GTA IV review

Posted in Game Reviews on July 22nd, 2009 by samuraisam

I have played GTA (or Grand Theft Auto as it used to be called) since its earliest incarnations, I have played just about ever iteration of the series. Although I have not completed every single title, I have played them enough to get the grasp of what each one is about.

I initially started playing GTA IV on Xbox 360 and eventually ended up restarting the entire game once it was released on PC. Trust me when I say the PC version is superior in just about every conceivable manner.

I played GTA IV until I had completed approximately 55% of the game (having unlocked all the islands), at this point I grew bored and let the game sit around for some time. I have recently started playing it again and have completed it.

Immersion
One thing the game does right is immersion. Aside from a graphics point of view, the city is built well, it breathes, the people talk, the drivers shout and it is an interesting place to explore. However I do wish it were a little more like the first level of Half Life 2 (where you throw a can at a policeman and get humorously chased), everyone in the GTA world seems to act a bit too seriously in this game.

The range of cars is ok, but the more interesting vehicles of past games are gone (i.e. the tank); the motorcycles are just plain badass and that’s all there really is to say on the subject.

Multiplayer
One of the most anticipated features for me of the game was multiplayer, and it lived up to my expections to a certain point, however, Rockstar was too cheap to get a proper anti-cheat system going and the game was ruined in part due to this.

Multiplayer with a friend is well worth it–randomly wandering the city and performing stupid stunts is something you can do till the early hours of the morning.

Arcade heaven
One thing that is notably absent from GTA IV is the arcade feel of previous titles – specifically GTA 3 – that once provided the player with added bursts of adrenaline, the game has undeniably harsh veneer, and as the first in the series to explore eastern European criminals it is certainly a very different direction.. Power-ups and free guns were stashed randomly across the map, however in GTA IV it is near impossible to find random power-ups scattered, there are some such as health kits and the very rare weapon or two strewn across the entire game world however it is definitely a vast change from previous titles.

The game seems to split from its linear story-line every now and then and provides the player with the option to kill or save someone–this has literally little or no bearing on the rest of the story. In fact the most it can result in is a few extra perks that don’t really do much. One of the deaths during the finale of the game is however decided during one of these ‘decision moments’. They are ineffective in challenging the player and in my case confused me as I’d never encountered the choice before in a GTA game.

To be honest I fired up my steam browser and looked up a walkthrough of the game each time because I was so worried as to how drastically it might affect the game, it is also so unexpected in a GTA game that it is actually a bad decision.

This is probably the weakest point in the game–it is trying to be something that it is not. GTA is supposed to be telling me the story and not trying to get me to help tell the story.

I’m not speaking Chinese here; arcade = fun, GTA IV = serious. I wouldn’t say that the move to ‘serious’ is all bad, the game does have a bit more of a dramatic side, however the audience you’d expect for GTA style games probably wouldn’t even give a crap about this.

Too good
Despite the game’s nonlinear wishes, it is anything but, it punishes you for being imaginative or ‘too good’ (more on that in a second); the main problem is that the missions are too easy, they’re not really challenging–the main challenge lays in you getting highly inappropriate cars, such as the Cognoscenti (Maybach if you want to use proper brand names) to chase a Huntley Sport (Range Rover) in the finale of the game–while you’re busy slipping and sliding around trying desperately to keep up the Huntley is able to weave in and out of traffic with ease, at one point you need to do swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic which is nigh on impossible due to the clumsy handling of the Cognoscenti. In a game where the sole purpose of the game is being able to steal whatever car you desire it is a severe handicap to be forced to use a crappy car.

Rather than the game focusing on being truely innovative it is just ‘sneaky’ in my opinion.

Back to my point about being ‘too good’; there are some instances within the game where you are pursuing a target and you manage to utterly and totally shoot the shit out of them (I’m talking empty clip upon clip dead on target at them) yet the game ignores this damage instead forcing you to chase the suspect for as long as the story requires. If I can shoot better than the game expects me to, why should I be punished, indeed why should I actually even have to shoot the suspect when there is no requirement? Instead the game is just teasing me and wasting my time once again.

