Review by PatrickRes9

"A living entity. Almost perfect. Almost."

Wow. Where to start. I'll just jump in. This game has some flaws. Quite a few. They're almost all but negated by the fact that this game is so elaborate and large, that it feels like it's alive, living, and breathing. Everyone on every corner has something they're doing. Whether their talking on their cell phones, holding a newspaper over their head to escape the rain, or prostituting, everyones active. They're also acting in an environment that is so detailed, you'll start to recognize every corner on every block. Flying through the night sky over the city in a chopper for the first time, watching hundreds of headlights moving through the monstrocity of Liberty City blew my mind.

So if we break the game down, it works like this:

Gameplay: Theres a lot to do here. Almost too much. You'll have friends to ballance,
side jobs to do, your storyline missions, and just plain exploration. These sorts of things are all structured fairly elaborately. Your friends and dating consist of sets of activities, from bowling to comedy clubs. Your missions are standard GTA missions, with chases, gun fights, robery, races, etc. What helps them along, and keeps them from feeling too dated is the environment in which they take place. The gameplay here is varied and top notch.

Story: The story is by far the most elaborate of the series. The voice acting is amazing, and extremely believable. Everyone has their own identity, and you really start to grow attatched to some of them. It drags here and there with some of it, as you'll run into some characters that just annoy you. The TV skits are hilarious. Theres a lot of political, and philisophic undertones to them that certainly hold a fair amount of wit.

Sound: Pretty standard GTA stuff here. I thought the radio soundtracks were a little weak, but definately highlighted at points with great stuff like "Smashing Pumpkins".

Controls: I really feel this is a mixed bag. Movement seems a little stiff on foot. Mainly when trying to climb spiraling staircases. Niko doesn't turn so easily. Also the cover system leaves a little to be desired, although is still a welcome addition. The targeting system is great once you master it. It does take some time to do so, however.

Glitches, faults, dislikes: Lots here. When youre getting from one point to another, you can set waypoints which show you directly where to go with a line that extends through the roads on your radar. Unless youre sitting on top of your TV pretty much, the line is pretty hard to see. I can't sit on my couch and play. Its too far, and the radar is tougher to read.

Another thing that really began to agrevate me was something they did with almost half the missions. Whether its a side mission, delivering something, or a general storyline mission, often times you get jumped, or the enemy pulls out their guns in the cutscene, right before the action picks up. So as the cutscene ends and youre playing again, they're already shooting you, and you've got to pull your gun out. This process takes a little time, even with the button combo to "instantly" pull you're gun out. So often a scenerio leads to starting off shooting with half your health already gone. It can lead to a lot of mission repeats.

Something else that bothers me a bit is the over abundance of police. Almost every single time you hijack a vehicle, youre instantly caught by a cop, and are given chase. It gets old having to get rid of cops between every other mission. They literaly catch you almost every time. You sort of have to pick and choose to great lengths which car you steal. Definately look for ones hidden in alleys and what not. Id say every 7 cars is a cop.

Another one involving police is the system of chase. A circle of "coverage" appears around the cops chasing you, and you have to escape that circle, and lay low for a short while before they give up the chase. The annoying thing about it is the game often spawns cop cars in front of you as you're trying to get away. You'll see them spawn on your radar a few streets up from you. If they see you, the circle starts all over, right near you. The fact that this draws out the chases isn't the annoying part. I guess its the lack of realism with them just blatently spawning in front of you.

A step back here was their choice not to include garages where you can stockpile collections of cars. Thats a real bummer. How could you NOT include this? Its one of the best parts of GTA. Instead you can park in your parking spot outside of your safehouse, and it'll save that car. That may have been the most disapointing part of the game.

The last real complaint is the "cinematic" camera view you can access while driving. As the camera angles change with the cinematic view, cars are spawned right in front of you, sometimes causing you to wreck out. I tend not to use it because of this, when Id otherwise really enjoy that aspect, for its movie like quality it lends to the game.

Closing comments: In the face of these issues that really could have been fixed and avoided, namely not even having the ability to collect cars in garages, the game still finds a way to grab you and not let go. From the extensive storyline with amazing voice acting, to the little details like surfing the web, you'll be so involved, it'll take a lot to pry you away.

You really can't call this game perfect in any sense. It feels alive though. Its a piece of art. It deserves a 9.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/05/08

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

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