Review by lloyd_coombes

"Grand Theft Awesome"

How irritating and elusive perfection is. Does it even exist? Many things in this world aspire to this perception of perfection regardless of its reality. In terms of gaming, despite fleeting appearances of it, perfection has never reared it's head outright, but with the largest entertainment release of all time, surely this must be it. Perfection in gaming, the seemingly unachievable. But then anything is possible for Rockstar Games, who managed to make even Table Tennis exciting.

Grand Theft Auto needs no introduction as a franchise, and love it or hate it (if you chose the latter option then you're in the minority my friend), this game is going to be impressive. Take New York City, add to it an incredibly fresh and interesting protagonist and give him some guns, a very good voice over, a lot of enemies to shoot and then just a couple of dozen vehicles to traverse land, sea and air in, and you have successfully baked the GTA4 pie. But it isn't all about rampages, massacres, and as has become popular, the occasional lady of the night. As with its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto 4 is full of missions to earn money, and with money comes the spoils. From bedsits to penthouse suites, the property ladder lacks the choice of Vice City's property dealings, but you're never short of things to do with your dirty money. Buy yourself a nice suit, a few weapons and a ringtone which sounds like an old woman breaking her hip (to name just one), anything you want in Liberty City must be earnt... or taken.

What impressed me most playing the game is that Rockstar could have simply given San Andreas a makeover, taken a new character, and recycled the entire game, which, admittedly, would still sell like hotcakes. The fact that this is the most significantly altered game in the series since the franchise's transition into three dimensions truly surprised me, and blew me away. Yes, the graphics have been enhanced for the new generation of consoles, and yes, it is VERY pretty. What stands out moreso however is that every minor detail has been thought through. A prime example of this is that vehicles must now be broken into (achieved through various means depending on the vehicle (the kick through the window is one of my personal favorites)) and hotwired in order to be utilised. Another minor, yet impressive touch is that when holding a weapon such as a pistol or sub machine gun, Niko can smash his driver window in order to fire from it, scattering shards of glass over the road behind his car.

Which brings us nicely to Niko. An Eastern European immigrant, little is known about Niko (thats you gamers) at the start of the game. Throughout the game hints are thrown about that he may have been in some sort of special forces squad, and that he fled his country due to troubles with gangs and other malicious entities. His war-torn past has left him with a diminished sense of morality, although he still holds friendship and family values dear to him. What emerges from the game is that Niko is not a bad person, but he does bad things to get through life. This makes Niko a much more interesting and three dimensional character than most characters in videogaming, and the superb voice acting in the game ensures that he is very likeable. Niko's accent seems somewhat stereotypical, but then outbursts of emotion (and frequently four-lettered words) in the middle of a firefight give a genuine sense of tension, anger and danger whilst his dry sense of humour adds to Rockstar's trademark comedic touch.

I have no idea what the sound of a rocket-propelled grenade flying into a police car would sound like, and frankly I hope never to find out. I do believe, however, it would sound very similiar to how it is represented in Grand Theft Auto 4's sound effects. Everything from the conversations of pedestrians and mobsters, to the gunfire and police sirens sounds just right, and makes the game feel alive. The sounds, combined with the aforementioned beauty of the game and minor details ensure that the player feels immersed in the metropolis of Liberty City, and what a place it is. Run down areas of Broker (modelled on Brooklyn I believe) are set in stark contrast with Algonquin (the game's rendition of Manhattan, complete with the Statue of Happiness on its own island) and this gives the game, as its predecessors have accomplished before it, a true sense of variety and accomplishment when you first step foot into uncharted territory.

Maybe you wish to wander the streets with a companion, and Grand Theft Auto 4 caters to this need with its first ever console multiplayer option, which makes quite a debut. With over a dozen different modes, gamers can unite to dodge police, kill each other, protect mob bosses or just go exploring (yeah, that'll happen...), and better still can do so in any part of Liberty City or in its entirety. The possibilities are endless, go forth and murderise!

Unfortunately, through a few solid day's play, you can complete a significant portion of the single player experience. The multiplayer, however, is more than worth the money, with Xbox 360 exclusive downloadable content available shortly.

So, has it reached the pinnacle of gaming? There is no such thing as perfection in gaming, in my opinion at least. There is only Grand Theft Auto 4, and I suggest you discover the reasoning for this opinion.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 07/01/08

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

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