Review by William_Roebuck

""So, this is what the dream feels like? This is the victory we longed for..."-Niko Bellic"

With the GTA series coming to a new turn of its life, it is not very needless to say that it may require a little history lesson. Grand Theft Auto came out for the DOS in 1997 and was ported to many other platforms in the following years. The game was very basic and was quite simple. Your objective was to make money by any means neccesary, by killing people, stealing cars, doing missions, etc. The overall system was very well for having a top down interface with 6 levels to choose from and 3 cities to traverse. But perhaps the biggest thing that made this game famous was the controversy it recieved. People might have bought it for just that reason. Nevertheless, the game sold, and it sold WELL. It was followed by an expansion pack, London 1969, which, took place in London of course with the same game and another, less known, London 1961. It wouldn't be until 1999 that we recieved the actual sequel, GTA2 for PC. This game was very similar to its predessor, however the graphics were improved and the mission system was reworked to make it better for the player. It featured new weapons, cars, and missions. Two years later is when the series really kicked off. Grand Theft Auto 3 came out in 2001 for Playstation 2. The game took what it had done and molded it for the 3- dimesional world. No longer were we restricted to this small space in a top-down world of linearity. We had a story that would stretch into futher sequels. With this, the series was declared world famous as well with it's sequels.

Grand Theft Auto IV has been hyped ever since it was announced and it never declined apparently. People expected things to be in it, such as it being one hundred times bigger than San Andreas or something like that. With the release of this game I got most of what I expected actually. I got the Special Edition, which came with the game, a special package with Lola on the cover, safety desposit box and keys, a special rockstar key chain attachment, a duffel bag, a very impressive artbook, and a limited music CD. I felt satisfied with my extra $30 payment.

IV has a new character on the block again, a Serbian named Niko Bellic. Niko is a very mysterious man and has a past that he is trying to forget by coming to Liberty City and to live the so called "American Dream" as said by his "loaded" cousin Roman Bellic who is having threesomes left and right and sport cars everywhere you can look. However, to Niko's disadvantage, it turned out that his rich cousin was full of crap and full of debt which he expects Niko to help him get out of. Being the good cousin you are, you decide to do so.

Niko's life in Liberty City is full of choices that the player is left up to decide at certain points. These points usually are "kill or spare" situations where Niko has been asked to kill somebody and sometimes are given the choice to kill or spare their lives. These choices will likely have repercussions on the overall story and gameplay. Such example is that Niko is given a choice to kill someone for a boss named Vlad and the said target is hanging from a ledge. If you were to kick him off, you would kill the man and thus complete your mission, while if you were to help him up and let him go, you would meet him again later in the game and do him a favor for a reward.

Another addition to the game is the execution feature. With a Pistol or Combat Pistol, you can walk up to certain characters and execute them by aiming at them with auto aim and firing. A scene will occur with Niko killing them in a certain way. Such example would be Niko chasing this guy into a public bathroom because he stole some diamonds. Once Niko finds the correct stall, the player can choose to execute him with a handgun. The scene for this particular one will include Niko shooting the thief right in the Adam's Apple. They tend to be quite gory. Of course the player could choose to be boring and fill the target full of holes with an Assault Rifle or any other weapon of choice.

The fighting system has been reworked from the previous games. The player now has four basic hand to hand moves. The punch, self explanatory, the alternative punch, a harder and slower punch, the kick, and the block. Mixing punches and alt. punches will make powerful combos. Also, you can now use counter attacks by hitting the block button after the enemy throws a punch but before it makes contact with you, and then hit a punch button to make Niko do a rather awesome counter move which seems to always incapacitate the target.

The gun system has also changed. In previous games, you pressed a button to aim and another to fire. The thing is that you could not manual aim with every weapon. With this system, every weapon you can manual aim. You hold down the aiming button completely to lock on and half way to manually aim. You can freely move around in the aim state. The lock-on reticule includes the enemy's health, which circles around the reticule. Depending on where you hit the enemy and what kind you use will determine how much health is taken away. They will also have different effects on the enemy, such as if you shoot them in the leg, they'll limp. Shoot them in the head and they're dead. You have a decent selection of weapons, not quite as big as previous titles. They range from baseball bats to RPG's. They are split into categorys, you can only have one weapon in a category, so one pistol, one SMG, one shotgun, etc. If you want to pick up another weapon of the same category, you have to press the L1 button to switch.

Music has always been in the GTA series on radio stations in cars. This hasn't changed in IV, This game features many radio stations, about 15 of them. Including an Eastern European station, a rock station, three talk stations, and many more. The downpart to this is that the songs are not very mainstream and well known, which really hurts the experience. Sadly, this is a low point to the game.

The textures of this game are a major improvement to it's predesessors. The characters now look more real and clean than they ever have. Even on a Standard Definition they look improved. When they talk, they don't look like their mouths are melting. The cars have been remodeled as well and gotta say, it's no Gran Turismo 5, but it is beautiful, plain and simple. When there is a huge explosion, you may want to change your shorts the first time you see the blast. The physics, thanks to Euphoria, are great! A character never the same move the same way twice. Say, when Niko dies because of an explosion, his body will go flying and possibly humerously.

New to the GTA series, is full fledged online action with many modes to choose from. First introduced slightly in the PSP GTA games, it plays a bit similar, but at the same time takes a new curve. The modes range from Deathmatches, to competetive contract missions, to cooperative missions. There are 10 levels to rank through, depending on your money or experience. The higher your rank, the more clothing options you have.

The game should take the average player 20 game hours to finish the story missions. To 100% with a guide will take about 70-77 hours to complete for the average player. It took me 65 hours. Sadly, after you complete 100%, there isn't much to do in single player anymore.



Pros:
-Looks beautiful
-A well rounded main character
-Affect the story with ingame actions
-Realistic Physics
-Rockstar Social Club compatible


Flaws:

-Not much to do after 100% completion.
-Multiplayer feels a little broken and loose.
-A lack of mainstream music.
-A lack of weapons.

Even with it's every small flaws, I think it is a great game that we have been all waiting for these past 3 years.

Grand Theft Auto 4 gets a 9/10 and damn deserves it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/08

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


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