====================Spoiler FREE review(No spoilers)
April 29th,2008.This date marked the day where gamers would awaken to news and some reviews,surrounding 1 particular game.A game that was so greatly anticipated,that the majority of the reviews for the game came out before the game released.The game is of course,Let's Yoga!,a Konami published game for the Nintendo Ds that promises to relieve your stress and make your body hawter....Or is it Grand Theft Auto IV,the successor to one of the most critically acclaimed Playstation 2 franchises out there?Yes,it is surely the latter,as Rockstar games latest installment in the seemingly endless Grand Theft Auto universe,graced store shelves and gamers hands during the wee hours of April 29th,breaking sales records of all sorts and pushing sales of Caffeine drinks to new boundaries.Did GTA 4 live up to the bar set by it's predecessor?Or is it simply another good game for your Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 console?
To answer these questions,we must first look at what a GTA game is,and what Rockstar Games aimed to achieve with their latest outing.GTA is an open world game where destruction is awarded,kindness is sneered upon,and Jack Thompson,famous lawyer against video games,hawks over eagerly,waiting for that Adults Only moment to feed upon.Since Grand Theft Auto III,gamers have had the ability to explore a massive city in 3rd person perspective,gaining access to an even massiv-er city through the completion of missions and causing chaos in the streets.This,is known to some as the 'GTA formula';A combination of chaos,missions,and a sense of humor unseen in other games.With GTA IV,it is evidently clear that Rockstar have stuck to the GTA formula,and have attempted to deliver the most realistic and engaging Grand Theft Auto experience yet.
Story:(As this is a spoiler free review,key story elements will not be revealed nor discussed upon.)
You are Niko Bellic in GTA IV,a Russian immigrant living in Liberty City with hopes of success and dreams of a better life.Along your path you will encounter both emotional trials and psychological Stop Signs,all of this masked behind a tough,witty,and humorous persona.With GTA 4,Rockstar have succeeded in creating an engaging story and a loveable lead;A character that resonates with your emotions in a way that will surely surprise you.As the story unfolds in GTA 4,so will your appreciation for what Niko Bellic stands for and wants.
As with previous GTA games,your main goal is to advance past missions and tasks set to you by various inhabitants of the City.This time around,Rockstar have introduced new gameplay mechanics and have tweaked and tuned previous ones,with some positive results,and some negative results.
Firstly,the positive results;The Mission system and City activities work more fluidly and make much more sense this time around.Whereas in previous GTA games you were greeted with 'Come back at xx:xx time' and 'drive to the other side of the city to do something irrelevant',in GTA IV you are equipped with a Cell Phone;A device that is truly your best friend at all times.Sure,there has been a Cellphone present in previous GTA iterations,but in Niko Bellics adventure,you have full control over the Cellphone at all times;Making a Phone Call is as easy as it sounds.Accessed through the D-Pad,arranging activities and undertaking mission assignments has never been easier,organized,and more detailed,the addition of a Cell Phone in GTA introduces an entirely new gameplay feel that is sure to be mimicked by upcoming titles.
As with previous GTA games(And real life),you commit a crime;Sirens come to life.The Police are much more aggressive and accurate this time around,so running around like a Chicken expecting the Bullets to fly past you may not work in your favor.Getting away from the cops has also been revamped;The moment you commit a Crime,the Map area you're in turns into a Blue and Red color,indicating that the Police have spotted and are coming after you.The obvious solution is to get outside the area you're in to a safe zone,that is,any area that isn't Red and Blue.As expected,the more Stars you have,the bigger the area becomes,thus making it harder and more intense.This new system works very well,and will no doubt be implemented in further GTA titles.
Now,for the negative results;Rockstar were surely plagued with comments and emails concerning the shooting&aiming system in previous GTA games,thus prompting them to re-do the system for GTA IV.Will those same people who voiced their dismay with the shooting&aiming system be contacting Rockstar once more?Sadly,the answer to this seems like a 'Yes',as the s&a system in GTA IV still feels clunky and very much in need of work.The root of the problem with this is the Animation and responsiveness of the Weapon and target system,this problem becomes more pronounced when engaged in a shootout with the Police and/other gamers(Online).The fighting system is no better,and serves as a reminder as to why you need to acquire a Gun in the game as soon as possible.
