, I could nitpick about the lack of airbags..but I digress. Now that being said, the driving itself can be mastered, albeit annoyingly, but it will certainly throw you off when switching to another game with driving. But I wouldn't call it fun.

--Shooting:
This is where the game really went downhill, the default controls have you set to Lock-On targeting which is extremely simplistic. They try to make it better with the use of taking cover, but you'll find yourself getting stuck on walls when enemies rush you, or your character behaving unexpectedly such as aiming at an enemy 3 states away instead of the guy in front of you with a shotgun, and eventually you'll find the best tactic to be. Stand or crouch behind literally anything (far from the action), Hold L2, Press R2 in bursts, and tap the RStick left or right. This takes care of all encounters that can be solved with a gunfight. Many gun fights can be done without looking at the screen. The lock-on in this game over simplifies shooting allowing you to shoot enemies you can't even see. (Note: Some people think of this as something good?) In a word, the shoot-outs in this game are boring. Now, you can downgrade your aim system, by setting controls to classic, and turning lock-on off, but many people simply go through the game oblivious of the feature, not to mention, why would you intentionally make the game harder than intended? Your job is to play the game and have fun at the challenges, not make up a goofy set of rules to change how you interact with the game. This is how they made the shooting aspect of the game, and it is not fun.

--Driving+Shooting = More Annoyances:
The only challenge is when you combine Shooting+Driving, as timing, and aim becomes crucial to success, and with already flaky car control, it can be a bit difficult. The only problem is....Many of the missions that require this are impossible to complete in that manner! Examples of this include: The vehicle and driver being completely immune to weapons, the car speeds up and drives likes a complete pro to get away, any car that the target car hits flies in the air like it was hit by a dump truck, this takes away from the level of realism, and immersion into the game, when you have to stop and think -- WOW. I just RPG'd that guy in the face, and he drove away on his boat.

--Friendship Reputation:
This has got to be the most annoying feature in the game, hands down. If you use it that is, because for your effort, the reward is pitiful, because the game is already easy, the perks that you might receive from being good friends with a character is useless, it doesn't bail you out of a tough situation, it just makes easy, easier. Now the reason it is annoying, is while you play the game, if you don't interact with these game characters, your reputation with them will go down, like real life, if you don't go out with your friends, they become distant. Now at first you might be thinking, what a neat feature, its realistic, and fits in -- but the problem is, it is in fact unrealistic.

Instead of being able to get all your friends together and go do an activity, or hang out once in a while, you have a bunch of needy game characters who call you relentlessly to schedule activities, and if you don't accept -- they start to like you less (not that it honestly matters). Now once again, you might be thinking, well thats not so bad, getting interrupted to hang out with people with half-baked personalities (except maybe 1 or 2 fleshed out characters) because you get to go play these fun minigames! Wrong! The minigames include things like, playing darts, bowling, playing pool. These games feel like some sort of PS3 version of Wii Sports, but instead you're playing with an apparatus not suited for the job. And it either makes it, extremely easy, or ridiculously unrealistic (I.E. Pool which I basically had to relearn for this game). Now all together this might not be completely terrible, but then add in the fact you can easily exploit (using simple methods) the game to maintain/increase reputation and it crashes completely. It feels like they made all this as an afterthought, decided it wasn't worth putting in the game, then threw it back in for no apparent reason at the end.

The cellphone (I'll just lump this into reputation, as it is used mostly for this purpose) in this game only adds to the stress, some missions glitch and you're still being shot at when Niko Dials the phone up, and you can miss important plot conversations, not to mention how slow you walk while talking, so getting hit by a car is a real possibility (which ends the conversation immediately), even the cheat code entry (Which is a big part of the GTA series) Is horrible! One gun shot and you drop your phone, can you say frustrating when you're trying to put in a health code taking on a full swat team and you can't pull up the darn phone for more than a millisecond?

--Missions:
The missions on GTA4 is the way to progress the story, if you are not blinded by the artsy feel of the game these will bore you to tears. There isn't much to say because every mission is move from point A to B, Kill, Complete objective. But with mechanics like the aforementioned, of course the missions aren't going to be entertaining, because the only ways to complete them are easy and/or annoying. In addition, there is no planning to these missions, if you need something to complete a mission, you get it on the spot. Just plow right along, I suppose this is to be expected as the game was marketed towards casual gamers, what better way to make them feel like their purchase was worth it when its the first game they've played since GTA:SA? Now there are exceptions to this, one or two extremely interesting missions, that somehow let you overlook some of the more glaring flaws to enjoy yourself, but 2/90 is pretty close to 2/10.