Look at this particular example, I shoot the rocket launcher and I HIT the target, yet he magically keeps on going on.

You might ask yourself “well you’re not supposed to know that he’s going to drive off in a boat at that point in the game are you?”, actually I knew the first time, I anticipated this and threw grenade towards him and he flew away in a boat apparently taking no damage. Absolute bullshit.

Not only did I shoot his boat with an RPG, I also successfully shot literally directly at him with an RPG with absolutely no effect (later on I aimed at him as he was escaping in his stupid boat and his health was shown as full)

Despite this, Pegorino was bought down by a mere few bullets in the finale of the game. This was intensely frustrating given how long I spent trying to shoot at him on his stupid boat, and as he also ran away from me on foot. I didn’t even watch the ending sequence I was so convinced that he wouldn’t have actually died. As an ending to the game it was pretty lacklustre and I just didn’t feel it. It’s important to note that I wasn’t actually aware this was the end of the game–though I had heard about this referred to as the ‘mission with that stupid part with the helicopter’ it was never known to me to be the ending.

Tactics such as these (ignoring the player) are definitely cheap in my books; either make it a non-playable sequence or let me be as good as I am going to be.

(I recorded these using the in-game video editor, which is a nice PC only feature)

Dating bullshit
Repeating the mistakes of San Andreas, GTA IV constantly hassles you to take people on dates or other social events. I already have people in real life I’d much rather socialize with, I’m playing GTA to relax and have some fun, instead the game constantly frustrates the player with some stupid Rasta idiot constantly calling you and hassling you to come for dinner, or that stupid bastard Roman hassling you about titties.
I don’t know about what they want to do and quite frankly I don’t care–however if I choose to decline a social invitation I get some kind of negative rap for refusal that is kept tab of in the in-game stats.
Does it matter? No. So who gives a crap. Why is this crap even in the game?
There are a variety of ‘socially’ oriented places in the game such as strip club, snooker, bar, restaurant, comedy club, bowling etc. Yet none of these really offer any real entertainment in my opinion and are mere filler, I would have preferred some more interesting things in the game such as more guns…

Guns and Bullets
The guns in the game aren’t as wide as I was expecting; there are 2 variations of most classes in the game (Pistol, SMG, Shotgun, Assault Rifle, Sniper Rifle, Grenade). The M4A1 has lost most of its power since previous version of GTA and in GTA IV the MP10 SMG is the single most powerful and versatile gun.

As a game GTA IV is much easier on a computer due to the usage of a mouse and most enemies are actually very easily defeated. Sadly the lackluster range of weaponry in GTA IV is a real letdown. Although for most urban battle situations you could conjure up in your mind the weapons would suffice, it would be nice to have some more varied weaponry.

Timing
Time in GTA has always been an important factor in the series, this is heightened even more in GTA IV; however there are some instances where it doesn’t make any sense…
It’s the middle of the night and I get a call from Roman,

“hey Niko come to my wedding tomorrow at 10 AM”

Sure. It’s dark now. So it must be around 10PM.
So I continue getting calls from more annoying characters in the game and eventually I have to go and pick up some Irish woman (Kate) who I really don’t care about, Niko and her get talking in the car and completely out of my control Kate falls in love with Niko or something to that effect.

I drive around and finally get to the church
at 1PM
What was the point in even mentioning the time 10 AM if it had absolutely no bearing on what time I should have arrived at the wedding?

Other times in the game you will be given a specific appointment time which is added to your mobile phone, if you’re too late for the appointment you fail.
It’s like make up your fucking mind, does the time matter in the game or not?
All in all the presence of time in this capacity is really nothing more than an annoyance, in short, it is frustrating to keep track of time in the game.

Sound
Sadly whilst the quality of sound is high it is disappointing that dialogue comes through the center channel on a 5.1 setup, this is more typical of hollywood movies in my opinion and doesn’t belong in games. It’s nice to drive and hear someone shout from behind the car, otherwise the usage of positional sound have limited value within the game.

Overall, this is a very difficult game to rank, whilst the immersion, and gameplay are up there, the storyline, whilst interesting from a content point of view, is held back by its attempt at a more non-linear manner.

I rate this game:

7.8/10

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