Review by EdwardTiv
"Grand Thief Auto Reaches New Heights"
Grand Thief Auto Reaches New Heights
If you love video games, then you're probably already familiar with the Grand Thief Auto series. Lagely considered the greatest 3D brawler of the past decade, GTA" won over the hearts of millions with its rich univese, awesome powerups and and unique character system. Finally, after years of neglect from EA, the franchise has returned at last to shelves with GTA4... but does it meet the high standards fans have for the series?
Nearly flawless. The characters and vehicles are practically real, posessing so much detail and personality that they are just popping out of the screen. The environments are rich, colorful, and atmospheric. You'll see some absolutely unprecedented set pieces here, scenes that grab you by your cufflinks and pull you into Grand Thief's world - my personal favorite was in the fire level, when you get launched into the air just as a glowing volcano errupts below. The rendering engine on display here is amazing, too - you've got blurring, parallax, anti-aliasing, gourad shading, mode 7, and all of it running in H-D at a smooth 60 FPS.
That being said, it did bother me how at times the game's visuals seem to completely cut out and be replaced with an unresponsive black screen. The storyline explains that this is a result of the protagonist's bouts of narcolepsy, but it felt more like lazy programming to me. Otherwise, though, top-notch stuff.
In a controversial decision, EA decided to use voice-acting for the newest installment of GTA. The results are mixed, at best, ranging from the fairly nuanced portrayal of Cuban refugee Nico Belmont to the over-the-top screeching of Emperor Cobra (completely out of line with how he's been characterized in the series thus far). I should note that I was playing the English version, and I'm told the original Japanese voice cast was infinitely superior. I'm afraid that just doesn't come through here.
The soundtrack is pretty uninspired, for the most part, composed largely of bland remixes of songs from the original. The sound effects are also in dire need of an update, with cars and guns issuing beeps and bloops that would seem more at home in an antique Gameboy title. Color me unimpressed!
Nico, a shifty outlaw with a big heart, is forced to travel to Liberty Town from his faraway homeland when his girlfriend is kidnapped by an evil corporation. He is forced to compete in the Grand Thief Auto tournament, a bloody contest of bullets, larceny, and vehicular manslaughter, to get his girl back. Along the way he meets a number of interesting characters, who lend him advice and extra abilities as he presses on in his quest to restore justice to Liberty Town. Pretty standard fare for the series, but I found it palatable enough. Some of the cutscenes could get pretty tedious, though, especially the one in the sewer - not only was there almost no emotional depth, why couldn't they have let you actually fight the giant squid as a boss? (And I know this has been debated enough in the forums, but where the @#%$ was the resolution to the cliffhanger for GTA3?!)
The most important part of a game, and where GTA4 really shines. Yes, the melee combat is largely unchanged, but the new emphasis on maximizing combos adds a tinge of strategy to what used to be more or less a free-for-all. Ranged attacks are finally a viable option in this installment, thanks to the revamped targeting system. Utilizing the innovative cross-hairs system, you to fire on your foes with pinpoint accuracy. I had absolutely no trouble picking off zombies from halfway across the city.
The car controls have also been significantly improved. Acceleration is smoother, turns are tighter, and getting blue sparks is more intuitive than ever before. The classic powerups have all returned, but you also have the ability to level up your cars, and even construct new ones. The AI for rival cars in this title is incredibly formidable, with almost every single enemy attempting head-on collision at every turn. Trust me, you'll be on your toes every time you step behind the wheel.
The only thing I'd complain about is the monster-capturing mini-game. It's totally inessential to the main course of the game, and I managed to reach the final castle without ever going past the tutorial mission and yet you need to catch every single one of these things to get the strongest car? What a slap in the face....
The game is a little on the short side and way too easy, but if you put in the time scouring all the nooks and crannies you should get an even 40 hours out of this one even longer if you try out the multiplayer.
Well, it's not perfect by any means, but it's a definite step forward for the GTA franchise, and a great way to kill some time. Worth the $80? You bet.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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