Reviewed: May 10, 2008
Released: April 29, 2008
Everyone knows about Grand Theft Auto and the recent release of GTA IV, after all if youíre reading this you have some interest one way or another. Grand Theft Auto IV is probably the biggest game release of 2008 and it is one of the hottest games, according to everyone else.
Like my esteemed colleague at Game Chronicles I choose to disagree with the many reviewers and go against the grain. Grand Theft Auto IV is not the perfect game and not even that close, it has its flaws in graphical issues as well as gameplay problems. I will be skimming over some areas of the game as there are so many reviews out that praising the same things over and over again will be meaningless.
Grand Theft Auto IV does some things really well and takes things for granted in other areas but overall itís a great game, just not perfect as the ratings would have you believe. If you have never played any Grand Theft Auto game before, join the club, this is the first one I have even laid eyes on. If someone doesnít like my review they can just read the review and see if they donít agree at least in part, after all, nothing is perfect.
For the first two missions you are pretty much in a cut scene doing the bidding of your cousin until you get his phone. Actually many of the missions in the first part of the game seem pretty much like a cut scene that you have to keep up with or you fail the mission. I am not complaining that the missions are too hard, they are hard enough to make them difficult to the point of having to attempt some a few times before completing them but they are so very linear.
The main story is a series of missions tied together in a line along the basis of crime fighting gone gangsters but you can do missions out of sequence and at random. Missions are very open yet very linear, some let you complete a mission however you want but others have too strict a scripting to leave much open ended gameplay.
For instance if you have to stop someone from getting away it means a simple chase and if you spend too much time getting into a vehicle, getting through a door or anything that costs precious seconds you will lose them. This linear way to accomplish missions does not coincide with the totally open or almost totally open sandbox environment.
The sandbox environment is not exactly a real open one, during the first several missions you cannot leave the one island and travel to the others until a mission lets you. If you try even using cheats to get vehicles like the helicopter police will chase you until they kill you. Police during regular chases will try to arrest you crooks but when you are being chased for leaving the island they will shoot to kill, sounds like a penal colony to me. When you respawn at a hospital and have to start over getting new weapons the cops will have taken some money as a bribe, instead of you getting jailed, so much for justice.
In one mission toward the beginning you have to kill two people, one is no problem but the other will run away. This is not because you are not fast enough on the draw but because you cannot hit both, itís in the game script. You have to chase one down and kill him from the car so you better be fast with the chase and getting into that vehicle.
There is no other way to ambush them or take them both at the same time by using a bigger, better gun; whoever said this was an open ended sandbox game is wrong. In between missions you can roam around the first island all you want but you cannot leave it till you are part way through. Once you reach a certain point you can go further from your own neighborhood but you are still restricted in where you can roam.
Some of the missions involve dating or doing day to day things that everyone does like spending time with friends and the game will reflect this by your friendship becoming stronger. This allows more loyalty with these people and will affect how they help you in missions as well as how they do things with and for you later on in the campaign.
Some activities are going to dinner with them or taking a date bowling, you know the regular things you do when you arenít sitting at your console. These mini games are just what they sound like and work well enough but are more a way to add everyday aspects to the general overall gaming involved.
Talking to others during a mission or regular downtime as a general control scheme doesnít work out very well as you can be talking to someone with your head toward them and they are six paces behind you talking to their side with you way up front. This occurs the first time on a date with a person called Michelle and occurs often with others. Inconsistencies like this make a game not perfect and they are all over the place with the controls and how you move your character that does affect your gameplay.
Going from one action to another is terrible for the most part like running and then trying to punch or shoot, it is just really hard and often can fail a mission as you miss important things while trying to switch actions. Third person stuff should be easier to accomplish and not so difficult just like shooting two people who are both standing within twenty feet of you. You should be able to swivel from one to the next with the same weapon easily but the game just doesnít allow it for the one situation.
The gameplay in general is very good and there is are a ton of things to do even if you donít want to follow the missions, but what exactly does all this extra searching actually get you. The missions will unlock certain things in the game like better vehicles and weapons as well as areas you cannot get to but if you donít do missions than what can you do.
You can drive around and push people around or chase and be chased by cops but this will get old pretty quick. The police will chase you but it takes something pretty drastic like running someone over right in front of a cop in order for them to start a chase during the non mission times. Once the police do chase you it is fairly easy to get them to disengage from the chase by getting out of the chase circle but if you try to go where they donít want you then it is impossible.
Other than driving around in cool cars there is other things to do but it is not a main part of the game and does not work all that well. Things like playing pool, dating, going out with friends are all decent and work but this is not a Sim game so they left out any real quality control schemes for it. These side things to do in an environment that is mostly the streets and a few dozen indoor places like some restaurants, bars and a few stores mean you have plenty of streets to drive around in and places to run around but not much else.
You do need to get somewhere in the game if you donít want to spend a lot of time respawning at the hospital as you may end up getting into a lot of fights walking around. Liberty City is a rough place, much rougher than any real world city and people are very apt to take a slight shove a bit too personal and try to kill you for it.
