Review by SlurptasticJive
"It's hard to get much better than this."
Since Grand Theft Auto III, the Grand Theft Auto series has become the leading series in the open-world, sandbox style of gaming. A series based off making money, stealing cars, women and shooting up the city, it's no wonder that there is so much controversy surrounding it. Grand Theft Auto IV does not deviate from this format. Instead, it perfects it. Addictive gameplay, matched up with a gripping storyline and a great online mode, not to mention a plethora of optional missions and side stories as well as an ambient Liberty City, and you can see why it lives up to the hype.
You arrive in Liberty City as Niko Bellic, a Yugoslavian immigrant who is attracted to stories of success told to him by his cousin, Roman. As soon as you set foot in Liberty City, you very quickly learn that all of Roman's stories were lies, and you have to work your way to the top from the taxi service in Hove Beach. All of this is a great step up from previous plot lines of past Grand Theft Auto games. The characters are all much more involved in the story than previous games as well. All of the primary characters have deep personalities, and the relationships with secondary characters is greatly rooted into the storyline as well. The story, as well, is not predictable; you will be on your toes for a good amount of the game.
A new addition to the series is an interactive decision you will have to make at selective points in the game. You can choose whether to spare someone's life or kill them in a mission, as well, you will have to choose between two people who you want to live or die (they can't both live, nor can they both die). Both these situations affect the storyline, and open up other optional side stories as well. Not only that, but the way they interacted with you before hand will affect how you, the player feels about your decision (in fact, I got a sad e-mail from one of the people I killed, and didn't catch it until after it was done). It is hard to find such an attaching plot in a video game, and you will not be disappointed by this aspect.
The strongest part of the game, as it has always been with the Grand Theft Auto series is the gameplay itself. And even with the typical car chases, gun fights and minigames that are typical of the series, Grand Theft Auto IV does it justice by improving on every one of those aspects. You'll be quick to point out that the game has become much more realistic, especially while driving. It does take time to get used to, but is a great improvement. Gunfights are put on even ground with the cover system. It does give a lesser difficulty to gunfights, but take away the Rambo style of run-and-gun that you could use in the past. Missions are varied to an extent, but you can always expect at least one gun toting, trigger happy mob member to greet you there, which is typical and accepted for this game.
A little tool you'll be using throughout the game is your cellphone. This allows you to socialize between friends and missions. The social life in Grand Theft Auto IV is more in-depth than the simplistic dating mode in GTA: San Andreas. Not only will you be dating women or men, you'll be going places with friends. As well, these bring nice rewards, such as free cab rides, car bombs, and even instant wanted level removal. It's quite fun to work with, and easy as well.
A new groundbreaking addition to the series is online multiplayer. Instead of spending hours robbing the AI, you can now do it with your friends. The mode itself is very fun, not only does it concentrate on the bread and butter killing, but as well, racing, car jacking, delivery missions, objective and specific co-op missions. The co-op missions are not as fun or as well paced as the other modes, but are still worth trying out. Even though I'd like for local multiplayer to be possible, that's a small gripe to an otherwise great addition.
Another thing you'll notice as soon as you get into the game is how beautiful it looks. As a series that has never been noted to excel in graphics, you wouldn't expect something this good. They aren't top-of-the-line graphics, but the graphics really succeed in bringing the city to life. You can tell the difference between a quiet neighborhood, a run-down, gang infested area, or a vibrant, never-sleeping plaza. As well, the small details are very well done. Scrape your car against a wall, you will see the depth of the scrape. Bullet holes and blood remain on a car. The water looks amazing compared to what I've seen in other games. Movements are fluid and natural as well.
The Euphoria engine is also worth a mention here. The pedestrians of Liberty City begin to feel like actual pedestrians. Stall yourself for a while, and just wait as you notice people communicating between each other, or on cell phones. People will walk to ATM machines to take out cash. Car accident? You'll see people run to help the victim. All of this only perfects the ambiance that makes Liberty City as close as possible to a real city.
The city sounds beautiful. The people talking, the cars passing by, the subway screeching across the tracks above you. The sirens and the gunshots of a bad neighborhood during the night. Close your eyes, and you could imagine yourself there. Voice acting is great as well. No big names you'll notice in the main cast (although cameo appearances are easily found), and despite some characters sounding a bit stereotypical, it isn't bothersome. The music selection is great in this game as well. Ranging from Electronica, Talk, Rock, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Country, and more. Rockstar cannot be blamed for not giving you enough good (or interesting; Radio Vladivostok is strangely cool) choices here. All of it is well done.
Replay Value: 10/10
This game will give you a good 100 hours plus. Going for 100% on its own has always been a fun part of the series, and this is no different. With all the options, meeting everyone through Love-Meet, friend get-together, you'll be spending a lot of time getting to that point. But now, you have, along side the completionist goal, the multiplayer fun. It is not a game you will be able to let go of easily.
Grand Theft Auto IV is a positive step forward for the series. While holding true to the core of what made the games great, it has also added so much more. Playing the game is a satisfying experience, and the purchase of this game is highly recommended. Renting it is only delaying the inevitable. A strong candidate for Game of the Year, Rockstar has put out a masterpiece.
+ Great Storyline
+ Great Gameplay
+ Multiplayer mode!
+ Much improved graphics
- No local multiplayer
Final Score: 9.9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 05/06/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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