Grand Theft Auto IV Review – No one wins in crime. Except the players.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Rockstar

Ps3, Xbox 360

What is the American dream? For some, it’s having a loving family, for others it’s having their hobby as a career, for some it’s having money, for some, it’s having women, for me, it’s playing Grand Theft Auto IV.

Now, that GTA series has always been at the top of the sandbox action genre, but looking upon GTA IV as the best sandbox action title, is actually underestimating its excellence. Grand Theft Auto IV not only meets the expectations tied to it, but it separates itself from that line by a fare margin.

The immense level of detail is a big effort by the developer. This generation of consoles has given them the opportunity to do amazing things, and it definitely shows heavily right when you put the disc in. You’ll automatically notice the huge increase in the game’s visual quality. Character models are heavily detailed, and they have recognizable faces, unlike characters from past installments (cough Carl Johnson cough). Facial animations are impressive, with very well done lip syncing and full body animations. In fact, Liberty City is home to thousands, if not millions of individuals. And I mean individuals, not character models. In a group of 200 people, you’d be hard pressed to find two people that look alike. Something like this has never been seen in any game before. Assassin’s Creed is the only other game with this many people that I can think of, but there was maybe 20 character models in the game. Every street in the huge city has its own name, and even after you’ve beaten the game, you’ll still have to rely on the navigation system every car has, just to get around. Liberty City is absolutely huge. It’s about the same size as the entire state of San Andreas, only with more congestion, and it’s a much more dynamic, 3 dimensional area with tons more people. Every building, back alley, and street is just as detailed as the last, and even though there are plenty of jagged edges, it’s nothing to complain about. If the jaggies bother you, just drive a boat at night, and drop a grenade. You’ll die, but it’s the most beautfiul thing ever seen in a game. The game runs smooth, and pop in is kept to a minimum. It’s not the best looking game this generation, but it is the deepest and most detailed. Nice weather effects, too.

You play as Niko Bellic, a man who’s trying to achieve the American dream. The mansion his cousin tells him he’ll be living in is actually a hellhole roach infested apartment, and very soon, they get into debt, and people want them dead. There’s plenty of uncertainty, betrayal, and killing. This is the best story not only in a GTA game, but it’s the best story so far this year. It’s a gritty, dark look at the criminal underworld, and the horrible souls that are connected to it. The game has you make certain decisions, that have a big effect on the overall outcome of the story. The story is just as detailed as the city, and it’s incredible. As a movie, it’s good enough to get at least a nomination. As a game, it’s just pure action drama, and that’s incredible.

Shooting has been vastly improved from the past. The controls have been changed for the better, and the game feels much more like a third person shooter than it ever has. Holding down the left trigger sends you into aiming mode, the right analog aims your reticle, and the right trigger shoots the bad guys. It works very well, although it can get a bit clunky at times. Although it isn’t yet perfected, it’s actually enjoyable for the first time in the series. There’s a new cover system, that is often vital to your survival during firefights. R1 or RB places you against any object, whether a car, or a wall, or anything else. It does work well, although sometimes the controls aren’t responsive enough, and you’ll feel like the least agile person on the planet. It’s more of a tactical thing, other than a run n gun thing, and if you look at it like that, it works well. Enemy AI isn’t the best, but at least it exists (cough Ballas cough). Enemies take cover, just like you, and they won’t randomly pop up and down, or run across the open as long as you’re there. Shooting is a much more enjoyable experience.

Hand to hand combat is improved, in some ways. There are more buttons for different moves, such as a kick to the skull, but the controls are unresponsive and clunky, and once you get your first gun, you’ll undoubtedly avoid it. At least it shows off the cool physics system.

Speaking of the physics system, it’s really good. You’ll have countless hours of fun running over people, and watching them react to every piece of geometry in the city. They’ll bounce off your windshield, get thrown around under your car, it’s awesome. Everything just reacts so excellently to the world, it really gives the game a much needed gritty sense of realism.

Driving mechanics are one of the best parts of the game. The cars aren’t exactly realistic, but it’s as close as its ever been. Tires wear down, cars don’t turn when they brake. It really just feels like nothing you’ve driven before. Car models are all well detailed, with excellent reflections, and impressive damage modelling. Grand Theft Auto is called that for a reason, and the reason is one to be proud of.

The script is very well written and clever. Every character’s voice suits them perfectly. The lines are funny when they need to be, and serious when crap starts up. Radio stations aren’t the best in terms of talk shows (cough K Chat cough), but soundtrack is by far the best. My favorite station for songs was Radio Broker, but I wouldn’t decline if forced to listen to another station. The city’s ambient noise is incredible, just like a real city. Citizens talk on their phones, with each other, order food at vendors, talk to themselves, etc. You just need to play the game for 5 minutes to see it all.

The game takes about 30 hours to complete, with huge replay value, considering the branching story. When you feel done with it, there is 16 player MP. There are several game modes, like Cops n Crooks, Hangman’s Noose, Races, or just Free Mode. This is like 2 player in San Andreas, only with 16 people with headsets. You could spend 50 hours without getting bored. All of Liberty City is the map. It is very functional, especially with the very shooter oriented controls.

Grand Theft Auto IV is the first game to ever have a realistic city, filled with detail, and still be a functional, sublime action game with near great physics, a gripping tale, and the best value you’ll find for $60. It’s the first game I’ve ever given a 10 out of 10. I don’t expect to give out any for a long time, but you never know. What I do know now, is that if you don’t already have GTA IV, you should pick it up. You shouldn’t have even read this review, you wasted your time. Grand Theft Auto IV is the best game I have played in years. It’s an obvious nominee for GOTY. The guys at Rockstar are ingenious.

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~ by smithbubbajones on June 23, 2008.

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