Review by roadlizard
"Ironic. The Euphoria engine does everything but make me happy"
Like many people I was eagerly awaiting the release of GTA IV, having been a loyal supporter of Rockstar and the Grand theft auto series I was delighted at the prospect of the beginning of the next gen era of GTA and seeing what the upgrade in hardware could do for an already immensely open world series of games. I bought this game but looking back I really don't know if I should have.
I Figure I'll start out with the best qualities of GTA4 before getting down into the meat of why the game was awful to me
Sound 9/10 - Personally the sound is really, really good. The effects of gunfire have been vastly improved since San Andreas, the radio stations all have their own unique djs, albeit none of them are as memorable as earlier titles and there's a lot of good music on each of the stations to satisfy almost everyone's style of music. Voice acting is also top notch. A lot of the characters all have the samey eastern European accent, but that's ok, as long as its good, which it is. However, don't expect to see any big names make a presence. There's nothing in this game along the lines of Samuel L Jackson, Ray Liota or Michael Madsen to be seen or heard in this game.
Graphics 6/10 - The graphics in this game are nicely rendered all the character models look great. But the problem is that this game has chosen every colour from the colour palette of the brown rainbow, everything is dulled down to a needlessly dreary level. I've been told that this is to capture the atmosphere of real NYC. I've never been to NYC but I'm pretty sure there would be more colour there than in this game. Everything looks depressing and dull which leads to little desire to want to explore LC.
Story 8/10 - You play as Niko Belic. A man that has come to Liberty City from his home land with high expectations made to him by his cousin roman, who in his emails is living the American Dream in condos, fast cars and beautiful women. Niko arrives to find that roman has been doing little more than lying through his teeth, as he finds out that the condo is a grubby apartment, the fast car is a taxi cab and the women are all Russian gangsters who have a vendetta to make Romans life a misery. Niko takes it upon himself to dig himself and his cousin out of the hole they are in and make a fresh start away from the problems that plagued him in his homeland. The story itself is decent and it will keep you entertained enough to want to know what happens next and how it all ends. You'll meet many different characters who will on the most part have good character development and make for a very enjoyable story experience
Game play 2/10 - This is it. This is why I gave this game the score I did. In a nutshell the game play for GTA4 is awful and I'll explain why. To begin with the missions are all very, very, VERY tedious and similar. The over-the-top missions from San Andreas and the epic atmospheric ones from Vice city and GTA3 are all completely gone. There is an abundance of missions set up in a structure of: "Start mission, watch cutscene, drive to point B, kill x amount of people, drive back to point A, mission complete". There's little to no variety in the game. There are a few good missions but the amount of time it takes to get to one seems like such a chore that you probably wont enjoy it when you finally get there.
My biggest gripe is the way everything feels so weighed down and heavy, when you are on foot Niko feels like he weighs around 40-50 kgs heavier than his player models lets on. His responses are all so clunky and heavy. Every action he takes is so unnecessarily longer than it needs to be. Jacking a car for a quick getaway is a very important aspect of the game when you've got half an army of murderous gangsters or cops after you. He takes a good 5-6 seconds to stall around opening the door, whacking the driver of the vehicle or threatening them with a gun when all you want to do is high tail it out of there. Rockstar have added a new cover based system to the game where you can lean up against door arches, cars almost everything can be used for cover. Rockstar did a decent job at this system but it slows down the pace of the game so much as GTA has always been about causing chaos and destruction pretty sequentially. I cant make up my mind if the targeting system has been an improvement from San andreas, you have full free aiming or fully automatic depending on how hard you hold the trigger down and the enemies health is displayed in the target crosshair its pretty solid really and shouldn't give you much to gripe about.
Along with Niko himself handling terribly so do the vehicles. People will argue that they handle like they do to inspire the feel of realism. These vehicles handle nothing at all realistically. I'm not a fan of realism in games of this nature, but rockstar over shot the mark and kept going a long, long way. All the cars handle like you have a trunk full of wet cement and a fully-grown dairy cow in the passenger seat. I have never understood this modern fixation developers have about putting the camera on an offside angle to the player. In some games its works quite well, others not at all. Whenever your in a car of the 2 door or 4 door variety, the camera is on this odd angle where the car is more towards the bottom right hand corner of the screen so where niko is sitting is dead centered, I found it off putting and annoying along with constantly fighting the urge to wrestle the camera into a decent position. It's something that did not work. If You have been more of a bike person in the GTA world I've got bad news for you because they handle ever more poorly than the cars. It is extremely easy to come off them now. I would really like to point out that in TLAD and TBoGT episodic content for the game, Bike handling was much more improved than this.
The wanted system has also been re worked now when you get a wanted star there will be on your mini map an area of search radius of where the cops are looking for you. You will need to get out of that area and keep a low profile for about 10 seconds for a 1 star level and longer for the more stars you obtain the trouble is there are cops EVERYWHERE almost 90% of the time when you fire a gun you WILL get a wanted level and because its based on you not being seen by the cops to lose it you will spend time trying to shake off a 1 star wanted level with a lot more effort than should be required. Pay and spray garages make a comeback but unlike in earlier titles, if the cops see you entering the garage you wont be able to use it. You'll have to drive off and get out of their line of sight come back and then try again, which to me sounds needless and irritable. You may aswell kiss those long police standoffs goodbye aswell. Anything from 4 stars up is suicide as it takes Niko barely anytime to die even with body Armour. Which offers little to do after the game has been completed past its story and side missions.
Summery - this game split the fan base of GTA in two really, on one side you've got the new age GTA fans that want more of this attempt at a more realistic world for GTA to be set in. And the Classic GTA fans who feel the series was far superior in the previous era that consisted of San Andreas and Vice city. Being in the latter category myself I believe that if this game had not had the name "Grand theft auto" it would be nowhere near as popular as it is. Because at the end of the day. This is one of the many games on the market today that have suffered due to pumping a game up with eye candy rather than focusing on the core dynamics of what makes a game an entertaining and enjoyable experience.
Overall 3/10 - Don't bother with it. There are far more better GTA titles out there than this one and the good qualities it has do not outweigh its shortcomings.
Reviewer's Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Originally Posted: 05/26/11
Game Release: Grand Theft Auto IV (US, 04/29/08)
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