Review by BoyLover X

"Fanboys will hate me for this...."

Fanboys will hate me for trying to be an honest reviewer.

I bought Grand Theft Auto IV the first day it was out. I played it almost non-stop, I enjoyed it, and I put nearly 60 hours into the game. So why am I giving this game "only" an 8 out of 10? Because that's what it deserves. Don't be fooled by all the websites that are giving this game perfect scores: those guys were high on all the hype for this game.

Story: You play as Niko Bellic, and immigrant from an unspecified European country. He's fresh off the boat at Liberty City (based on New York City...) and he meets up with his cousin to make some money. You also learn about Niko's past the more you play, and find out that he's searching for someone who betrayed him and escaped to Liberty City. The characters you meet are interesting, the dialogue is well written (even though there is sometimes too much of it), and most of the game has some decent plot twists. However, I was annoyed that the story really seemed to fall apart at the end. I had no motivation to kill the final enemy.

As I said before, it's a well-written game, and the quality of the writing extends beyond the core story. There are also very funny things in the game such as fake TV shows, fake internet websites, and fake radio talk shows that are mostly parodies of real-life things. Much of the humor lampoons pop-culture phenomenons and American society in general.

Audio: Great voice acting all around. Music is non-existent except for tunes that you play on the radio in vehicles. There's a good amount of variety of music types to listen to (jazz, reggae, rock, etc.). There are also some pretty damn funny talk shows with sick humor. Audio is the one aspect of the game that I really can't complain about.

Graphics: I'm still not sure how I feel about the graphics for this game. There are positives and negatives. The good thing is that there is no more "fog" everywhere like the other GTA games, so you can get up in a helicopter and see the entire city at once. It's very impressive. The bad news is that graphical detail is only slightly better than an Xbox 1 game. The reason of course is because the game has to be showing so much stuff happening at once. Character models look too fake when you see close ups of them in cutscenes, with poorly detailed faces which can't convey emotion the way they are trying to. Also, there can be some pop-up that gets in the way. For example, you may be driving along and then all of sudden you'll crash into an invisible object, sit there baffled, and then a few seconds later the object's graphic will finish loading and appear from thin air. It's hard to blame GTA IV for these problems though; it's really just limited by the technical capabilities of video game consoles at the moment.

Gameplay: The most important aspect of a game, and this is where GTA IV falters the most. Because of the overwhelming amount of content in GTA IV, let me break it down into different parts.

Driving: The driving mechanics are excellent and feature realistic handling of vehicles, so that every vehicle has unique speed, handling, weight, amount of damage they can take, etc. The driving is also affected by weather. Sometimes it rains, and the roads become slippery. There can also be some exciting police chases, though most of the game is just driving from point A to point B, so driving isn't usually very exciting.

Shooting / On-foot exploration: This is a huge problem. The on-foot action parts of the game fall flat on their face, as combat plays out very awkwardly most of the time. The controls are definitely one obstacle: how am I supposed to run and gun if my right thumb needs to constantly tap the A button to run? Considering that I need my right thumb to also be on the right analog stick to control where I'm aiming, this just doesn't work well. GTA IV also steals the nice cover system of Gears of War and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, only it seems like Niko frequently ducks behind the wrong thing when I press the cover button. Just running around can be a problem too, since Niko makes wide turns when walking or running, so you can't move around corners as easily as you should be able to.

Realism / Game world reactions: This is a HUGE letdown for me. The developers of GTA IV were going on and on about how GTA IV would have tons of unique people with their own lives and you could follow anyone around and see them do interesting things, and that the AI would be absolutely amazing, and everything would react realistically. NONE OF THIS ENDED UP BEING TRUE. Pedestrians and enemies alike do stupid, stupid, things. It's like Fable all over again: hyped up to be a realistic world, and ended up being the same old limited AI we've seen before.

Minigames / Side quests: Throughout the game, various characters will call you and act desperate for attention, and then ask you to take them out and play a minigame such as billiards, darts, or bowling. All of them play rather poorly, and it doesn't take too long to figure out how to exploit them and win every time. As for the side quests (not including side missions that play similarly to regular missions), there are street races, stunt jumps, and pigeon hunting. Street races are actually good, thanks to the spot-on driving mechanics. Stunt jumps are just ramps you need to find where you need to gain a lot of speed and then go off of them. Not particularly interesting. Pigeon hunting is a stupid waste of time, where you just try to find all these birds (200 of them) throughout the game and shoot them. You get an Achievement for it, but it's not fun to do. I can't believe this crap qualifies as gameplay. Too bad Rockstar wasted time programming this crap in rather than tightening up the main game. :(

FINAL SCORE

As stated at the beginning of the review, I did enjoy the game the first time the first time I played it. I was overlooking a lot of the flaws because I was still riding the hype train. I was also swayed by the sheer amount of content in the game. But after taking a break from GTA IV, and then replaying it, I realized that the core gameplay just doesn't stand up to a lot of other games. Rockstar seemed to be going for quantity and not quality, and there are a lot of parts of the game that just don't play very well.

It was hard to pick a score for this game. The most important part of a game is gameplay. What GTA IV boils down to is some good driving, some decent shooting, and a bunch of filler crap. Gameplay alone would be a 7 out of 10. There's good mission variety, but the flaws (controls, cover system, poor AI) are too frequent for the game to be worthy of being called truly great. Add a bonus point to the score for good voice acting, humor, and a story that has a few great moments, and we've arrived at an 8 out of 10.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/27/08

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


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