Game Reviews
GTA IV Review – Bad Ass Russians FTW!

On April 29th, 2008, a new bar had been set for the way we play video games. With the release of Grand Theft Auto IV (360/PS3), the sandbox genre has evolved yet again. The game has been out for a bit now, and I am sure most everybody has at least tried it out, but just in case there are those three or four guys who decided not to pick up the game…I will keep this review generally spoiler-free. So lets get started, and prepare to be introduced to your new home, Liberty City.

Let me just start off by saying that this game is huge. Everything from its budget (around an estimated one-hundred million dollars to produce), its scale (Liberty City feels just as huge as New York), and even the sales are huge (it sold 3.6 million copies in the first day, and 6 million in the first week). The game easily became the quickest selling piece of entertainment in history. This is for good reason too, because everybody can find something they enjoy about the GTA series, whether it be the interesting storytelling or just wreaking havoc on the poor citizens.

In the fourth installment, you play as ex-Russian soldier, Niko Bellic. Now, Niko is a man you really feel for from the start of the game. He is in Liberty City looking for new opportunities, find an old rival, and live a supposed “high-life” that his cousin, Roman, speaks of. Upon arriving in the city, he learns that his cousin is quite the liar, and that he needs to make money by any means necessary if he’s going to complete his quest. Many people have complained about the game starting out too slow. I really do not see what the problem is, because the first few hours you are spent going to various landmarks, and checking out internet cafes and learning your way around the city. I thought it was implemented very well as a tutorial of knowing your surroundings, because soon after you are thrown into some pretty crazy missions.

GTA IV is next-gen in every sense of the word. As Niko walks around the town, you start to feel that you are in, excuse the cliche`, a living, breathing city. These NPCs (Non-Playable Characters), don’t feel like they were “copy and pasted,” they actually seem to live their lives. They get into car accidents, fights, and often get arrested. In many other games, it feels like the world is revolving around your character, but with this game you feel as if you are just as insignificant as everyone else – the overwhelming feeling was captured brilliantly. Apart from the occasional glitch, the physics are astonishing. Every car handles differently; a big clunky car goes slower and turns wider, a sleek car (such as the Turismo) goes extremely fast, turns on a dime, but is generally hard to find in the city. You really start to take into consideration what kind of car you are stealing when being chased by the cops, because getting into the wrong car can make or break a getaway. I was really pleased with the way the cars take damage in the game as well. If you’re right tire gets blown out the car will veer to the right and if you beat the car up enough it will have trouble starting. These touches are wonderful, and make the level of realism that much better. Speaking of realism, it was pretty neat that not once in the game do you see a menu screen, everything in the menu is done through the use of Niko’s cell phone.

It is rather easy for any type of gamer, casual or hardcore, to get sucked into this game. This is due mainly to the fact that it feels like an interactive movie. It is funny I am saying this, because I have never been a huge fan of the stories in GTA. In fact I never even got halfway through the story in any of the previous GTAs. The reason for that was that I would get preoccupied with blowing stuff up. In GTA IV, I felt compelled to go through the story, and focus more on the task at hand rather than just screw around. The reason the story feels so rewarding is the interesting cast of characters Niko meets. One of my favorite characters in the game, Packie, is the most funny, sex-crazed lunatic you run into. Until you meet him, the missions are pretty luke-warm, but he definitely spices things up. You go from just stealing cars, and making deliveries to actually robbing a bank, and then finding a way of escaping the cop-ridden streets. This is the first mission that will have you on edge with your adrenaline pumping, and from there things just get better as the story progresses. The voice acting is top notch, and extremely believable. Mike Hollick dons the role of Niko Bellic, and he does better acting than a lot of actors I have seen in actual movies. The supporting cast does a great job at bringing their characters to life as well. You begin to actually care about these people you are saving or helping out.

The audio is fantastic, from little nuances like people having conversations on the sidewalk to the infamous radio stations. Most notably the talk radio stations are hilarious. Laslow is back with some funny conversations with callers. I found myself, actually taking a break from missions, and just parking a car and listening to what the talk radio stations had to offer. The same goes to television in Niko’s many apartments. The player can just sit down and watch one of the shows, and find that they wasted twenty minutes watching TV in a game! I think its just Rockstars good mixture of clever and immature humor that makes us watch/listen to these little extras in the game.

I have gone on about the good, now it is time to hear the bad. As flawless as the game seems, there really are some major issues with some of the combat. Using cover is usually pretty useful, but here it just feels a bit too clunky and tacked-on to serve a whole lot of use. I was finding myself getting stuck to walls that I didn’t want to, and I would end up getting mowed down by an enemy. Nothing is more annoying than a game mechanic working against you! Another thing that may upset some gamers is that the game mechanics have not changed one bit, in most cases. It is still, drive here, pick up this person, shoot these enemies, get a package back to safety, etc. So if you were never a fan of the original GTA games, this one may not actually convert you. Those seem to be the biggest flaws with the game, which is really impressive considering how big the game is and how many places the developers could of gone wrong. Otherwise it was executed wonderfully.

One of the better additions to the series is the multiplayer modes. You and fifteen friends can just run around Liberty City causing damage, stealing cars, or pissing off the fuzz. Although it might seem like a no-brainer in a game thats pits you against the law, Cops n’ Crooks which has the Crook team trying to get to an extraction point, while the Cops try and take them down, is a nice variation. There is your average Team Deathmatch and Turf War (King of the Hill). You can also race with your friends, while shooting at eachother, so think Twisted Metal meets GTA.

This really is one of the must-have games of ’08. From the cutting edge graphics to the freedom of the sandbox genre, it has something for everybody. The great thing about a game like this is that it has raised the bar quite high, which in turn will make other developers try and improve on the formula and make an even better game. The competitiveness of the game industry means good things for all consumers. The game is going to last you a good while. The story took me roughly around thirty-three hours to complete, and that was with alot of fooling around, pissing off cops, picking up hookers, etc. Most of the replayability of the game comes from all the fun to be had after the story is complete. If you are a PS3 or 360 owner, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up and spend the next few months exploring Liberty City. Word of caution for you…bring protection, you never can trust the hookers in that place.

Eric Lee
Eric Lee

Can you tell me who did your layout? I've been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.


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