Review by funky1

"First GTA game I've REALLY enjoyed"

I've always had very mixed feelings to the Grand Theft Auto series. It's always been massively popular, and I've played through each game, but I guess I just never really saw the appeal of the series. I never thought it was a bad series, maybe a little overrated, if anything. But I can honestly say, I enjoyed Grand Theft Auto IV more than any of the past entries to the series.

Let's start with some really basic stuff. The graphics are really great; I'm not much of a graphics whore, but I do appreciate good graphics when I see them. It's a real treat to the eyes just driving around, taking in the different sections of the city, and whatnot. Speaking of which, I've heard some complaints about the driving, in-game. Me, I don't see what the problem is. I, personally, found the driving to be fairly controllable, even a bit "realistic", if you ask me. Going further, probably my absolute favorite new feature introduced in GTA4 is the GPS. It's a wonderful feature for the series, as you don't have to keep pausing to check your map every few seconds to make sure you're going in the right direction, anymore. It even has route recalculation! Thumbs up for this feature.

Shooting is another issue I've heard from people in the past about the series as a whole; to be honest, though, I can't tell if GTA4 has really improved on that, I guess because I never had much trouble with it in the past. The ability to take cover is a great feature, too, although, it's been a while since I picked up a GTA game, so that feature may have very well been in previous installments. But, I do find it a lot more difficult to shoot while in a moving vehicle. Cars and bikes not too much, but boats and helicopters can be tough to steer AND shoot from.

Delving a bit deeper, I, personally, found Niko and especially Roman to be very likable characters, and I think that may've been part of the reason I never cared much for the series; until now, I just haven't really found the main character(s) to be all that likable. The overall story starts off pretty good, but sort of drops off after you unlock the next section of the city. Up until that point, I was following the story pretty well, but after that, it started to slow down a bit. Things started going over my head a bit, as I wasn't 100% sure who the characters were that they were introducing me to, and when they started delving into the whole "organized crime", my interest started to dwindle (that's another reason I've never been too high on the series; I'm not very knowledgeable about the whole mafia/ organized crime thing, and so it can be pretty confusing to try and follow). But thankfully, the story picked back up at the end.

Something else I enjoyed were the handful of missions where you got to make your own choice about what to do (there's even one such choice near the end of the game that will alter your ending pretty drastically!). The only thing that sort of bothers me about this idea is that, aside from a variation of a cut scene or two, the choices you make in those handful of missions (save the last one) really don't have that much of an effect on the game. It'd be kind of neat if they took it a step further, and allowed you to make choices more often, and ones that really impact the rest of the game, depending on what you decide to do. It'd certainly add to the replay value, if nothing else.

Another interesting feature in the game is developing friendships/ relationships with certain characters. Developing said relationships unlocks special abilities you can call on them for; for instance, one character may sell you weapons for a discounted price, or one may send you a cab if you're in need. The only thing is, you have to keep the relationship percentage with each character above a certain number to be able to use said abilities, and it can be kind of tedious repeating the same activities with the characters again and again. Don't get me wrong, it's fun at first to go bowling or play pool or darts, or whatever, with the other characters, but once you start gaining more friends, it gets a bit repetitive, and annoying to manage all of them.

Just wanted to nitpick some other things that I found a little annoying. For one, NPC AI can be, well, kind of stupid. My example is this: many times while driving on highways/ freeways, drivers in the lane next to you will want to get into your lane; but, rather than the AI being able to know you're there, they just plow right into you! What the hell? Another more minor complaint is how anal the cops can be. All it takes is an accidental tiny nudge into a police car, and you've got one star. Thankfully, your map now shows you how far you have to get away from the police to lose your wanted stars, rather than you just having to drive around until they finally disappear. Although, it can be very difficult to get away from the cops when you have a wanted level of three or more; what's worse is, there are quite a few (mandatory) missions that automatically give you a three star wanted level, and require you to lose it to progress through the mission. That was a bit frustrating, and many times, I found myself just using a cheat to drop my wanted level, rather than waste the time trying to lose it the "legit" way.

Aside from the main story stuff, there's plenty to do in Liberty City. There's the staple taxi and cop car "missions" you can do; instead of having you search out hidden packages, though, you now kill pigeons (or "flying rats", as the game calls them). There's also races and car theft side missions to do, all working towards your total game completion. Of course, in typical GTA-fashion, you could just as easily cruise around the city, kill random pedestrians, hook up with prostitutes, and create any kind of craziness you want to, basically. For me, though, that whole open-endedness thing never really appealed to me. When I play a GTA game, I usually play for the main story missions, then quit playing once those are done, and unfortunately, that still holds true for me with GTA4.

So, in closing, my final score for this game is 8/10. It's a great game, but I just feel that a 9 or a 10 is too much of a "perfect" score, and GTA4 just doesn't hit that high, for me. It's not a bad game by any means, but it's got enough flaws that it's not "perfect" or "near perfect", in my book. If I was blinded by the hype of the series like so many people seem to be, yeah, I'd probably rate it higher. All things considered, though, I'd definitely recommend this game to GTA fans, and even to fans who aren't very familiar with the franchise.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/12/08

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

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