Review by Lord_Mataeus

"Style over Substance"

GTA IV is, essentially, a boring game to play after the novelty of the first ten hours or so has worn off. By then, you've seen everything the game has to offer - And I mean everything. You've trapped a copper's hand in a car door and dragged him off, you've headshot someone and seen them fall to the floor, you've hot wired a car, used an internet dating service, gotten pissed off with your friends calling you every ten damn minutes to go 'Bowleeein, Couseeen' and you've done the umpteenth 'Drive to destination, target runs off, you chase and kill him' copycat mission. I think that's the main problem with the game - it's not actually much fun to progress with, going through it I find on the whole very tedious. I love the actual city, I look at places like Middle Park and little hidy-holes in Alderny and I want to be there in the game, enjoying it. Visiting the ponds and little parks, the hidden spots. It makes me want to be there, exploring it. But it's as if I am being held back from enjoying the aspect that I wish to enjoy: I want to do the above, but it's just not interesting to do so. The only thing I can keep my eye open for is a pigeon, and they are a crap idea anyway compared to more solid, traditional hidden packages. I thought the tags in San Andreas were worse than the packages, but the pigeons are way off the mark.

So, as I say, when I'm sat looking at the game in all it's hi-def glory, sun slowly setting reflecting off the bonnet of my Stallion, I to go places in the game, see all the detail like peoples houses and back gardens and drives, but there's no point because there's nothing to do when you get there. Nothing. I think one of the best features the series has seen, aside from playing the gangs off each other in GTA 2 which was the most awesome thing ever, was the ability to rob peoples houses in San Andreas! Although it was false in a way, the way it was designed made you feel as though every building in the game was open to you - and now here we are, back to buildings being the sandbox equivalent of crates in FPS games - they're only there to stop you from taking a direct route to your goal and making the world a bit more interesting to look at. The houses and offices in GTA IV may as well be walls of lead.

So, to summarise: The design of the city makes you want to explore it, especially the neighbourhoods in Alderny (great detail like the abandoned buggies in the park) but there's no ambition in me to bother doing so, as I know there's nothing cool, secret or hidden to uncover. Just objects to look at, and not even unique ones at that.

Rockstar need to prioritise: When a company spend more time and effort into writing a Next-Gen sim into a sandbox-criminal game that could do with some really cool content (like properties and assets, a sense of progression on a personal level) then there's something wrong. It's as if they spent a year making the best city possible, then sat down and thought "Hey, let's make the characters be able to go out drinking together! Hey, let's be able to pick up women on line! Hey, let's be able to go 'Bowling, cousin!'" and didn't have any time left in which to write missions that are fun to play (remember riding up an elevator in a motorbike to leap over rooftops with the ultimate aim of projecting a pair of 50 foot boobs onto a building in VC?) and content that actually makes you want to keep on playing.

Rockstar: We don't want to babysit friends, go bowling with our idiot cousin or look after clingy lawyer girlfriends! We want to be able to have fun in a criminal world!

And if you held back on the content for deliberate drip-feeding by downloadable content just to eventually give us THE SAME STUFF WE HAD BEFORE ONLY NOW IN HI-DEF, then more the shame on you.

Since I originally wrote this review, it would seem that Rockstar WERE in fact holding back things like base jumping, that appeared in San Andreas, to charge us extra for. And it's not even as good. Not even with your friends. Play Just Cause 2 instead.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/25/10

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

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