Review by jmd777
"After All the Hype, Is It Worth It?"
Ah...Grand Theft Auto IV. I can't remember the last time I was so hyped for a game. After waiting patiently for months, tirelessly reading the message boards, constantly discussing the game with friends, and even going as far as to attend a midnight launch to have this game in my hands as soon as possible, I have to ask myself: Was it worth the massive hype that surrounded it? Could this game possibly match the nearly unbelievable expectations people had for it? Fortunately enough, I can say that for the most part, I'm satisfied.
STORY - 9/10
This entry in the series is a bit different than the others. It's important to know that it takes place in an entirely different universe, and the characters from the previous games no longer exist. Grand Theft Auto IV puts you in the shoes of Niko Bellic. Niko is a European immigrant coming to America to live the American Dream with his cousin, Roman Bellic. Unfortunately for Niko, Roman was exaggerating just a tiny bit when he told Niko about his luxurious life in Liberty City full of expensive cars, women, and a mansion. Roman is barely getting by running a taxi business, and neglected to mention before that he is in serious debt. Now, Niko is here to do some less than pleasant jobs to try to make life just a little bit better for him and his cousin. The characters you'll meet in this game are usually very unique and entertaining. As you do more missions for them, you'll learn a little more about them and become friends with them (or enemies) over time. The story never fails to keep you wanting more.
GAMEPLAY - 9/10
The gameplay in Grand Theft Auto IV has been completely redone. Even the players that have put countless hours into Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas will be somewhat confused at the start.
Basics - Grand Theft Auto IV is all about doing whatever you want. Travel on foot, by car, by boat, or by subway. Try to complete the story mode as fast as you can, or just take it easy and explore as long as you'd like. The player is offered almost complete freedom. The first thing the player will notice is that vehicle handling has changed significantly. The car handling is now a bit more realistic, and the player will be making use of the brakes quite often for those sharp turns. Numerous collisions are inevitable for the first few hours of getting used to the new handling. Things are a little different on foot too, but not as drastic. Just moving the analog stick will make Niko walk. Holding the run button while moving will make Niko jog. Tapping it will have Niko sprinting. Aiming is hard to get used to at first, but is easy once you take the time to learn it. Holding the left trigger will auto-aim. The right trigger fires, unless you only hold it down halfway. Holding it down partially will free-aim. Occasionally you might slip up and fire right off the bat because you pushed too far, but it's not much of a problem.
Cell Phone - A cell phone! Sounds cool, right? Well, it can be if you want it to be. The cell phone opens up a variety of options that weren't available in previous games. You can use it to set up a date, call friends just to hang out, or make use of one of their offerings such as calling for a cab when there isn't one already in sight. The cell phone eventually becomes customizable, and you'll have a decent selection of new wallpapers and ring tones.
Cover System - New to Grand Theft Auto is the cover system. The cover system allows Niko to crouch behind just about anything and peek out to fire at will, or he can play it safe and blind fire to do some damage while staying out of harm's way. This will come in handy often, especially when facing the Liberty City Police.
Friends - Friends are both a blessing and a curse. While it's pretty cool to be able to call up a friend and go hang out some place, your phone will constantly be ringing when you don't want it to be. You have to hang out with your friends on occasion to keep them liking you, which can be a bit of a pain to keep up with. On the plus side, spending time with your friends can earn you some really helpful bonuses that I won't spoil in this review.
Internet - The internet isn't something that's necessary to use often. It's in the game to arrange a few missions, and to kill time. There are plenty of websites to browse for a laugh here and there, but the internet in Grand Theft Auto IV isn't anything amazing by any means. It's nice to have around when you feel like reading a little, but a lot of what you'll find online is completely useless.
Missions - I'm sad to say that at times, the missions can be a bore. While we can't expect too much that would stray away from the basic formula, doing the same steal this vehicle, kill this person, plant a bomb here, etc. missions over and over can get old fast. Having a huge city to drive around in makes it a lot better though, and if driving isn't your thing, you have the option to take a taxi to avoid the long ride. A welcome addition is the option to immediately repeat a mission you failed from where you are at rather than having to go all the way back to the person that gave it to you.
