Review by Ratchet12345
"Jeez, it's not THAT bad."
Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the most anticipated games of 2008 - the first GTA on a next-gen console. It had ridiculous hype, and this brought people to the conclusion that this game must be the best game ever, hands down, and that nothing will ever equal or better it ever. Of course, no game could do this, not even GTA. Many GTA fans have played San Andreas, and this game has been compared to it so many times it's not funny. GTA IV is NOT like SA, but it can and will be compared to it, simply because there are differences that have to be addressed. Remember GTA III on the PS2? It had its issues, and these were rectified in Vice City and even further in San Andreas. GTA IV focuses on realism, San Andreas focused on craziness. To be honest, I prefer the craziness - killing sprees just aren't the same.
If you've played a PS3 exclusive, you won't be impressed with these graphics. They are on par, but nothing spectacular, and are a mixed bag when it comes to the different areas of graphics. The people are probably the most improved, yet still worst aspect of GTA IV's graphics, and because people don't understand that all computer systems have limitations, they say that the people look crap. They don't. They look OK, especially the main characters like Niko and Roman (who I'll talk about further on) but the pedestrians in the street could do with a little more work. But remember, as I said, all systems have limitations, and you can't have 50 ridiculously high resolution peds with buildings, cars, sky, objects and maybe water in the background - the frame rate would be terrible, rendering the game even worse. Rockstar did what they could, and it looks good- remember, this game is also on the less technically capable Xbox 360.
As for buildings and cars - excellent. The environment looks like New York City really would - big tall buildings in the center of town, traffic everywhere, people walking like crazy - if you've been to New York, you'd be hard pressed telling it and Liberty City apart. As for the cars, they have also been worked on, and they look better than ever. The city reflects off the car as you drive around, and the new damage system looks really good too. You can even get blood on your car when you run people over! All nice little touches.
The sound in GTA IV is also really good. Music has always been a highlight of GTA games, and GTA IV is no exception. With 19 radio stations, you won't be hearing the same song again for a while (provided that you don't listen to the same station all the time like some people do). There is a huge variety of stations, ranging from jazz, to hip hop, to talkback to rock and many more in between.
Sound effects are another mixed bag. If you've play SA, you'll know about the annoying sound the Tec-9 and Micro SMG made when fired - in GTA IV, that problem now lies with the pistol. Not as annoying, but still a gun I avoid using purely because of that sound. The rest of the sound effects are of far superior quality than of any GTA game thus far. The car, gun and city sounds have all been improved and more varied. Not only that, but the sounds aren't terrible quality, like in the previous games. They don't sound compressed or anything like that, so no gripes with the sound effects in GTA IV.
Dialogue is on the same page, great quality and voiced by decent actors - bad voice acting can flush a game's story down the toilet (which Niko surprisingly NEVER uses in GTA IV), but that's not the case here. All the voice acting is superb, and Michael Hollick does a terrific job as voicing Niko, the main character in GTA IV. The great dialogue contributes a lot to the story which I'll talk about now.
The story in GTA games will never change - Rockstar seems to love letting people play as people who have been tricked or backstabbed as soon as they arrive in the host city and have to work their way up from nothing to become king of the whole city, and GTA IV isn't an exception, but an improvement on this system.
As you've probably already heard, you play as Niko Bellic, a Serbian veteran of the Bosnian War. Niko has received wild e-mails from his cousin Roman about how great America, Liberty City in particular, is. He boasts about the fact that he is rich, lives in style and is surrounded by beautiful women. When Niko arrives, it turns out this is total BS, and that in reality Roman is in massive debt with some of the most dangerous crooks in town. Roman has called Niko here to help him get out of the gutter, and things progress from there.
The story, however, is far better than in previous instalments. it may have been that we've been hearing the same crap for 6 years, but the story in GTA IV is one of the highlights of the game. You can make decisions about how you go about things, particularly about who to kill in a difficult situation, and how to do missions.
This adds a lot of personality to Niko - you can make him a cold blooded killer who will take down anyone in his way, or a sympathetic Niko who doesn't kill unless he has to. Of course, violence is prevalent in GTA (to expect anything else would be sheer stupidity), but it means a lot more than it did in San Andreas, where CJ was a crazy gangbanger who'd kill anyone who he even suspected was against him. But unfortunately, because the story is so great, when it's over, you feel like there's nothing to do in Liberty City anymore, which there is, but it's just not the same as the other GTA games.
