Review by CocoaPistolero

"Feels like a logical progression from the previous games, nothing more"

This game definitely improves upon the formula. The writing is great, the gunplay has been improved, the wanted level system makes more sense, there are better physics, and it's not so much of a chore to restart missions. Obviously, there are better graphics.

Other than that, the game looks and feels like the previous games. The missions are nothing unique -- steal this, kill this guy, chase after this guy, endure a massive firefight, and so on.

The graphics are merely so-so; the 360 has a lot of better looking games, some of them fairly old. The character models are pretty unimpressive and often rubbery looking; games like Dead Rising had a far cleaner look as far as characters and even NPCs went. There is a lot of pop-in, which reminds me strongly of the PS2 games. Nothing is a greater turnoff then walking out of your apartment and then the staircase appearing a few seconds later, or driving in front of a building and then suddenly chairs and tables popping up. That sort of thing feels very last-gen, and I would hope the 360 is capable of more given the right coding techniques.

The radio stations are quite mediocre. Why better tracks weren't picked out is beyond me. It's almost as if it was a design decision to not make every station play like a best-of CD like the previous stations. Only every once in a while does a tune that interests me come on.

The Euphoria engine, which I thought would be amazing, means that NPCs might stumble if you bump into them (like in the PS2 games) or crawl about the ground after you've shot them (like in the 2002 game Mafia) or raise an umbrella in the rain, but it all still feels very scripted and rarely dynamic. I read that Niko hijacking a car would be different each time due to the Euphoria engine, but there are pretty much only ~10 different ways he goes about it. Locked car? He'll kick or elbow the windshield. Driver in it? He'll simply drag them out or coerce them out at gunpoint. That's about it. Besides the windshield breaking, it feels very been-there-done-that.

The story, dialogue, and characters are probably the most impressive aspects of the game, and that makes the missions -- which gameplay-wise are pretty familiar for GTA -- more engaging. This stands out especially since writing in video games (action games especially) is generally average or mediocre.

If you liked the previous PS2 games you will enjoy this. But the reviews for this game -- a large number of them perfect or near-perfect stores -- had me about twice as stoked as I should have been. In my opinion the game is far from perfect and doesn't raise the bar for anything but perhaps story. It doesn't set a new standard for shooting because it copies its mechanics from other games. It doesn't set a new standard for driving because there are plenty of racing games with more competent physics. Graphically it's doing nothing we haven't seen before. It is more realistic and better looking than San Andreas, sure, but that's about it. It's exactly what I would expect from the series moving from the PS2 to the Xbox 360, nothing more and nothing less.

For these reasons, it's merely a good game. It's fun to play, but there's very little innovation to be stunned by or surprises to be had.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/05/08

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

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