Review by YamiYaj
"Not A Bad Game By Any Means... Just Doesn't Feel "Next-Gen""
I've been fan of Grand Theft Auto since 1998/99 when I was watching my friend "Gunner" play it. Ever since then I've been in love with the concept and when it went to a non-top down view in the 6th Generation of consoles I feel in love, as did most of America. I found myself playing it's last 3 incarnations for consoles over and over and over again, because with each game there was something that hadn't been done in Video games. So with all this said, and GTA making a leap to another generation of consoles, myself and three friends went to pick up GTA IV on opening night at the local game distributor. We returned home quickly, and proceeded to play our respective copies, whether it be single player or multi player. As our wide-eyes played the game for three or so days, eventually the wide-eyes of youth became the semi-closed ones of experience. "I've played this game before" myself and two of the others found ourselves saying". The fourth party, said the opposite. I'm of the former opinion, and with that said, here's my review.
It's Grand Theft Auto.... the "original" Sandbox genre video game, so it should have perfect gameplay in that regard right? Yeah, but the problem is that, while there were innovations added to the core gameplay, it is generally exactly the same as GTA III with a slight alterations to physics and a few welcome additions. However, this is not worthy of a large detraction from the score. Grand Theft Auto manages to play like it's predecessors while taking out aspects from some of them as well. In regards to subtractions, the lack of aspects such as cars that explode instantly upon severe impact or carefully placed shots and cars that become inoperable after flipping over aren't a welcomed change. However, a great addition that makes the game seem more realistic is the cover system that is almost mandatory to employ during fire fights. Another welcome addition is that the missions, while generally having the same outline as previous GTA incarnations manages to present some new and interesting mission goals that have never been present before. However, the largest reasons for the deduction is the lack of things to do outside of the minigames. Sure eventually there are side-missions as there are with all other GTAs, but the fact that there is an extremely limited number of buildings you can enter outside of missions makes the game limited to the core gameplay of drive, shoot, rinse and repeat. Adding to this problem is the Cop A.I. LCPD will do things such as watch a man court a prostitute and not have trouble, but when I pull said man out of the car to steal it, I am instantly a criminal. While Intoxicated I entered my car in a back alley intending to sit there and become sober, but cops a block away somehow knew I was drunk and ignored the individuals close to them doing actual illegal activities. Finally, with this somehow heightened ability to focus on me and be selective towards the crimes of others, there still manages to be only two or three methods of evading police. However, despite the lack of things to do and the Cop A.I., GTA still manages to put together gameplay that makes the game worthy of playing for at least a few weeks, if not months.
Let me start this portion through stating that this score easily could've been a ten out of ten with a few welcome additions. The in-game graphics are unprecedented in a Sandbox genre game and are clearly setting the mark for any and all competitors. Heck, the fact that they're capable of placing so many landmarks on the screen at one time in itself is an impressive feat. The cutscenes are just as beautiful, and while the characters maintain a typical Rockstar look with a few sharp edges here and there, generally they look incredible. Another unrivaled part of the graphical details is that there are literally no repeated sprites on the screen for Liberty City's civilians, as well as the ability to drag these individualistic sprites with your car or litter their blood onto your hood. The final reason that I am so impressed with the games graphics are the near photorealistic paint scars and dents that your cars will take, even if I disagree with the amount of force that delivers them. However, the reason for the deduction is because while the game manages to display numerous landmarks on the screen simultaneously, it ignores the fact that there should be just as many cars and scenarios occurring simultaneously. Liberty City is supposed to be a moderate replication of the "City That Never Sleeps" and yet too often is there little to no variance on the screen. Constantly am I haunted by witnessing only ten or eleven cars on the screen, and many of them are the same car, merely different colors, a cop car or two and a taxi or two. Another, though almost insignificant, graphical complaint is the lack, or should I say non-existence, of Bicycles in a replica of NYC that could've aided in evasive gameplay slightly. Additionally, I've yet to see too many varying interactions between cops and the citizens of Liberty City aside from a cop searching for drugs in the back of a trunk and a shootout that I caused. However, I've been informed by others that they have seen this, so I won't let it subtract from the overall score much. However, the graphical score can easily become a 10/10 if a patch is released in the future to allow more variation in the cars that are on screen.
