Review by thirtyninesteps

"If I Wanted Reality, I Wouldn't Play Games"

I was so looking forward to finally playing this game. Why oh why did R* messed it up so bad. My favorite part of GTA games have always been the over-the-top mayhem you can create with all the weapons & vehicles you can acquire within. Past GTA games have given you some pretty wild things to play with like tanks, chainsaws, and jetpacks, but in this go around, the developers chose to go the realistic route and boy did they take the spit out of the camel.

STORY
You play the role of Nikko Bellic from Eastern Europe who has just immigrated to Liberty City. Nikko will do the occasional odd job of whacking someone for a few grand just b/c he needs the money. Later on you find out that he's looking for an old nemesis who betrayed him sometime ago. That's it in a nutshell basically. There's very little plot to any of the 90+ missions you'll be doing which in my mind is just lazy story-writing on the part of the developers. Nikko just needs the money. Sheesh, they couldn't even provide a reason? Like I said, lazy.

GRAPHICS
Good, but some have complained of the various gray or reddish hues you will see from time to time. I didn't really mind one way or the other about this, but I did hated the popup. Occasionally you'll crash into an object you didn't see just because the graphic hadn't finish loading which is very annoying. Old-time GTA'ers will already be use to this though since this problem has been in existence virtually forever. Apologists will also blame the hardware and not the game. Still doesn't make it excusable in my book though. Like the 'C' student, the graphics just seem to shout out to me as passable.

SOUND
Yuck! I really hated the music on the radio stations in this game, which ironically makes the game more like real life. Unlike previous GTAs, I almost knew none of the songs at all. Not to mention, once I heard them I didn't care much for them afterwards. The only station I did liked was WKTT which was a parody on conservative talk radio. Hilarious. Unfortunately, once you hear everything it gets repetitive and I just ended up turning off the music from the options menu in the end. R* also elected to go the cheaper route deciding to hire unknowns instead of celebrities to voice characters. Although I quite like the actor portraying Nikko, some of the supporting characters would have benefited from the star treatment. One thing that is nice are the weasel news updates that chronicle your latest mission conquests. To paraphrase Dennis Hopper from Speed, it's interactive!

CONTROL
In a word, awful. People have tried to claim that the vehicle controls were just realistic. I beg to differ. Not all cars turn like shopping carts. But regardless of whether or not they are realistic, the bottom-line is what matters: is it fun? Not if your idea of fun is spinning out every few seconds or smacking into a wall b/c your car couldn't make a corner. If powerslides and hi-octane speeds are the stuff of fiction, then give me fiction any day. The wide turns also apply to Nikko btw. This is really irritating when Nikko is on a narrow ledge. You try to turn one direction and he makes this big turn that causes him to fall off. Needless to say, very annoying. Drive-bys are now done differently here since you finally can aim. Unfortunately, there is no way to lock onto targets while in a car so controlling a moving vehicle while trying to hit a moving target feels at times to be an exercise in futility. While targeting on the ground is for the most part very useful and works, it can sometimes fail. Sometimes for example, you will need to hit a hostile target among a bunch of innocent bystanders, but the targeting isn't smart enough to tell the difference. There are other times when your natural inclination to switch to a target might be to press down, but the target won't be selected. My only tip would be if that target is the closest person to Nikko, try releasing and then pressing the button again. And then there's the camera control which also has a minor problem. For some reason, this game insists on having a low angle behind the car. If you press up on the right stick to move the camera up, it'll drop right back down when you release which means you'll have to hold the camera in place manually. Lastly, my constant reoccurring gripe with the controls is that in this day and age of analog sticks, why the heck do we still need to hold a button to get a character to run? Like I said before, awful.

GAMEPLAY
Repetitious is the word of the day here. That's b/c nearly all the missions have you doing the same exact thing. Go here, kill that guy. Come back. They'll occasional mix things up by changing the number of people you kill and whether or not they run. Sometimes when you come back, you have to evade a wanted level too, but there is very little variation to this formula. They don't have anymore of those wild missions b/c they just wouldn't be realistic enough. You are also given a cellphone which your friends will call you all the time on to do otherwise pointless things like bowling, pool, or darts. Just like in real life, these calls get annoying and you'll eventually get use to putting your phone in sleep mode to avoid them. The way cops try to arrest you has been changed too. This time you can finally resist arrest! Cops will tend to shoot you though if you do and you still get busted on the spot if you are sitting in a car. When you have a wanted level, a flashing circle will appear on your radar that will indicate how far you need to run before the cops will stop chasing you. The circle will still follow you though as long as you remain in a cop's field of vision. That's a bad thing on several levels. First, the game has an unnaturally high number of cops which have a tendency to spawn right in your path at times making even a 1-star wanted level a nuisance to evade. Second and even worse is they've gotten rid of police bribes completely. Luckily, you still have the good ole pay and sprays, but if the cops see you enter one, you still won't get rid of em, just b/c that wouldn't be realistic. A good thing is when you die, this time you can keep your weapons! But if you get busted, you lose all of them. I'm not sure why that is, but I'm guessing that also makes the game more realistic? "Reality" in this game is a 4-letter word.

REPLAYABILITY
Like previous GTA's you have unique jumps and optional side missions provided by a payphone (yes, it's just one) or just "random" encounters from ppl on streets. You can also do Vigilante missions. But these are all variations of the same theme, "Go here, kill that". Very boring. Multiplayer is a new addition. You've got several modes ranging from deathmatches to racing. Nothing spectacular or really bad but I get the feeling that if it's a deathmatch or race your hankering for, better ones can be had elsewhere. Hidden packages have been replaced by pigeons of which you must kill 200 of them. These are far more annoying to complete than its worth since everytime you shoot a firearm, the cops come running. You don't even get respawning equipment at your safehouse anymore for doing this. There are no more rampages and you can only customize Nikko's clothes and cellphone. None of the rewards for completing these side missions are really great neither. You get money mostly which is basically useless as there are no more properties to buy or things that cost very much (all I really spent it on was the occasional RPG, sniper round, and taxi ride). You can also surf hundreds of pages worth of fake websites. There's no point to this really, but it's there and some of them are at least funny. Since I seem to be coming up with a word for each of these sections, I'd say the word here would be...lacking.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This in my opinion is just a watered down GTA w/ prettier graphics. Without the outrageous weapons and the insane missions, the game just isn't fun anymore. In fact, the old rants I had on previous GTAs are exacerbated so much more here. Cops are a major nuisance, popup is way too abundant, you can't save everywhere, and so on. A 4 out of 10 seems right to me since I probably enjoyed only 40% of this game. Rent it if you must. Beat it just to say you did. You can do it in less than 30 hours, there's even an achievement for that! Then move on to another, better game. You'll like yourself more for it.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/26/10

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


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