Thursday, May 22, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV, Believe It!

I’ve been a casual fan of the series. While I had some playtime with the first two games during their initial release, they never really caught my attention. And then Grand Theft Auto III came along and basically invented the sandbox genre. Being able to explore the world freely and ignore missions or story events was what made the game so fun. While I played and enjoyed GTAIII, the subsequent games felt like more of the same. It didn’t feel like there was much innovation going on in the series, despite the continued improvements with each sequel. As hype continued to build for its debut on the current generation of consoles on the Xbox 360 and PS3, there was speculation that Grand Theft Auto IV wouldn’t be able to live up to its expectations. With critics giving the game nothing but positive reviews and even perfect scores, there isn’t any question that GTAIV is a good game. If the sales are any indication of consumer reaction, I don’t think anyone needs convincing. After finally getting in some solid game time with the game and story, I can definitely say it warrants the hype.

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? The biggest thing I took away from GTAIV is the sheer expansiveness and scope of the game. Featuring a redesigned version of the NYC-inspired Liberty City, the map is huge. There is so much to do and to see, be it going inside diners, visiting various entertainment spots, driving around, or even watching TV in your own apartment. It truly feels like a living, open world. The actual gameplay itself feels much more inspired and improved than in previous games. The different car physics, improved combat system, new cell phone hub, and multiplayer modes are only a handful of features that make the game so great. It still looks and feels like GTA, but all of the little things add up to make the experience so amazing.

The green/blue circle around your radar indicates your health/armor, while the illuminated area indicates the new police search radius.

The storyline is truly enthralling. Focusing on recent immigrant Niko Bellic, he meets up his cousin Roman and gets quickly involved in his affairs. As you learn of Niko’s reason for coming to America, things quickly pick up. With a new morality system, this allows for even more freedom and two possible endings. The voice acting is top-notch, featuring characters of different ethnicities and authentic, believable portrayals that make you interested in them. The cell phone hub allows you to easily contact people you’ve met along the way, taking jobs, reading text messages, or even going out on dates. Used as the main communication feature, it allows you control the storyline more easily and choose when you wish to move on. With such a seamless and fantastic mix of both gameplay and plot, it will be hard to decide when to play the story or just have fun in Liberty City.

If there were any lingering doubts about Grand Theft Auto IV, then they should be shed now. If you weren’t a fan of the previous games, then this one may or may not change your mind. Even if the series hasn’t been your cup of tea, it’s worth experiencing. Although GTA has received a reputation of being about stealing cars, killing hookers, and constant violence, GTAIV is what you make of it. With a moral system integrated throughout the game, it allows you to play how you want to. And with the ability to play online with friends in multiple modes or just explore the map together, Grand Theft Auto IV deserves to be checked out.

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Bobby,  May 24, 2008 at 12:02 PM  

Argh! I leave to come back home and what do you do? Go and buy GTA IV! Oh well...David has it, so I guess I'll check it out over there.

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