View Full Version : Review: Grand Theft Auto 4

05-06-2008, 07:24 AM
Grand Theft Auto IV. A small game made by some nobody-games company from Scotland, “Rock Lobster Games” or something. I dunno, the lead designer has name like Hoser. Or something.

But seriously, what do you want me to say? It's GTA IV. Although it's still early, this could be the biggest release of 2008. The hype around this game has been massive with rave reviews from all over the globe. I presume you still want to know what I thought of it, or you wouldn't have read this sentence. Very well, I shan't keep you on tenterhooks any longer.

I've made my feelings clear on the forums, but for those of you who missed it, I LOVE GTA IV. I just want to get that clear from the outset. It's one of the most important, and best, games of recent years. Lets take a look at why this is the case.

In case you didn't know, the game revolves around one Niko Bellic, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, hoping to start a new, and hopefully less morally ambiguous, life in America, wooed over by his cousin Roman's tales of fast money, women, cars and the general high life of a profitable capitalist. You don't need me to tell that this turns out not to be the case, with the fan and the brown stuff quickly coming into alignment, and Niko must go back to the ways for which the GTA series is famed.

Those (in)famous gameplay elements from previous iterations are all present and accounted for. Senseless violence, check. Prostitution, check. Lazlow, check. Don't come to Liberty City expecting a revolution. Come for the revision and refinement, because a more playable GTA you will not find. Targeting is massively improved, as is car handling, while initially fiddly and annoying is much less arcadey than previous games and requires and good deal more skill and dedication if you are to completely master the handbrake. A moment to talk about weapons targeting. Lock on is based around that found in San Andreas,and it is now easier to switch between free aim and lock on, and between enemies when locked on. It is still GTA aiming, and so retains some clunkyness, but it is still much less than before. I never had a problem with GTA aiming, so I could only notice a minor improvement, but it is still noticeable. This improvement and development of ideas which established GTA as a stalwart of the industry remains the same for everything in GTA IV, from mission structure to pedestrians. massive overhauls you will not find, rather subtle tweakings and improvements of an already great game.

As such, the core mechanics remain largely unchanged from previous outings . Improved, but essentially the same. Where GTA IV really shines is how it ties all these familiar concepts together in new and original ways. It's the little things, as they say, that count. And here, the 'little things' are what many games would make out as main features. The in-game Internet, the integration of the phone, the socialising, the Euphoria engine, and simply the way that everything in the game works together to create the most realistic and believable digital city to date. Liberty City, for the first time, feels inhabited by people, not polygonal representations of people.

Now the bad stuff. Yeah, I know I basically just said that global warming is no longer an issue because GTA IV has given a big 'F-U' to physics and created perpetual motion, but there are negatives. As I have noted elsewhere, pop-up on the Xbox 360 version is quite a big issue. It has never been game-breaking (except for once, when I got a 'Disc Unreadable' error. That was probably more due to my Xbox being a former RROD patient though), just distracting. Normally, I would be able to look past this, but when the rest of the game is so good and drawing you in and immersing you in Niko's tale that to be shaken out of that by a tree appearing not 20 meters in front of you is jarring to say the least. I had fiddled with the brightness/contrast though, not much caring for the desaturated colour scheme, and setting that back to default seemed to reduce pop-up. Other than that, my only other niggle was a bit of slowdown here and there, but that was usually because I was driving fast through the skyscraper district.

It has it's niggles, but GTA IV is still one of the best games in recent memory. And, with the online nature of todays consoles, there is absolutely no reason that they will not be amended in the forthcoming downloadable content. I would not be at all surprised to find the the DLC for Xbox 360 contained more than simple more missions and cars, possibly for PS3 as well if it came in the form of in-game loading screens. I wouldn't also rule some of the features removed from the retail game, such as purchasing safehouses and body customisation sneaking their way back in either.

More than anything though, GTA IV feels like the game Rockstar have been trying to make since GTA 3, but simply couldn't due the limitations of the hardware at the time. It really feels like Rockstar saying “Here's GTA as we originally envisioned it, with everything we wanted to do then but simply couldn't.”. That is perhaps the reason for the return to Liberty City, to do what they always wished they could. Maybe GTA IV should be subtitled “GTA 3: Director's Cut”.This is to be taken as a compliment. But even with the grunt of the current generation, Rockstar still couldn't quite pull it off. Hopefully, they'll be able to sort out the problems and get a handle on the tech, and roll out some patches. Once they do, and the next generation of consoles roles around, GTA V will be a very interesting game and one to look out for. Until then, you owe to yourself to play GTA IV. Go buy it now. Okay, buy a console, THEN buy it. Go on, get going already.

05-06-2008, 08:32 AM
Nice review. +cheese... err... rep.

05-06-2008, 11:03 AM
Good review :) +rep

05-06-2008, 06:50 PM
I am SO ANGRY right now about this. I was stoked because I wanted to play it, but my lack of xbox360 prevented from doing so. I ask my friend and he has his xbox360 and the game. But there's a catch. He went out to buy the game, got back to his house, and he turned his console on. The red ring of death shows up. THE RED OF DEATH, MINUTES BEFORE GTA4 BLISS. Game in hand. Presses the power button. Red flipping ring of death.

The box to send it back in is coming. Looks like I am going to have to find another friend.

05-06-2008, 06:52 PM
Patience, young Gamer-awan. /Star Wars

05-06-2008, 07:16 PM
Good review of the game, 1 question, why is it important?

"It's one of the most important, and best, games of recent years."

One of the drawbacks to GTA 4 for me is no more BMXing around and no more country side. I felt those were a lot of fun ways to kill time and freedom. Another thing I noticed is you can't jack planes, maybe I'm not far enough but planes were a lot of fun in GTA:SA.

05-07-2008, 04:54 AM
very nice review!

there's only one or two things I miss: one is some nice screenshots of the game. I think most people know how GTA looks, but it'd still be nice to see some more screens.

an other thing I'm missing is the PC version of this game :( I can't wait till that one comes out.

05-07-2008, 07:26 AM

To me it is important because it raises the bar for game world interaction. The sheer number of things that do little more than increase your immersion in the game astounds me. Mainly the phone and the Internet for me, being able to see a phone number somewhere and ring it up and get a response is something I have not seen before. The Internet as well. Like I said, just the way EVERYTHING works together to create one believable world is why I think it is important. Games will now always have their interactivity compared to GTA IV. It still isn't perfect, but it's the best we've got.


With the screenshots, do you mean the lack of them in the review, or their quality in general? I didn't include any because I don't have a camera, and there are plenty on Google and gaming sites.
But if not, I know what you mean about the screens available. They don't show a lot of what the actual game looks like in motion. There are some gameplay vids on Youtube of course.

05-07-2008, 09:05 PM
Yeah I just found out about the internet part in the game and the number thing was funny, apparently if you dial 911 it's counted as a cheat so avoid trying to see what it does if you don't want to cheat. ;p

05-08-2008, 05:45 AM
With the screenshots, do you mean the lack of them in the review, or their quality in general? I didn't include any because I don't have a camera, and there are plenty on Google and gaming sites.
But if not, I know what you mean about the screens available. They don't show a lot of what the actual game looks like in motion. There are some gameplay vids on Youtube of course.

I actually meant the lack of them in this review. But as you mentioned there are plenty of other places you can find them.