Grand Theft Auto IV Review
by Gotakibono

Basic Information:
Developer: Rockstar Games
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Date of Release: April 29, 2008
Trophies: 1 3 5 42
Grand Theft Auto IV Forum / Grand Theft Auto IV Trophy Guide

Grand Theft Auto is a game series that needs as little of an introduction as possible. It has gone beyond a simple videogame, it has evolved into a part of modern pop culture. Its transition from a little-known 2D shooter to the world's biggest and most well-known gaming franchise has been extraordninary. The previous installments in the series are some of the most critically acclaimed games ever, with sales into the millions. But this alone will mean nothing if the impossibly high standards that the series has set itself over the years aren't kept, or even exceeded. Let me guide you through the latest incarnation of this gaming monster...

This is classic GTA gaming as we love and remember but with some new additions. First of all, it's also absolutely huge, and not just in terms of raw acreage. This version of Liberty City is filled with vertical spaces and seamless building interiors to explore, and a lot of the cool stuff is hidden up on rooftops. if you can find a way to get up there. You won't have any magical parkour abilities, but you will be able to climb ledges, ladders and fire escapes, so it's all a matter of knowing where to look.

Also, with this being a Grand Theft Auto game, you'll spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car (or motorbike, or boat, or helicopter). Driving feels a lot different this time around; in many ways it's smoother, but more realistic handling (especially on the crappier, clunkier cars) also means it's a lot harder to brake or turn corners at high speeds, even if you're good enough to slide between lanes of traffic without scratching your doors. Your handbrake doesn't seem to work the way it used to, either; instead, you'll rely heavily on your "main" brakes to slide around effectively, while the handbrake is a modifier that enables sharper stops and turnarounds.

While the story is more serious in GTA IV than in previous installments, there's still the option to
completely ignore it and blow stuff up.

There's so much to do in Liberty City. Side jobs, games, going out with friends drinking and countless other things will consume your time within Liberty City. The shooting mechanics have been completely overhawled and is so much better than it was previously, even a nice cover system has been impletemented.

GTA IV is a tale of loyalty, redemption, and violence. An epic tragedy encompassing dozens of characters in a sprawling narrative, using the corruption of the American dream as a theme to the bloodshed and carnage that permeates Liberty City. As you could probably tell, it's a lot more serious this time around compared with previous Grand Theft Auto installments. You play as Niko Bellic, who comes to Liberty City on his cousin's promise of a land of fast cars, faster women and money. This, in classic fashion, turns out to be complete falsity as Liberty City turns out to be anything but the land of wealth and opportunity. In turn, Niko is left to build his empire from the ground up in vintage GTA fashion. Niko is an incredible character, a violent sociopath desperately searching for his humanity and struggling to redeem his sordid past. He's the deepest and most complex protagonist in GTA history and is certainly a departure from GTA's leading men of old, who were often light-hearted with little moral thought behind their actions. The supporting cast are all well-scripted and voice-acted which all adds to the overall quality of the game. Personally, I still would've liked Tommy Vercetti to make a cameo but you can't have it all I guess.

For a city packed with crooks, deadbeats, gangsters and general scum, it certainly is a
surprisingly beautiful place.

There are more than 90 story missions that will take anywhere from 25-45 hours to complete depending largely on your skill level. Throughout my playthroughs of the game, I was kinda worried missions would get repetitive at some point, that sooner or later it would get redundant. It never does. Though many missions boil down to the same basic parameter -- go to location, kill people to get to target, chase target, kill target -- it never feels repetitive. The locations of missions, the variety in the enemies, the dynamic aspects of the AI, and the dialogue keep GTA IV from ever feeling stale. In fact, this is a game that can be enjoyed with multiple playthroughs. The missions pack all of the hilarious writing the series is famous for, except now they occasionally offer the option to spare the lives of characters you've hunted down in hot pursuits, decisions that affect the overall story. They give GTA IV a new element of replayability, although I suspect players will turn quickly to the excellent multiplayer modes once they've completed the epic single-player game...

Online multiplayer (something I've been dreaming of since I first loaded up GTA3) is finally a reality. There's plenty of different game modes to cause havoc in. Free Mode is where you pretty much navigate around Liberty City with a few mates and make your own fun. Team DM, and race variants have that anything-can-happen GTA vibe. The objective-based Mafiya Work, Car Jack City, and Turf War modes demand teamwork and contain some awesome moments with players in four-seat helicopters and cars.

My favourite modes would have to be either GTA Race, Cops 'n Crooks, and the co-op matches. GTA Race is like the standard races apart from one little thing, you can use your weapons, change cars and even leg it to the finish line. GTA races can be the most unpredicable mode and when it's good, it's great. Cops 'n Crooks offers entertaining team-based play, as a gang of crooks try to get their boss to the extraction point before the police team takes out the head honcho. The three co-op missions (Hangman's NOOSE, Bomb Da Base II and Deal Breaker) are standalone story-based levels complete with cinemas, massive firefights, and chases for up to four people.

Liberty City is another character in itself, huge and impeccably detailed and teeming with life. The single most noticable improvement from previous games are the graphics. The cartoony style of Vice City and San Andreas has been replaced by a far more realistic, gritty look. The cityscape of Liberty City is visually stunning in the transition between night and day, alleyways are packed with subtle details, cars glimmer in the setting sun, pedestrians use umbrellas when it's raining and Niko's animations never stray from being totally believable. All in all it's a treat for the eyes, but GTA IV also suffers from those little things that have always plagued the series, such as sudden pop-in of objects in the environment and the occasional repetition of car models in your immediate vicinity. Although it's not as frequent an occurance as it was previously.

Don't screw with this man. Ever.

Now for perhaps the bread and butter of the GTA experience, the soundtrack. As per usual it's fantastic with a broad range of music, although it's not as focused as previous installments. This could be perceived as a representation of our modern day 'iPod' culture, as there's a huge variety in the style and timeframe of each song. Some of my all-time favourite songs are present in GTA IV, including the sublime '1979' by The Smashing Pumpkins. In my opinion, Vice City's soundtrack is still the pinnicle of gaming soundtracks, but there's such a mix here that it will be damn near impossible to not find yourself humming along to at least a few of these songs.

Gameplay: 10/10
Vintage GTA gameplay mixed in with a much better control system. There's so much to see and do in Liberty City.

Singleplayer: 9/10
A very strong lead character that finds himself involved in all sorts of classic GTA missions. It's long, it's great and has some remarkable moments that will make you laugh and gasp.

Multiplayer: 9/10
What I've been dreaming of since GTA III doesn't disappoint. Loads of game modes and for the most part solid, apart from some minor hiccups here and there.

Technical: 10/10
Soundtrack's great as usual, graphics are much improved and the voice acting is believeable and strong.

Overall: 9.5/10

Grand Theft Auto IV continues the GTA tradition in providing the most complete sandbox experience money can buy. Everything about this game takes the Grand Theft Auto series to new heights that others will find difficult to top. All the subtle touches come together to create a breathtaking achievement and create an immersive world that feels truly alive. So, if you haven't taken the time to play Grand Theft Auto IV yet, I recommend you do.