Many of the people on the streets will fight just for being bumped or jostled and you can actually see some areas and groups of people to avoid. This usually ends up with you either defending yourself successfully by beating the tar out of the other guy or getting beat up yourself. But be careful who you pick on as many bystanders are parts of gangs or organized groups and you can suddenly find yourself in the middle of a firefight just by bumping into someone.
The missions will take quite a while to play through and there is plenty of variety, gangland style, to them so there is plenty here for any would be thug. The multiplayer works pretty decently but again itís all been done before and then some just in various other games. You have your team deathmatch and deathmatch using the areas in Liberty City as well as a couple of racing games and even a few others that are a bit different.
The multiplayer adds plenty to the Grand Theft Auto gaming and does a really good job to add some different gameplay and fun online shoot outs and races. I had no problems getting online or playing against others in several of the games so there really are no server issues and there are plenty of people playing at lots of times during the day and on weekends.
There are about a dozen different multiplayer types you can play and the games are as varied online as the missions are in the single player. You have games like the simple deathmatch and other larger games like Turf War that is a large territory fight just like it sounds. Some of the types are cops and robbers much like some Swat games and you have the coop play to complete the multiplayer missions as well.
With all there is to do in either section, the multiplayer or single player, there is enough to keep anyone busy for days but with both this is truly a great game. I think it is safe to say that with the huge popularity of GTA IV there will be loads of people playing in the multiplayer sections.
Even in train tunnels there is stuff; bums around a barrel fire and a cool way to escape police, oops I really did not mean to drive on tracks but getting away from cops was number one priority, not the road. There is definitely plenty to see in Grand Theft Auto 4 and you can find all kinds of stuff even in the most unlikely places.
They have done a great job of keeping things realistic and dirty looking but the graphics do have some issues like what one reviewer termed pop-ins. This is where things that are merely ten feet away suddenly spring to existence in front of you due to bad graphics or scripting. They should have come into view much sooner but the games engine could not handle everything so it forgets some things that are right in front of you. This happens often but is not that bad, just one other annoying thing I noticed.
Other graphical glitches like low frame rates on occasion or goofy looking things happening when you do things that add a lot for the game engine to handle at once like crashing into a bunch of stuff and suddenly that car has merged with that building. These sorts of things are going to be impossible to get rid of in games totally and you will find them to some extent in just about every game and you will find them in GTA IV as well.
The textures are really good and effects look almost realistic but I have seen better things in gaming on other consoles and in other games. I was not blown out of the water or had to go fetch my socks from the other side of the room as the graphics were great but not perfect.
Voice acting was splendid and the music was pretty varied with plenty to choose from and the sound effects work rather well. The voice acting was great with plenty of varied actors and even the passerby that would normally have gotten a standard scripted saying from one of a dozen or so is from a much larger list in Grand Theft Auto IV. Very few times do you hear the same exact thing from a person nearby that is just one of the hundreds of people going about their business in Liberty City which is a refreshing change for a game.
The radio is one area that was great in the way that if you really get tired you can just switch the radio stations and listen to a dozen or so other songs. There are a total of over 200 songs in a variety of genres and eras so there will be no complaints about variety. Each radio station plays a different type of music and there are even commercials and talk stations to add that realistic touch to this area.
The usual sound effects did work very well and there was no problems in any area of the audio and sound, one major attraction though is the variety and amount of music in the game which is fantastic.
There is no real trouble here with value and if you enjoy the Grand Theft Auto world and any games like it you can be playing this game till the next one comes out. There is so much to do here if you enjoy doing the kinds of things they have added. There are in game internets and sites you can visit and all kinds of other legal stuff like going on real dates and going out with the friends that also help in your missions.
Aside from the fact that some of this is kind of in game side stuff is required in the game to foster friendships if not comradeship with fellow gangsters some of it is fun. But you can only do some of the same stuff so long so the multiplayer and missions will be a mainstay of the enjoyment in Grand Theft Auto IV.
There is something like 90 missions in the game for main ones and several side missions so there is plenty to do with your characters in the single player. Some of the missions will last for days so you can take on multiple missions at the same time and still keep things straight with your cell phone and messages. With the fifteen multiplayer types there is also plenty to do if your thing is online but some of these are not as exciting or awe inspiring as some would have you believe.
Grand Theft Auto IV is not the greatest game out there but does play very well and is really a very good game, even outstanding. But there are issues with controls, gameplay and graphics and if you donít think so then why did they patch it. The control issues are ones that are common to the consoles as a mouse and joystick would probably be better in first person and even some third person gaming. Some of the issues are particular to this game and I have read some other comments just like the problems I have seen.
Grand Theft Auto IV is a game worth playing but it is not as open ended and sand box environment until you get further into the game and unlock the rest of the islands. The games missions are fun and can be done in a variety of ways but mostly you have to fast on the draw and quicker to knock some heads to get anywhere in Liberty City.
I do think the games deserves at least an 8 out of 10 or 80 percent but I also think that a perfect game is not going to be had for something as complex as this. I think Grand Theft Auto has taken on a life of its own and for some giving it anything but the highest praise would be sacrilege, but oh well, I think itís just a game, but a good one.