This is where GTA IV is really different. You may have heard of the new physics engine, Euphoria - a gift from the heavens. Running people down and gunning people down has never been more fun. You won't see someone get hit by a car the same way twice. There are some glitches, quite a few actually, but they don't ruin the game play much considering what Rockstar has given us.
The aiming system is also improved. When targeting someone, you can move the target with the right stick to target a particular part of their body, such as their arm, leg or head. With the new physics engine, it's hilarious to shoot someone in the foot and watch them stumble. Also, people won't still be standing shooting you when at the brink of death, They'll fall down, or walk away holding their guts to keep them in. but what's good aiming when you're getting the crap shot out of you? Rockstar have addressed this too.
The cover system is something GTA fans have wanted for a long time. You can now take cover behind almost anything that will shield you, from the dumpster over there to that helicopter you just blew up. With the cover system comes blind fire, something you won't use too much, but it's good to know it's there and it also provides some classic moments when Niko shoots somebody without even looking - one of the now rare unrealistic things in GTA IV.
But that's just it - the level of realism is, well, too realistic! No more copping 20 bullets and still standing, no more riot cheats, no more long crazy battles with the law. Rockstar wanted the game to be more realistic - we all did. But this time it kind of blew up in our faces. Next time, Rockstar has to find the right mix of realism and craziness, and I know that's tough, but it isn't impossible.
Adding to the problems is the new police system - whenever you get a wanted level, a flashing circle comes up on your map, and if you stay outside the circle for a few seconds, hey presto, your wanted level disappears! But if cops see you, the center circle moves to where you are, and that can get annoying sometimes when you get to the edge of the circle and cops appear out of nowhere, taking it even longer to lose the heat. Pay and Spray is back, but if cops see you go in, you'll be told so and you'll have to lose the cops following you before you can use it.
With that, the map is another awesome part of GTA IV. A feature that you'll be using a lot is GPS - you'll automatically be given a route to follow when you have someone to see or somewhere to go. You can put a marker on the map, much like in San Andreas, and the same thing will happen - a route will come up to follow.
Along with this is the addition of taxi rides. You can take a taxi anywhere, you your employers, your friends, your dates or an activity. I use cabs heaps, and you can wither sit back and let the cabbie cruise through the city, or tell him to hurry up and be at his mercy whilst he smashers through rush hour, or, what you'll do most of the time, skip the ride and arrive instantly at your location, at an extra cost of course.
Of course, it's not all murder and mayhem. With the new friends system, you can go on outings with your friends and dates with your girlfriends. You can go eating, drinking, bowling, play darts and play pool with your buddies or dates. It's all good fun, and the mini games will take a while to get old, as long as to have some variety in what you do with your friends.
And last, and probably the most improved gameplay addition to GTA IV, the cell phone. In previous GTA titles, you could get calls from your bosses, dates and even enemies regarding story or date related propositions or information. Now the cell phone will be something that you can actually use. You can call friends and dates, get messages, receive schedule notices, and also go in to multiplayer matches, which I'll talk about now.
To top GTA IV's superb single player gameplay off is an addition seen before but not made by Rockstar until now, online multiplayer. If you've got the PC versions of GTA III, Vice City or San Andreas, you've probably heard of Multi Theft Auto and San Andreas Multiplayer, online games for those titles using a homebrew program. However, these homebrew programs, whilst impressive and perhaps something Rockstar could do someday, it was a bid dodgy, and filled with hackers and glitches - I never found it much fun.
GTA IV's official multiplayer however, is far better and offers an unmatched multiplayer experience. Of course, it isn't the best online game ever, but how much have you wanted to go killing cops and running people over with your friends at the same time? Screw sharing, this is GTA, and now you and 15 buddies can go online and mess **** up. There's Free Mode, letting you do whatever you want around the city, and also competitive modes, like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and some original GTA ones like Cops and Crooks and Turf Wars. All good fun, provided you have a good connection - it doesn't require Bill Gates' Internet, but you'll need about 1Mb/s to get a good lag free match with 15 others.
GTA IV isn't as good or as crap as people have made it out to be - it isn't God's gift from heaven, and it isn't Satan's wrath from hell. It is a video game that you should pick up if you want GTA with better physics, graphics, sound and story. But be warned, if you love San Andreas, stick with San Andreas - it offers far more experiences than GTA IV - I mean, there's no jetpack, no planes, no minigun, no flamethrower, less customisation of your character, no car modifications and overall killing sprees aren't as fun. Otherwise, GTA IV is a title anyone who likes violence in the masses would play.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/04/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (AU, 04/29/08)
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