Physics - The only word that will accurately describe this physics in this game is amazing. The physics are a huge part of this game, and you won't fully understand how spectacular they are until you see it for yourself. Imagine being in a high speed chase on a motorcycle. You're weaving in and out of traffic, barely missing the cars you're passing by, when you try to go up a ramp but hit it the wrong way. After you hit that nasty little bump, you can see yourself flying through the air up until you smash into a sign, streaking it with blood before you fall down on top of a passing car, shatter the windshield, and roll off of it. You have to see it to believe it. Pushing people down a flight of stairs and watching them roll all the way down is now a possibility. Shooting someone in the leg will cause them to fall down and have a hard time getting up. The physics are truly incredible.
Wanted Levels and the Liberty City Police Department - The wanted level system in this game is a bit off, unfortunately. Want to drive against traffic like a madman and slam into a bunch of cars on your way to your destination? Go right ahead. You won't get in trouble. At other times, it really doesn't take much to have just about the entirety of the Liberty City Police Department all over you. Scrape the side of a police car, and be prepared to have a gun aimed at your face. Aiming a weapon or firing at someone will get the police chasing after you too. The wanted level can be eliminated in this game by driving out of a flashing area on your radar. The more trouble you get into, the bigger the area the police will cover. Once you finally escape this area, you have to lay low for a bit and avoid any cops, because if they see you, the search area will be focused on you again.
GRAPHICS - 9/10
It's worth noting that the graphics in this game, under normal circumstances, wouldn't be anything special. However, taking into consideration the size of the city you're in and everything going on around you, it's hard to imagine how this was pulled off. The graphics may not be perfect, but they're definitely not sloppy either. The city is finely detailed all the way through, and it seems to come to life right before your eyes. Explosions are mesmerizing, to say the least. Oddly enough, the most realistic thing I've seen in the game is the water. The first time I saw it, I just stood there admiring it for a few minutes, because it really does look that great. You will not be disappointed in the graphics, for sure.
SOUND - 8/10
As far as the music goes, I can't fairly judge. Everyone has their own tastes, so it wouldn't be right for me to try telling you whether the music is good or not. What I can tell you is that there are enough radio stations to satisfy anyone. There's a station for just about everything. There are enough songs crammed in to keep you busy for quite a while if you had decided to just listen to the music while you played if nothing else. The voice acting is done very well, and the sound effects are just fine, too. It's about what you'd expect, really. Good enough to satisfy, but not quite perfection.
MULTIPLAYER - 7/10
Multiplayer is a mixed bag. The large variety of modes seems great at first, but any game can be screwed up by a few bad players. When I say bad players, I don't mean people that aren't good at the game. I mean people that don't work well with a team. A game can easily be ruined by a few teammates that are too busy running over everyone and wandering around aimlessly. Multiplayer is best enjoyed with your friends. The game can truly shine when everyone is playing as they are supposed to. Find friends to play with, and you'll have a hard time finding a better multiplayer experience. Join a random game, and you're in for a headache. The only other little problems I've noticed are just glitches. They don't seriously hinder anything, but at times can be annoying. Nobody likes a disappearing car.
REPLAYABILITY - 9/10
If you've played any other Grand Theft Auto game before, you already know how much replay value the Grand Theft Auto games have. Grand Theft Auto IV is no exception. With such a huge city, you can throw away hours upon hours doing nothing but exploring. Throw in side missions, unlockables, achievements, online multiplayer, and Downloadable Content in the near future, and you have a game that will last you months. The only reason this section did not get a perfect score is because of a lack of some of the extras seen in Vice City and San Andreas. A lot of people, including myself, were hoping for the abilities to purchase property, customize vehicles, rob stores, and a few other things that weren't in Grand Theft Auto IV. While it's a bummer to be missing a few things, they aren't important enough to stop anyone from playing this awesome game.
BUY, or RENT?
This is one of the few games that I can suggest buying whether you've played it already or not. There's just too much to miss out on by passing this one up. Don't let yourself miss the chance to play such a great game. You will not be let down.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/12/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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