------Side Missions
Some of the characters will offer you side missions, such as stealing cars, delivering drugs, or assassinating people. Apparently stealing cars is improved because of the hot wiring aspect, but if you have 1 finger on each hand, hot wiring is almost instant, in fact I don't even notice a difference. Not to say its a BAD addition, just lost the point of it. Delivering drugs is about the most tedious thing you can do, while when you steal cars you get to see a pretty new graphic, with drug dealing, it never goes smoothly, its the same thing, take the drugs to dealer, deal goes bad, kill and/or escape cops. Playing glorified delivery boy isn't my idea of entertainment. For the assassinations see: --Shooting, its same as the main missions, and just as boring. Now keep in mind for the side quests you can't expect original audio for anything more than the address of the street, so you'll be hearing a lot of the same instructions, which is fine, because you're basically doing the same thing over and over.

--Comedy:
Now there are decent parts to this game, such as internet/radio/television/comedy clubs, which are extremely hilarious when you aren't listening to the same bit repeatedly. But this is classic GTA comedy, over-the-top and just plain well done, if not lacking a little bit of content on the radio side. Done over, I would definitely buy the GTA soundtrack over the game, and I recommend it over the game.

--Physics Engine:
Euphoria is the name of the game, and it performs pretty well, this is proof that good engines can power crappy cars. To be honest, its the best thing in the game. The characters respond pretty well to being shot, many things move extremely realistically. But it cannot support the weight of the game. It tries to, and many people get fooled by it, it doesn't really make the game as much as gameplay has broken it.

--Shops:
Possibly the only use for money at the beginning of the game, but as it moves forward you can easily purchase every available outfit, and its not like you'll have anything to show for it other than making Niko wear a suit for a mission, which is used once or twice, pretty much a gimmick to make you think your clothing is more valuable than it really is. A lot of the designs are just different colors of the same thing. And for the only thing you need to spend money on to complete the game, its disappointing how little there is.

Story:
This is supposed to be the heart of the GTA games, people always talk about how the story is one of the most important aspects, well this game doesn't let you down....sort of. It does seem like they spent the most time working on the story, but for the quality, all it does is give testament to what the rest of the game is like. From what you can gather at the beginning you are helping you and your cousin Roman out by amassing money (For god knows what reason, you never spend it on anything other than frivolous things) so that you might live a better life, now the plot does thicken eventually, and Niko has a bit of a branched storyline, but the bulk of the game has you collecting money to fund Roman (Which he doesn't use, and you can easily go through the game without spending much ) and then you're collecting money to fund Niko's operations even though he never spends it on anything that actually HELPS the investigation. So the whole plot is fundamentally flawed. Why do I mindlessly gather money to never use it? Most people don't pay attention to what they are actually doing in this game, they go from cut scene to cut scene without questioning the point of the content in between, which is fundamental to any developing story. The story has multiple ending for one choice at the end of the game, even though the story tries to throw you through a loop with choices early on, they boil down to not mattering in the slightest. In simpler terms:

Step 1. Get money to Help Roman
Step 2. Give no money to Help Roman
Step 3. Get money to help yourself
Step 4. Spend no money to achieve the mission goal.
Step 5. Report how great the story is.

Now to be fair there is back story on Niko, but hes just about the only character who gets it, and none of it is actually surprising. Think "Really? The deranged lunatic that kills without a second thought had a messed up past?"

Graphics/Sound:
Compared to other next-gen titles....they don't. On there own? The graphics are pretty in some spots, mediocre in others. Other than the opening theme, I didn't hear any compositions that caught my ear. The difference between display on an XBOX 360, and a PS3 is slightly noticeable in PS3's favor, and the difference between HD and SD TV (with HDMI component cables) is definitely visible.

Play Time/Replayability:
You can finish this game in less than 30 hours. As I did, or you can leisurely pursue the story and end up with a game time of several hundred hours. But that doesn't make those hours worth it, or even fun. The multiplayer adds some playability, but not much, as many users are having immense problems getting it to work in the first place. So if you get it to work, you'll still be plagued with network issues, game freezing, and general lack of QA work.

Final Recommendation:
There are pros and cons to this game, but the cons heavily out weight the pros. But hey, With DLC on the way for both consoles, who knows, if they can recognize and fix a lot of these gaping holes in the game, maybe it could be worth a decent score, but right now I am sticking with 2/10 -Severe problems prevent any real fun- As of now? Rent, don't buy. You might like it, I know people out there do....


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/08, Updated 05/07/08

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


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