Review by RigorBorgir

"A chore to play"

Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto series has had a thick cloud of controversy hanging over its head for a long time now, not unlike other Rockstar games, notably Manhunt, Bully, and State of Emergency.

Mix that with this generation of video gaming consoles and what do you get? A tank full of hype, that's what. But does this live up to it? Sadly not.

Graphics: - 8/10.
One of the few places this game earns its keep. Personally I own an SD TV and it looks flawless, I have also played it frequently on a HD TV and while it does look very nice, it's not without its faults. For example, shadows, they look pretty damn awful here, while they are indeed an upgrade from SA (obviously) but it's still grainy and shoddy, on both SD and HD.

Another thing that bothered me was car damage, while it was all very detailed and realistic, on so many occasions I would obliterate my car into a wall (admit it, you've done it for fun too) or maybe even just hit a lamppost by mistake and while the chassis itself is in a good enough state to not affect my driving, a scratch is physically protruding off the car and is scraping the floor, propping me up and making the car swerve uncontrollably. One could argue since I'm smashing cars for fun, this is the desired outcome, but when it happens almost every time I tap a lamppost by mistake, it just gets tiresome.

Sound: - 2/10
So this game opens its jacket to a whopping 19 radio stations, 3 of which are talk ones. Now this wouldn't bother me really as long as they're somewhat decent, but most of them are funk, jazz, or variations of such. Don't get me wrong, there's a couple of rock, a couple of hip hop, a couple of talk, but it all takes so long to scroll through that I personally just listen to my CD player or the music I have on this laptop.

Game play: - 1/10
Ok, so past the materialistic stuff that more dedicated gamers look past, the game itself and how it handles is crucial, but I'm afraid that's the games biggest problem.

The driving seems like a good place to start. For a casual gamer, car mechanics especially always take some time to adjust to, and while this is no different, they are overly relenting at best. It does vary from car to car, that's a given, but put it in the rain or on the grass and they're all the same, uncontrollable and awkward. However, boats, helicopters, and motorcycles (with the exception of the PCJ-600) all handle as well as ever so I have to take my hat off to that.

Gunfights have always been a cornerstone of Grand Theft Auto games and this one shares that, but adds a new cover system to ‘aid' the player. Don't bother. Seldom can you control what wall you will get inevitably stuck to. It's a Catch 22, because without cover you become the world's finest bullet cushion, but with it you instead stick to everything you don't want to.

As with other titles in the GTA series, it is again foretold that commit a crime and you get a star rating based on how bad your crime is, the idea being the worse the crime, the more stars you get, 1 for grand theft auto, or firing a gun in public, small things like that, leading up to 6 stars for (God forbid) travelling to a part of the map you shouldn't have unlocked yet, or manically halving the population of Liberty City. It has some revisions though; you now have a visible police search area on the map. As long as a cop can see you, this area moves with you, meaning you can't escape said area until they lose sight of you. Once you have been out of the search area for long enough, the stars are gone and you can carry on your business. This is seriously flawed, however, since the police cars are blindly fast like they always have been so if your car is somewhat damaged you can simply not outrun them in a straight line. No problem right? Just take loads of swerves. I wish it were that simple, it's like the police knew I was going to try turning that corner before I did it, the AI is just too prepared. Although we've already established the driving is uneasy at best and trying to take a corner at reasonable speed just spells ‘spin out'. I found the best way to outrun police was on foot.

Also typical in GTA game are collectables, these have returned in the form of ‘flying rats' which are 200 pigeons hiding around the city like expert ninjas waiting to get shot. I had not found a single one until I was nearly on the third island and even then it was down to a mission practically throwing it at me by placing me near it. Besides that, good luck with them, they are insanely well hidden. A vibrant orange glow is visible on any surfaces around the otherwise plain grey pigeons, but then again, that's not always much help as they're freakin' pigeons, they can be stood on the thinnest things, meaning the orange glow is minimal. Not to mention shooting a gun almost always gets you a star and when you're just strolling around trying to relax and spot one, the last thing you want is police chasing you down ruining your fun.

The telephone is one of the new features presented in GTAIV, and it's basically 2 things, a way of entering cheats for the people who genuinely can't enjoy a game without bending it unfairly in their direction, and a way of distracting you from the story by receiving constant phone calls from friends you'll never meet in the story again wanting to go clubbing or drinking or whatever. It sells itself as a way to get missions before they're given to you simply by phoning the right person at the right time, and while the races and such are only accessible by phone, it's hardly the most necessary of additions.

Multiplayer is a welcome addition to almost any game, and with GTA it is no different, people have been asking for it for a long time, and now here it is. Believe me, it definitely is welcome since the story won't keep you interested. You're given a long list of different game modes to pick from and to give credit where credit is due, they're good. Free mode is personally my most played mode because frankly chasing down your mate in a helicopter in a battle of epic proportions is officially ‘Damn gnarly'. However that too is not without fault, the voice chat for me just does not work at all and really the only place in which all the fun is within walking distance is the Airport, but otherwise I seriously do like the multiplayer and I must thank Rockstar for putting it in.

Story: - 0/10
You are Niko Bellic, a man with a grim past coming to a new place because he was promised an amazing life there but ended up getting acquainted with organised crime. Murders, money, and mobile slaughter is the name of the game as you run your way to the top.

Now, I know GTA has a formula to stick to, but they could at least try to make the story at least a little unique this time around. But because this is the next generation, Rockstar felt the need to string it out and make it as long as possible to the extent of forgetting the actual aim of.... wait, so what are you doing all this for? Sure, you have a person to two to find, but other than that there really is no definite target Niko is aiming for.

The missions are uncreative with your typical escort missions and awkward shootouts, and the unique ones are dreadful to play. I recall one in particular in which (without giving away anything) you have a passenger in your car who doesn't want to be there, so they start trying to take control of the wheel and such, now that, I can handle. But when it's in one of the most notoriously hard-to-handle cars there is it gets slightly more awkward. And when the sides of the freeway you are made to drive on make you flip over if you drive into them, it becomes a real tedious task trying to complete missions. There are some points in the game where it throws you into making a snap decision about whom to murder, but essentially they change nothing.

Customisation: - 3/10
A real step down from San Andreas, you can pick your clothes, and your phone ringtone and theme, other then that, you're on your own stuck with all the stuff thrown at you, quite disappointing really because I liked having crazy hair and making myself muscled enough to floor a guy in one punch. Not to mention car customisation is completely removed from the game.

Play Time: - Very long
The story is strung out, there are side missions to complete that you're not told about and are left to find for yourself, and all those pesky Flying Rats can soak up a huge amount of time. So I'm not putting the play time to shame here, it's very long.

Replayability: - 5/10
Now whether you're going to replay this game over and over depends on whether you complete the game for the story or for the glory. If you finish the story and you feel the game is complete, then there isn't much left really, but do note that's only a portion of all there is to do so bear in mind the story is not where it ends if you want to make the most of your purchase.

Overall, I'm severely disappointed with this, I was a huge fan of San Andreas, and this lacked a lot of the fun that did, I mean, they even made ramp trucks so you can't drive up them!

At best, I'd say rent it and try it for yourself, if you really have to buy it, wait for it to lower in price because right now I do not feel like it lives up to it's name, Rockstar can not live off controversy alone, sooner or later they must buck up their ideas.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 05/28/08

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


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