Grand Theft Auto IV

12 06 2008

I guess I should start off by saying that I’ve never really played any of the GTA games. A very long time ago I played through the first GTA on my GBC but I don’t remember anything of it. The review scores GTA IV has been getting is by all means ridiculous. Like everyone else I have a number of games that I really like but the number of games that I’ve played that have neared perfection are extremely low. In my opinion GTA IV is definitely not perfection but it does so many things well that it’s a game that everyone above 18 should play.

In GTA IV you play as Niko Bellic, a very likable eastern European immigrant who fought in the Bosnian war. The opening cut scene introduces us to his cousin Roman who invited Niko to come start life anew and live the American Dream. However, Roman is living in a worn down apartment and in debt/trouble with a few people. Starting out at the bottom you slowly work your way up criminal underground ladder performing heists, murders, drug runs, etc for your employer. The quality of writing in GTA IV is top notch with amazing dialogue and a host of great characters that are equally well acted. My only complaint on the story would be a somewhat straight cop so I didn’t have to kill a cop to help save the city.

In terms of gameplay the hand to hand combat is pretty weak but rarely used. Cover and auto-targeting make the weapon system work pretty well. Although turning with the handbrake can be rough the driving aspects work quite well. Where the true test comes in for GTA IV is in its mission design. The first 8 hours of the game is extremely repetitive and boring. Driving back and forth and back and forth with seemingly no interesting missions. Thankfully the last 16 hours are chopped full of simply amazing missions. Rockstar has done a great job of combining scripted sequences with varying styles of gameplay (ex: follow car to gas station, combat on foot, escape police).

Graphically everything looks pretty bland. The graphical style borrows the heavy use of greys, greens, and browns found in most first person shooters and can be rough to look at. The sheer scale of the city provides enough variation to keep things interesting although it can be a tad hard to know where you are at times. Animation for all the characters in cutscenes is believable.

I could go on and on for this review so let me try to sum things up. GTA IV really succeeds in the last 70% of the game by providing amazing mission design. Fantastic dialogue and characters make you care about what happens. It’s really only hampered by its somewhat drab visuals and monotonous drive from point A to point B that is required for every single mission. Online play isn’t that fun but if you have a lot of friends on live the free roam multiplayer will be a blast. If you can handle a lot of cussing you’ll find an extremely impressive and memorable experience in Grand Theft Auto IV.

score: 95% | metacritic: 98

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