Story?! What story?! I came into this game, based on reviews, believing that the story was going to be what set this game above other games within this genre. Not only would the gameplay be fun, but it would have an in depth story tied into it. Simply playing two missions into the game you're lead to believe that you're going to enter the dark and seedy underworld of Eastern European crime syndicates involving Albanians, Serbians, Bosnians, Armenians, Italians, Ukranians, Russians and the like. Unfortunately, this never comes to fruition, and is quickly surmised for another story, which is sidetracked for the twenty or so hours of gameplay you will undergo to make it to the end of the game. Another important and correlated story manages to be tacked on a few hours later, but, it too, is sidetracked for twenty or so hours of gameplay. In between the main story you are introduced to annoying and not so memorable characters, with the exception of one family, and you simply become an errand boy that is out to get money. Unfortunately, your reasons for wanting/needing money are never actually flushed out and explained, thus detracting from the overall Story as, for the most part, you never make an actual connection to the protagonist baring the few decisions you get to make for yourself.
I honestly don't know what to say about GTA IV's soundscore. The radio stations aren't great, but they are far from horrible. The sounds of the pedestrians, while not what I was expecting based upon early reviews and my expectations of next-generation processing. I've heard more commentary than in previous GTA incarnations, however, I have also heard repeated dialect. The voice acting of the characters to which you interact with in cutscenes is good, and for the most part all fit. My only truly large complaints about the voice acting is that Rockstar didn't stretch to find all-star talent that managed to make sure that every character across the board has no flaw in their sound. While Niko sounds well and good within cutscenes, during in game play he tends to sound silly. A rather large deduction is brought about because in one of the more dramatic parts of the game, Niko is constantly yelling at inappropriate times and sounds like "Borat", as opposed to a man out for death. Timothy Adams gives an inspired performance as Brucie, however.
Like with Saints Row, I came into online play as a skeptic, and just like Saints Row, Grand Theft Auto's Multiplayer aspect wont keep me entertained for a while. However, the fact that there isn't a true earning or customization system like Saints Row harms the game. GTA's online gameplay manages to make up for this though, with it's ability to Free Roam with up to 16 players and simply roam the entire city, from day one, and do whatever you choose, whether it be individually, or as a mini-gang. Free Roam Online Multiplayer has the potential to make this online portion a sensation, but then again, it all depends on the users and how they choose to play. The 15 other gameplay modes manage to round out online multiplayer, with the racing online mode being another reason that this is the epitome of a Sandbox game's multiplayer aspect.
It's Grand Theft Auto.... WITH MULTIPLAYER! Therefore, by default, it has replay value. Whether you want to get in a car, run people over, shoot a prostitute, then steal another car and rinse, wash and repeat you can do it. However, you can go online and free roam, race, or have goal oriented team modes versus the Xbox Live community. I would also say that this is where the Xbox 360 version earns it's superiority, because Achievements for this title are much better than it's counterpart because you have to explore the minigames and few side-missions within the game in order to get them.
Overall Score: 8/10
Grand Theft Auto IV is not a bad game by any means. However, it is not what was expected of a next-generation rendition of a Sandbox title. I was expecting a jump equal in capacity to the jump from GTA II to GTA III, but aside from graphically, I didn't get there. Merely, I was simply given the feeling that I was playing Grand Theft Auto III all over again, with updated graphics and a protagonist I couldn't even relate to in the least. I wish I could say "so what if this was done before" because the game feels so fun and unrivaled, but plain and simple... it doesn't. A good game, and maybe even the best of the series given it's length, graphics, and online capabilities. However, I feel a better attachment to San Andreas, Vice City and III, and therefore believe them to be superior, especially for their time. I'll say it again... "It just doesn't feel Next-Gen"
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 05/06/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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