Review by cantibacterial
"Let us pretend, for a minute, that this game was not called "GTA4". Strange...it seems to suddenly be universally panned!"
That's the gist of it. If this game was not under the "Grand Theft Auto" name, it would not have sold well. It would not have gotten 10/10 scores the day it released. It would not have 2 overly priced DLC packs(which I have not played, as I have no interest.) It would not be popular in the least, and would, instead, have been universally panned by critics as a mediocre excuse for a crime-simulation sandbox game.
Thing is, I fell into the hype. I was in love with the game when I got it. But that's the thing- I do not let hype stick. I will fall for it, but I do NOT let it stick. I did not go out and praise "TEN OUT OF TEN!" on every forum. I did not write a 10/10 review the moment I put the game into the 360. I played it, I liked it, I slowly realized that it was not deserving of my time.
I am a huge fan of the GTA series. I started with the playstation ones, and didn't really enjoy them, but once GTA3 game around, I was hooked. It was fun, it was funny, it was crazy. You drove around like crazy, doing all sorts of insane missions. Vice City only made it better, and then San Andreas wowed the gaming community with its scale and range of things to do, as well as its over-the-top plot that, thankfully, didn't take itself TOO seriously.
So, of course, one would expect that the game following these games would improve, yet again, correct? Wrong. GTA4 does not improve on...well, anything. Multiplayer and graphics. That is all there is. So unless you're a blind fanboy who will buy a game just because it has multiplayer and average-for-the-generation graphics, stay away.
Story? There's a story? I don't think I can include this section- as there was no story. The game starts with Niko, the adorably flustered and easily confused foreigner, coming to America. We don't really know why. Soon we find out he is "Looking for someone." And...that's about it. The entire rest of the game is spent doing odd jobs for random, unrelated-to-the-plot people. Why? Niko constantly says he needs money. He needs more money. But he never spends this money and it serves no purpose. The story is entirely filler. There are 3 or 4 major missions that actually show signs of a plot, and that is it. Unlike San Andreas, which had a very drawn out plot all throughout, constantly pulling itself along, GTA4 opts to have a beginning, middle, and an end. There is no story. There is nothing happening.
The gameplay is standard GTA fare. You drive, you do missions, you shoot, you avoid the police. The problem is the missions. GTA3 had us delivering prostitutes to a police dance. We dumped a body by taking it to a car crusher and leaving it in the trunk. We set up car bombs to destroy enemies, and we invaded a gang territory hidden inside a fishery and exploded it to hell. In Vice City, we took part in a worker's strike, we flew a seaplane, we invaded a party and hacked everyone up with a chainsaw. In San Andreas, we drove around with a man tied to the roof of our car. We drove alongside a train, shooting gang members on top of it. We engaged in RC tank and plane warfare.
But in GTA4...almost every single mission(and I am not dumbing it down) consists of...drive to point b. Discover that the person at point B has decided to run. Chase them/kill them. Return to point A.
That is it. There are a few "major" shootouts. There might be an escort or two. But the epic variety is gone. It is entirely gone. It is nowhere to be found whatsoever. The reason for this is likely because Rockstar decided it would be a good idea to switch from the game people like to a "serious" and "realistic" game where you don't do anything fun whatsoever. This shift to "realism"...crippled the game. This shift to realism also means your car will stop functioning instead of exploding sometimes, which is actually pretty cool, and you'll fly out windshields which is horribly annoying.
Oh yeah, did I mention the MINIGAMES?! Oh, wait, there aren't any. There are Minichores! What joy! You can bowl, play darts, play pool, and get drunk...that's about it. Your "friends" will almost CONSTANTLY call you to do one of these mundane tasks, will yell at you if you refuse, and you're actually negatively affected by losing friendships. There's also the TV and internet, which people will spend forever browsing. There are in-game TV shows and in-game fake websites. People sit there and watch and read them all. If the freaking TV in your game is more entertaining than the game, you are doing it wrong.
Speaking of the shift to realism...
Here is one of my biggest gripes with the game. In GTA3, you flew around corners. In Vice City, you got even faster cars and drifted all around the city. In San Andreas, you went on incredibly fast chases all around the city, making breakneck turns on a whim. But in GTA4, the cars control as if they are actually shopping carts. Shopping carts full of lead. With wheels made of molasses. They are very difficult to get used to. Some people claim they can drive flawlessly with them, but I never managed it. But the fact is that just because you can get used to it doesn't mean it isn't flawed. Many people will claim "The driving is just realistic!". These people have not once set foot in a car, even as a passenger. The cars do not drive anything close to realistic. Some people like the driving. That is fine. They can like it all they want. But they can not claim that it is realistic- it is simply not. It is an abomination. A game where you have to practice the main mode of transportation is not a fun game.
The variety in the graphics is astoundingly dull. Some things in the game are pretty, sure. There are a few parks and landmarks, and some big fountains and stuff. But mostly you'll be looking at brown buildings with no distinguishing features as you drive down the same streets for every mission(There is a GPS, and the GPS is so efficient that you literally only use 30 or so of the streets in the entire city.) The graphics are praised, but I do not understand why. They are brown. They are dull. I distinctly remember standing in front of a building that had such a horrible texture that the doorway was about 9 feet tall and it made Niko look like he was the height of a toddler. The lighting is rather poor.
Improvements to the series:
Multiplayer and graphics. That is it. The graphics are obviously better, it is a new generation.
The Multiplayer has lots of modes, and they're all pretty fun. There are lots of races, there is free mode where you run around the entire city, etc. Problem is that the races are tainted by the driving. Apart from that, the multiplayer is good.
As for everything else...there are about 10 noticable types of cars with easy-to-spot distinctions. The customization went from haircuts and full clothing with all sorts of slots for accessories and tons of car customization to...4 jackets, 3 pairs of pants, 3 identical pairs of shoes, 2 hats, and 2 pairs of glasses. I'm serious. That is it. The car customization is also entirely gone. There is no reason to use your money. Plus, your freaking hat and glasses fly off whenever you smash through the windshield, forcing you to remember again and again that there is nothing to wear but what you have on.
The missions, vehicles, clothing, customization...are all lacking. However,
The music shines. There's lots of it, and it's all pretty nice. There is one station in particular which stands out- Vladivostok FM. The russian channel, or whatever. It has all sorts of cool music, with your DJ Svetlana who spouts all sorts of funny things. The voice acting isn't too bad. Niko shines especially, his voice is perfect for his character and his accent is cute. The other characters are all annoying, regardless of how well they are acted or not.
A disappointment to the series that was only well-received due to its name.
It's treated like a Prada bag- it might be ugly, overpriced, and something you only own because you're a pompous narcissistic moron, but hey, it's a PRADA bag!(Not to say that any of those apply to GTA3, except for "ugly", it's just an example) That makes it awesome by default, right? That means you can ignore its flaws, right?
Wrong. The game is a disappointment. It improves on almost nothing and has even less going for it than GTA3, which at least had a plot. There is no variety, no plot...and, I reiterate, this game would have gotten 4s/5s by major reviewers if it was not a GTA game. It's poor. It's not worthy of the 10s it gets, not in the least.
Save yourself 30 bucks and pick up the GTA triple pack.
My score: 3/10.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 05/18/09
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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