Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a global phenomenon when it was released for the PlayStation 2 as it offered pretty much everything that you would want to do in a virtual world. The bar set by it was so high that Grand Theft Auto IV had to be an improvement or just as good as San Andreas. There maybe different opinions but GTA IV does end up being another enjoyable addition the series. What really sets apart this game from the other is the level of realism provided in it. While the GTA III canon games only bore a slight resemblance to the intended cities they were modeled after, GTA IV meanwhile is a carbon copy of New York City.
GTA games mainly don’t have a lot of diversity in their story-lines, the basic idea of rising through the ranks of a lowly criminal to eventual control of the city has always been the crux of the story. This game also has the same core plot but there's also some variety, as soon as Niko steps off the boat it becomes clear that he’s in Liberty City for something other than money. The main plot revolves around Niko searching for the man who betrayed him and his team in a war back in his home country which led to Niko being haunted by his past. As he begins his life in Liberty City Niko also makes new enemies as well as new friends on his journey, the main antagonist being the character of Dimitri. The relationship between the character’s is very well built making the story more enjoyable than the previous games in the series. There's a lot of humor included mainly in the form of Niko’s cousin Roman who is a fat drunk and usually cheats on his girlfriend with numerous girls. A bizarre quality in Roman being his loyalty and love for Niko as even after being shot by him he will call back five minutes later inviting Niko to go bowling. For the first time in the franchise there are connections with different story-lines in the game which are further explored in the expansion games The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. All in all GTA IV’s story is the best you’ll find in the series.
Game play in the series has pretty much remained the same through all the games. This one tweaks a few aspects for the players favor. The core feature, however, is the familiar concept of open world game play. Like before you get to roam about Liberty City freely at your own will. There are four islands to explore comprising of Broker, Bohan, Dukes and the main glamorized Alonquin. Another City present is Aldernity City based on New Jersey. As you're hardly a law abiding citizen you get to have your own arsenal of weapons. You could probably buy that stuff off of shops hidden around in corners or you could go the easy way and dial in the cheat code for it in your phone. This time round the former tedious job of hastily tapping away on your controller is removed in favor of certain numbers which you can call to access cheats to help you. After the first time you enter these you get your own "cheats" option to browse through and choose the ones that are needed. These cheats are pretty much the only way to finish the story mode or better yet have fun playing the game.Most of the games jobs revolve around Niko doing odd jobs for the characters in the game, as it progresses the missions gradually diversify as well. Sooner or later the player will realize that the missions mainly involve driving to certain locations so driving skills will have to be improved if you don’t want to redo missions over and over again.
This becomes a bit annoying at first but its easy to get used to it. The bulk of the mission involve shooting down foes, there's an auto shooting feature which makes it easy enough and gives the player the ability to target different parts of the enemy’s body. New to the series is the cover system which allows Niko to conceal himself and target enemies safely. At times when there are way too enemies attacking this is becomes very handy but due to the simple nature of combat odds are you wont need to use it much often. Hand to hand combat is pretty much the same albeit a few extra moves, its just more simple to shoot down opponents. Killing every person you see is fun but it has its downsides as your wanted level starts to increase, committing crimes in GTA IV is a lot more sensitive than in previous games as killing even one person is likely to spark cops to chase you. The easy way to get rid of them is by using the cheat option while the actual way is to lose them on your radar, the higher the wanted level goes the wider the radius becomes as well. You can lose the cops by painting your car a different color unless the police sees you going in.
Adding to the realism in the game is the choices that the player has this time, at crucial story points Niko has the option to either kill his enemy or reprimand him. The basis of the story forms due to these choices so what you choose to do is very important and it also adds to the replay value as the player would want to see what the scenario would have been had they chosen the alternative choice. Of course these features are mostly used when playing through the story line. Most gamers usually play GTA games just for the fun of the open world at their disposal. So when you’re not blowing peoples brains out you can go to a comedy show to watch Ricky Gervais make his inappropriate jokes about cancer kids or you could go bowling, helicopter or boat riding, to the strip club or for a bite to eat in the multiple restaurants available in the city with your friends. To kill time the player can either choose to go to the TW@ internet café and check their email or if you’re crazy enough, browse through the highly detailed websites which pretty much sum up what the type of people Liberty City has. Whereas previous games in the series frequently used public telephones to relay missions to the player, in GTA IV a "Whiz"-brand mobile phone is used. It has several uses, including viewing text messages and appointments, arranging to meet friends for activities, and also for choosing to retry failed missions. The player can also take photos for certain missions, and call 911 to summon the emergency services. The police will arrest felons, and paramedics are able to restore Niko's health. You even have the option of dating in GTA IV, it’s a good way to polish off your dating skills for your real life (That’s just a joke by the way). You can do pretty much the same thing with your dates as with friends with added bonus of getting “lucky” at the end of it, while its fun at first interacting with these people in basically the same way will prove to be boring eventually in the long run but its fun while it lasts.
A variety of cars are available for the player in the game, but the easiest and most convenient way to get to the destination is by taking the taxi which will get you there in literally a second. A weird glitch present since GTA III is when you acquire a certain car and as soon as you drive about two blocks you’ll notice a bunch of the exact same model in every street, this isn’t necessarily a problem but getting your hands on the most luxurious sports car wont make you feel like royalty. The multiplayer mode can be found in Niko’s phone and is one of the most fun part of the game with 15 modes of play available, the best feature being the Deathmatch in which the player will be dropped in Liberty city along with numerous weapons scattered around everywhere which have to be used to kill the other players around or you could just run them over with the car you drive. There are objective-based games in which you're tasked with completing missions similar to those in the single-player game: a team-based Cops 'n Crooks mode, a Turf War mode in which teams compete for control of territories, a carjacking mode, three cooperative missions. All of these modes ensure that you’ll continue to play the game long after finishing the story which itself would take more than 30 hours in the first playthrough.
The GTA series has never had great graphics perhaps as compensation for the huge cities or features included. GTA IV’s graphics while easily the best ones in the series aren’t all that great compared to other games. The lighting is the worst part because it just is way too dark in the evening times or when its cloudy, even when it’s sunny the shadows from the buildings block your view. In game the game is pretty sharp but the cutscenes are bit jaggy, voice acting is top notch with special praise for the voice work of Niko whose emotional pieces had to be done with careful consideration and were delivered extremely well. The other voice actors also did a commendable job to make the story much more enjoyable.
Liberty City definitely comes to life in Grand Theft Auto IV making it another great entry in the controversial yet extremely fun franchise. There's a lot of stuff to do to keep the players happy for about 40-50 hours in the single player mode while the multiplayer adds many more. It’s a great game for any gamer should have and deserves to be in your collection and makes everyone anticipate the next entry even more than before.