Review by nastynate3118
"I'm in a Liberty City state of mind...nah, that doesn't sound right..."
Grand Theft Auto IV is yet another installment in the controversial series by Rockstar Games. The GTA games have traditionally been met with critical acclaim, but I feel that people look too much into the huge world that these games are set in and forget to look at the actual meat of the gameplay. The only other GTA game I have played and finished is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a game that I enjoyed for the most part despite its flaws. Due to the high praise GTA IV received, I had reasonably high expectations for this game. While impressed at first, I was eventually disillusioned with it after playing it for a while.
Grand Theft Auto IV is an open world sandbox adventure. You control Niko Bellic, an immigrant who is looking to build a new life in Liberty City (aka New York City). There are main story missions and random things you can do around the city such as steal vehicles and complete side missions. There is plenty of mischief to engage in and you can easily pass multiple hours by doing random stuff in the city. The main story moves in a non-linear fashion and you can choose when you want to do a mission and what mission you would like to attempt.
Unfortunately, this strong premise is bogged down by a number of unnecessary problems. For one thing, the controls in this game are extremely sluggish. Niko is very difficult to turn and runs around like he is drunk. Different cars have different response to the controls. Most of them drive like garbage but some are very fun and smooth to drive around. The exception to this is the motorcycles in this game; they all are horrible and are not very responsive. I remember preferring motorcycles in San Andreas, but definitely not in this game. Speaking of vehicles, what happened to airplanes and bicycles? I enjoyed those in GTA: SA.
The game also suffers from several random bugs and glitches. There were a couple of times my game randomly froze after completing a mission and I had to restart and do the mission over. Every time I tried to give eyeglasses to Niko, the game would randomly make them vanish and eventually I gave up on trying to give him the glasses. There were other times the game would sort of just spaz out and strange things would happen, like Niko randomly moonwalking on top of cars or vehicles getting stuck and seizing. Fortunately, these glitches (besides the glasses one) are not frequent enough to really make the game unplayable.
I have to admit I was disappointed by the lack of customization in this game. You can barely change Niko's appearance and there are many things that could be customized in early GTA games that are not present in this game.
I admire the scope and ambition of this game, but I feel that the designers failed at making fun and varied gameplay. The missions in this game involve either going to assassinate someone or getting into a car chase with someone else. That's pretty much it. The game becomes extremely repetitive, boring and tedious by sticking to this formula despite how much is packed into it.
I also always fascinated by how Rockstar does not like title screen menus and prefer to just automatically load the last save file and get the player into the game as fast as possible. It is an interesting concept that I enjoy. I also like the GPS that is used on during gameplay. Liberty City is a massive city and having the GPS really helps when trying to get around to certain locations.
There are a lot of annoying things with the interface in this game, however. I hate how you can't skip some of the tutorials. As far as I know, there is no way to turn the radio off while you are driving. I will explain in a little bit why this is such a big problem, but driving with silence requires you to steal a police car, something that in itself is a bit of a chore.
Another problem with the interface arises when you attempt to restart a mission. If you fail a mission, the game gives you the option of restarting it. This may sound nice, but if you restart the mission the game does not replenish any ammo or armor that you may have lost in the first attempt. At this point, depending on what mission it is, you might as well completely reload you save file to preserve your early inventory. This is a major inconvenience and makes the restarting option fairly useless.
The plot to this game is decent. It involves an immigrant coming to Liberty City looking to start a new life and seek out a man who betrayed his unit in a war in his native country. The plot is a complex web of interactions between Niko and other people in Liberty City. The story moves at an extremely slow, wandering snail pace. Sometimes it can take hours for the plot to actually progress after several missions because of how slow the story moves along. This makes the plot very disengaging and unexciting, even when several plot twists arise.
I will say that I like the multiple paths the story can go depending on what choices Niko makes in the game. It adds replay value and depth to the game and partly makes up for how awful the pacing in this game is. I will say that the final confrontation in this game is pretty epic, but the ending is very unsatisfying. The game pretty much just abruptly ends and that's it. Considering it takes 30+ hours to get to that point, I was pretty disappointed.
I cannot begin to understand how much time and effort went into designing the graphics of this game. Rockstar did a tremendous job bringing Liberty City to life and follows New York City very closely. It is mindblowing how much detail went into making this game. You have the entire city to explore and each neighborhood and area has its own feel and the proportions in this game are done very well.
There are two significant problems I have with the graphics in this game, however. While the city and vehicles look outstanding, the character models are pretty average. I think their faces are kind of messy and the animation of the character models is very quirky and awkward. The game seems to have trouble loading some areas as well, especially indoor areas. There are times when I would walk into a building and the game did not load the graphics properly, and as a result Niko would get stuck and the game would become glitchy.
Aside from those flaws, the graphics in this game are absolutely wonderful and I commend Rockstar on their efforts.
Sound/Music - 7/10
The voice acting and sound effects in this game are great. The voice acting is pretty exaggerated but I feel that the melodramatic acting gives the game (and franchise) a unique identity and makes it more enjoyable.
The game really falls flat in the radio music that is played. While the radio stations have hilarious dialogue and commercials, I absolutely cannot stand the choice of songs in this game. I realize that each person has their own music tastes and whatnot, but it seemed like they chose generic and boring music to put in the game (which already suffers from repetitive and boring gameplay). The choices of radio stations seem to be more oriented toward rap/hip-hop and there honestly isn't that much variety. The rock station plays generic or awful music. The problem is you are forced to listen to this because there is no way to turn off the radio stations. Maybe you will like the music choices in this game more than I did, but I feel like they chose very uninteresting songs.
Play Time/Replayability - 8/10
It took me 34 hours and 32 minutes to finish the main story of this game. I feel that this is far too long and the game could have been much shorter, considering how slow the pace of the story is. There is plenty of replay value to be had though, with tons of sidequests in the city and the lengthy quest to achieve 100% completion. I also like the non-linearity of the game and the fact that the main story can have multiple outcomes.
One minor annoyance I have is that the credit sequence is over 20 minutes long while the actual ending of the game is about two minutes long. Something doesn't seem right there.
+Ambitious in scope and size
+Plenty to do in Liberty City
+Non-linear missions and side quests
+GPS guides you around city
+Story can go multiple paths
+Graphics for city and vehicles look amazing
+Exaggerated voice acting only adds to the game
+Plenty of replay value
-Repetitive, boring missions
-Glitches appear at times
-Not as much customization as in other GTA games
-No way to shut off annoying radio
-Plot moves at an extremely slow pace
-Ending is disappointing
-Graphical loading sometimes is slow
-Radio stations play awful music and can't be turned off
-Main story mode takes far too long to complete
The sheer size of this game should make it automatically worth picking up if you are looking for one game to work on for an extreme amount of time. I will say that you get your money's worth in terms of how long it takes to complete everything in this game, but if you are looking for a game to just breeze through when it comes to the main story mode, you will probably be disappointed.
Final Score: 7.333/10 rounded to 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/06/12
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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