Review by dradsre
"A Decent Title Caught in the Hype Machine"
The Grand Theft Auto series is well known for being the pinnacle of sandbox gaming, and being the first GTA release on a next-gen platform expectations were sky-high. Known best for their sprawling cities, racy storyline and game play and interesting characters, Rockstar was expected to deliver an amazing never before experienced GTA. In some aspects they filled they bill wonderfully. In others, the series regressed.
The heart and soul of any great title, GTA 4 mostly delivered. The addition of the cover system added a new dynamic to the gun play in this game, making the numerous shootouts both deeper and more realistic. Don't be expecting a system as well done as Gears of War, but it is a welcome addition to series. The melee combat is mediocre. Nothing special or innovative here, although fist fighting your buddies in multiplayer seems to have a certain charm to it. It involves mainly trying to time your counter attacks so as to get the upper hand. Personally I found most people don't even bother with it, even in the story mode it's feels more cumbersome than it should, and a severe lack of melee weapons bogs it down even more. The driving is where this game shines through. The controls are tight, responsive and every vehicle feels unique, just like it should in any good driving game. There's nothing like cruising around Liberty City in that highly coveted sports car. The helicopters are also a pleasure to fly around in, and shows you a different side of the city. The addition of mini-games and the whole social system is fun at the beginning but wears off quickly. Spending quality time with your friends and family by playing tedious and often boring mini-games feels alot more like a chore than it should, you'll quickly find yourself ignoring them. Especially if you don't care about the perks that some of them may provide, the only thing that makes it worth doing is the funny and entertaining conversations between Nico and his friends. One of the most interesting changes was moving from your regular pause screen/menus to a sleek and innovative interface. Instead of bringing up menus, everything is done through your characters cell phone. You can access everything game related from this interface, from in story line options (calling game characters, digital camera), game configuration to setting up X-box Live matches. It really is a breath of fresh air, I'm glad they decided to do something different.
That's not to say it improved on everything though. This game regressed in a couple of areas, nothing too awful but noticeable and annoying at times. The whole character building scheme that so many people enjoyed with San Andreas is gone. No more building your characters strengths through out the game. The Nico you start with is the same one you will finish with. I truly missed this as I enjoyed the additional element it brought, making you feel like the things you do in the game effects your characters outcome. They also removed much of the weapon variety and took out dismemberment. I realize they were going for a more realistic feel but lots of people love GTA for the "take it to the edge" mentality Rockstar usually has in mind. Last big thing from San Andreas they took out was the Gang war and territory control element. No big deal but some people miss it.
Game Play Rating: 8/10
A bit of a different path than usual is our protagonist Nico Bellic. Not quite the stone cold murderer we've come to identify past GTA anti-heros as. He is instead a man with a troubled past who comes to America to work with his cousin and find people from his past. It's not about building that criminal empire off the corruption of american society and values. Those ideas still exist but they are not however, embraced by Nico they are used simply as a means with which to achieve his goals. The story is interesting at times as the player learns more and more about the mysterious Nico, and we come to identify with him eventually even care about him which is a GTA first. It starts to drag at times but not to the point at which you'll stop playing. Upon completing the game there is little incentive to play again (even with two different endings), the replay value on this title is mostly non-existent for most people.
Story Rating: 8/10
The majority of the graphics come from from the detailed and expansive Liberty City. Modeled directly off NYC, they did well in making each of the different islands feel like a unique and different place with recognizable New York land marks in the process. Unfortunately they spent too much time on the city itself and not enough on the other parts that would make up this would be world. Although the islands feels different many of the buildings and areas feel the same, and aren't unique enough to make you feel like you care to stop and take in the different parts of the city. Pop ups are a huge issue and highly noticeable at times. Once you get used to the initial shine there is really nothing to make you notice the graphics.
Graphics Rating: 7/10
Like previous titles in the series, Grand Theft Auto 4 supplies a bevy of interesting and unique radio channels. The scripted talk radio is clever and entertaining, and the music stations are varied and should have something for everyone. Again as usual, the voice acting in this game is rather impressive, as the people chosen to do the voicing give strong performances and make the characters feel real. Ambient noises are generic and hardly noticeable, but this is far better than them being poorly done. All in all, I have no complaints about this section of the game.
Sound Rating: 9/10
A new addition to the series an online multiplayer experience! Featuring several different game modes both in ranked and unranked formats (ranking up unlocks new clothing options for your online character), this is what will either make this game a rental or a purchase depending on the player. There should be something for nearly everybody as far as game modes are concerned, but there are serious connection issues when it comes to playing online. At times it was nearly impossible for all of my friends and myself to play a good game, when someone was randomly getting disconnected with the inability to get back into the game. The resulted in shuffling of hosts, quitting established games so friends can play together and lots of other unnecessary hassle. When we did all get together playing was fun and remained fresh for the most part as long as you don't play in free mode for too long. With given time, free mode often turns into an elaborate chat room (Your in game cell phone works like a real one, call another player and enter into an in-game private chat). A good first attempt, although it's rather severe issues cause me to have to lower it's score. Adds replay value but not enough.
Multiplayer Rating: 6/10
Rent or Buy?
Caught in the hype machine it was nearly impossible for this game to deliver in the ways we expected it to. The lack of real innovation and replay value hurt it beyond being worth buying, even with addition of the multiplayer. A good experience but only worth renting unless you fall in love with the online portion of the game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 12/08/08
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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