Developer: Rockstar North
Release Date: 4/29/2008
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The Good: Amazing story, memorable characters, subtle details really stand out, superb graphics, fun online play
The Bad: Crappy car handling, minor control issues, online lags more than it should, nothing earth shattering but perfected
I remember playing GTA III when it first came out. I didn’t have a PS2 yet and I went over to a friend’s house and played it for hours every single day. While we mostly just messed around it was something I never played before and was just so addictive. Thankfully GTA IV goes back to its roots and brings us to good ol’ Liberty City. You play as none other than Niko Bellic who is a Russian immigrant who came to LC with his cousin Roman to start a new life. The game’s main attractions are its story for once. GTA IV has a superb story that makes you want to keep playing. Gone are the lukewarm stories from previous GTAs where only the main character is the main attraction with just OK side characters. In previous GTAs you never really got a good feeling of the employers due to the lack built up the story. You were just in and out of the short cut scenes only knowing what to really do. This kind of was solved in San Andreas, but even then only a select few were really fleshed out. In IV you feel every character in the game and there are tons of plot twists and it really keeps the game fresh through every single mission.
On another note, the graphics are amazing. While not Assassin’s Creed or BioShock amazing they’re really good. It’s mainly the subtle details though such as people now put their blinkers on, cars are damaged in real time now with realistic physics so half broken fenders and bumpers sway as you turn the car, the paint can get scraped up, crowd AI is more efficient (yet not by much), better enemy AI (still not by much), further draw distance, everything has high-res textures, bump mapping and the whole next-gen works. There are a few things that they stripped away such as the whole working out system, swimming underwater (you can still swim though!), and territories. There are other subtle details such as the internet you can now use. It’s a virtual made up internet, but it’s still as funny as hell and has a dating system (yes it’s still here) implemented on the dating website. You can get emails for side missions from employers as well. You can now take taxis around the city and either watch them drive your skip it if you want. This really helps a lot if you are tired of driving everywhere. There is also a new route system where the game will plot the safest and most legal course to your destination. Red is a target, blue is friendly, green is a waypoint you made on your map, and yellow is an objective. This is probably one of the better additions because it keeps yours from getting lost during time sensitive missions.
Another thing is the revamped wanted system. You now have flashing “zones” for every star. The more stars the bigger the circle will get on your radar that you have to escape. Cops are now showed as flashing blue and red blips and copters are now flashing Xs. While we’re talking about characters again the voice acting is amazing. I really felt like I was watching bits of a movie every time there was a cut scene. The characters are really fleshed out here every…single…one. You’ll remember every character in the 60+ hour game and that’s a really hard thing to achieve. Rockstar really went the extra 20 miles with this game and you can just feel it.
The game is huge as well, while not as huge as San Andreas it’s about as big as GTA III yet it’s also big as in taller as well. You can fly planes, and copters again in here and while it’s a lot easier than San Andreas it’s still not very fun. Speaking of controls they are more refined this time and the auto aim is a lot better yet there’s still that stupid camera! Switching targets is NOT very easy. You have to press the right stick EXACTLY left or right or you won’t switch targets. Whenever you do lock on Niko always aims for the wrong persons and ends with cheap deaths and what have you. The cars are also a big pain because they just don’t feel right. They all feel really heavy and they slide way too much no matter what car you use. You try to put the brakes on and your car will slide and slide and you’ll miss your turn, and the same goes for the handbrake. You hit it and your car spins out a few times no matter how good you are with the handling. I found this very annoying with the driving missions because it would lead to cheap and frustrating failures.
Apart from all this the game as 16 player Xbox LIVE support. You have tons of game modes from deathmatch, to cops and robbers. In cops and robbers, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You all get in a car and try to kill each other. This is also very fun yet annoying because the game can lag a lot especially with people who have crappy connections. It also may take awhile to start a game due to everyone wanting 16 players and they just won’t start the game. Aside from the minor issues, GTA IV is probably game of the year worthy, but it doesn’t do anything as ground breaking as GTA III did. It just perfects it 100% this time and gives us what we’ve always wanted. The perfect GTA game.