Another gripe that will arise is with the Driving system and mechanics;Whilst I would love to say the driving system is a hit or miss,and that with enough time the driving will 'click' and feel natural,this isn't the case.Rockstar completely missed on the driving.It's clear that they aimed for a more realistic driving experience by tightening the driving controls,but they did not create a good balance in this.As a result,you will find yourself needing to use the Hand Brake to make simple turns and evasions,and you will also find yourself calling a Cab more often to avoid Driving.To put it simply;The Driving system and mechanics need a complete redo.
Lastly,and most importantly,a large number of the Missions,mission mechanics,and activities to do,feel too familiar.You will encounter a feeling of Deja Vu before you're done with the first 10 missions,and you will encounter the same feeling before you're done with the last ten missions.This all goes back to the GTA formula,but whilst the formula felt fresh and innovative in previous games,in GTA IV,it feels like doing that same thing over again.Missions in GTA IV include chasing down cars,robbing, ,chasing people,shooting up targets,as well as Dating and other social activities.
Great graphics have never been associated with GTA games,and this is looking to be a continuing trend;GTA IV does not look mind blowing.There are low res textures,noticeable pop-in,last-gen animations,jaggies,questionable blur and draw distance effects,oddly sized bodily parts,and in some cases,character models and City elements that can only be described as 'ugly'.
But in a City so massive,with hundreds of things on screen at one time,are the present graphics a complete letdown?Not at all,as GTA IV has the best atmosphere in any game thus far this generation.Liberty City looks like a breathing,living City,and this is what Rockstar were gunning for and succeeded at.The presence of hundreds of things on screen at almost all times,are what create this amazing and immersive feel to the city,and are ultimately the very same things that make up for the lack of outstanding graphics.
Sound and Voice Acting:
The GTA franchise has always been known for having the most diverse soundtrack,hilarious talk shows,and lolz-worthy Pedestrian comments.With GTA IV this is no different;be it whilst you drive or are being driven,the radio stations provide constant entertainment that is both memorable and laughter inducing.As mentioned before,Liberty City truly feels like it's alive,and the sound from numerous sources greatly helps in creating this level of immersion.
The Voice acting in GTA IV is good,but not perfect.Some of the characters you meet in the game feel too cliche in both the manner and words that they speak.
Also,whilst Niko Bellic carries a deep Russian accent,some of the sayings and idioms that he uses do not sit right with his character and background,this will become particularly evident during multiple in-car discussions with various people.
Being the first GTA game with an Online mode,there were considerable doubts on whether or not the Multiplayer aspect of the game would translate well in comparison to the Single player aspect of the game.
With 15 Multiplayer game modes,16 player support,Customizable characters,and a Silky smooth Frame rate,GTA IV delivers one of the most impressive Multiplayer experiences of this generation by far.
Accessing the Online Multiplayer is a snap,you simply whip up your Cell Phone,and choose the Multiplayer option.Once you're in the game lobby,you'll be greeted with the 'usual suspects' modes,such as Deathmatch,Team Deathmatch,Race,and others.Without giving out much details,I can safely say that Online Multiplayer is the strongest feature to be added to the GTA franchise ever since it's inception,not only does it add hours upon hours of replay ability,the sheer fun factor derived from this mode is off the charts.
By now you most likely own this game or have already made up your mind on whether or not to own this game.GTA IV is not a perfect game,and it shows:There are some technical problems that could have used a few more weeks/months of ironing out.The games biggest problem though,is that it has borrowed too many gameplay elements and mechanics from previous GTA games,and has implemented them in the exact same way they were done in previous GTA titles.Without a doubt,GTA IV was overhyped by both gaming media and press as the next big thing in video games,and to be frank,it is not as revolutionary nor as innovative as previous GTA games.From the standpoint of a person who has played all GTA games,GTA IV is not the best of the series nor is it the best game ever created.
With that said,GTA IV is still one of the best gaming experiences you will have this year.The Singleplayer campaign offers hours upon hours of great gaming,and the Multiplayer looks to be one of the best of this generation.Though Rockstar have not succeeded in passing the bar set by GTA III and it's Spin-offs,they have indeed succeeded in providing one of the most engaging and intense gameplay experiences available for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platform.