Grand Theft Auto 4

2008-12-07 21:54:08

Grand Theft Auto 4 (Xbox360)

Ah the life of a criminal, how romantically retold through the eyes of modern day artforms like Rap, R&B, Games, and Television. You almost never see or hear of these criminal elements going to jail, mostly because Jail isn't fun. For those players who are returning players from the older GTA games, you'll find this one has a slightly different flavor. GTA series is still a fairly young series but we will find inside 4, the most beautiful storyline Rockstar has put together to date.

In the GTA lineage we have GTA the original, a top down cartoon colored game of wanton violence and car theft. Storyline was secondary to the enjoyment of the title, and many people just played short bursts of crazed violence, which may explain why the community of GTA is so lacking, but I'll touch on that in a bit. GTA 2 brought some better rendered top down cartoon action, with a bit more depth. It wasn't until GTA3 and the subsequent titles built on 3's engine that we really got a treat.

GTA3 built a game world around a thug freshly broken out of a paddy wagon, working his way into the confidence of Italian Mobsters. Truth be told I played this edition on the PC and it was the only GTA in recent times that I found enjoyable. The story was rich, and physics were fun to mess with, but in the end, there was always something to do for the crime bosses. GTA:Vice City brought us a GTA painted up in the colors of Miami Vice 80's throwback, and while there were moments of entertainment to be had in Vice City, most of my problems came from poor control interface on the PS2. Aiming and shooting were not very accurate, sniping with the sniper rifle I could never get a headshot with because a tap in any direction would move you 6 inches off from where you were aiming before, so if you were unlucky enough to have a bead on a sholder, you'd never get the headshot lined up. Just piss poor controls even with the analog stick. GTA San Andreas was heralded by the community as the best GTA prior to 4. I haven't had a chance to play that title yet, but the hype has me curious. I know you play a gang banger in the California scene, and you have to deal with Girlfriends and exercise minigames. Other than that there are airplanes and other things to work with in GTA:San Andreas. Now that we got that out of the way, let's move on to GTA4, the latest from Rockstar.

GTA4 starts you off with a cinematic montage of a boat coming into Liberty City, the GTA analogue for New York City. It is here that we meet Nico for the first, time, and find that he is a old Soviet coming to visit his cousin Roman and enjoy the life of luxury Roman has been telling everyone back home about. Roman shows up, there is an exchange of russian, then a switch to english(the russian throughout the game is not subtitled, so it's possible Russian speakers might get more enjoyment out of some of the scenes. This becomes your first experience with the driving controls of GTA4, Something that I've heard most players complain as driving "on streets greased down with the bukkake of everyone in the city." I did find the game initially a bit difficult, and I think part of the problem was the starting vehicle you are handed, that car has next to no cornering or acceleration, it is a taxi cab. So there is a lot of stopping or going incredibly slow, which may infuriate many GTA players used to the Arcade "realism what is that?" metric of previous titles. GTA4 takes driving very seriously, and as such the cars handle as you'd expect a real car to, though once again this is one of those games that might have benefitted from a speedometer to help the player gauge how to treat a corner. It's really hard to ask a player to drive in a realistic driving simulator and take away their speedometer, which would tell them they are going way too fast to turn..

Also it may be good to note, that this is NEW YORK CITY in essence, so traffic is always horrible in NYC so the opportunities to blast through traffic with ease is almost 0, until the end game. The game's getaway sequences are intense because of this, as you have to try to avoid your car turning into crushed car shrapnel. The storyline is a very down to earth tale of Nico's quest for revenge, people being doublecrossed, and Nico in the middle of it all, a finger in every gangs' pie. You work for the Russians, the Italians, the Irish, and the African American Gangs, while also taking missions for the Fed, and the Police. There isn't a corrupt organization you can't work for.

In addition to the storyline, the game features other things to keep you deeply immersed. You have an apartment, that you can walk into and watch TV, which has 5-6 stations, and the Cellphone. Here's where things start to wear thin in GTA4 however. The Cellphone, while having the advantage of being able to ring your friends and take advantage of their expertises, or just call them to hang out, they can do the same. Towards the end of the game your phone rings off the hook, everyone wants a piece of you, whether it's your girlfriend complaining how you never call, your cousin who wants to look at "big american TiTees" or Jacob wanting you to come get drunk with him. You will always be harassed, and if you are in the middle of something or don't feel up to it, you get penalized for not hanging out with that friend. While this is semi-realistic, I don't think the player should get penalized if Jacob wants to play some pool while you're in the middle of a high speed getaway from 5 star wanted level cops. There is a time and a place for everything, and friends need to be a little more understanding at times you know? So the phone is a blessing and a curse, and it's used pretty well, even the camera phone features of the 2nd phone you get in game get used. You can also set your own ringtone and backgrounds from the internet. That's right, I just said it, your character can surf his own version of the internet and respond to emails while in game, keep in mind this isn't the real internet, merely a dolled up set of 5-6 websites built ingame for a purpose. Also worth complaining about is the Music Stations, while there is more channels to choose from in Liberty City, the number of songs/NPR style broadcasts were cut down from previous games, meaning after a few hours of gameplay, you've already heard everything that will ever get played on those stations. making the Radio worthless towards end game for amusement.

Reason Rank
Start 10
Real Car Physics +2
Music stations lack of content -3
Music and Club performances are quality +2
Voice Acting and Stoyline are amazing +5
Overuse of Friendship gimmicks -4
Saint's row has a better Car garage mechanic -3


The game gets a 9/10 from me, It is a game with hours upon hours of available gameplay, and while the original breaking in period of the game can be a bit of a steep learning curve, players willing to put up with that will receive an incredible experience. However given the communities view of GTA series(Told you I'd get here eventually) as a crazed out kill everything that moves murder simulator using cheats for all guns and the best car and not caring about the actual story, some people might miss out on the actual diamond by taking a giant shit on top of it..