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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action Adventure

 

Publisher

Rockstar / Take 2

 

Developer

Rockstar

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

April 29, 2008

 

 

- A great environment filled with characters, one of which is Liberty City

- Many tinges of "homage" to various gangster films

 

 

- Multiplayer that isn't quite realized

- Clumsy third-person character movement

- Frustrating auto aim

 

 

Review: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PC)

Review: Crackdown (360)

Review: Grand Theft Auto III (PC)

 

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Grand Theft Auto IV

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

Despite the many perfect 10 review scores that have been lavished upon it, Grand Theft Auto IV is not the word’s greatest videogame ever made. It has too many flaws, from frustrating auto-aim shooting to awkwardly clumsy third-person character movement, to a not-fully-realized online excellence, to so-so driving, to be deemed the ultimate videogame in the history of videogames.

 

gta iv          gta iv

 

However, there is, despite the multitude of less-than-stellar features, a reason that it is definitely one of the best games of the year and maybe just the best GTA title to date, heady praise considering how good the previous three major GTA titles have been. What GTA IV does is a rarity in gaming: draws you in – really draws you in – to the role of the game’s lead character, so much so that GTA IV transcends just being a gaming experience. It becomes an unparalleled

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entertainment experience.

 

While one may find a similar experience from a movie viewed in a theater or throughout the course of devoted following of a television series, GTA IV moves beyond the movie or TV show that allows you to live vicariously through the respective characters they feature.

 

Instead, GTA IV’s

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excellent story and innovatively large gaming world help to put you directly in the role of the lead character, Niko Bellic. Not only does the gamer become Niko over the course of the 30-50 hours it may take to complete GTA IV’s story arc, Niko becomes one in the same with the gamer, especially if you go into a first-person point of view, particularly when driving. The first-person perspective, along with an intricately detailed Liberty City, really give gamers a true sense of completely being Niko as a sentient being inside this world of both glitzy grandeur and corrupting crime. Because the gamer that actually plays through the entirety of the story missions takes literally a day or two of actual gaming time in the role of Niko and everything about Niko – the friends, family, loves and enemies he interacts with and experiences firsthand – become experiences dually of the gamer.

 

gta iv          gta iv

 

Every game with a story mode tries to accomplish this in some fashion or another, trying to draw you in and wanting you to virtually become part of the story itself, getting into the skin of a character and believing that you are that character while you play. But not every game can do this as effectively as GTA and specifically GTA IV. Take Gears of War’s single-player mode, which is a much a better single-player game than GTA IV as far as being more technically sound in a lot of aspects with better shooting action.

 

But never does Gears of War make you really care much about the story or its characters. Gamers are in it for the scintillating gunplay (and chainsaws) that it provides. It gives gamers a lot of fun, but not so much in an unforgettable story-driven experience. Part has to do with the excellence of GTA IV’s story. It also has plenty to do with the amount of time gamers spend playing as a character. In Gears of War, most accomplished Gearheads could complete the single-player game in less than 10 hours. For GTA IV, gamers will be Niko for four or five times that amount, with more freedom to totally conjoin Niko’s experiences as symbiotic experiences of the individual gamer, especially with the well-scripted cutscenes that tie the entire story together so well.

 

There’s a mission that has Niko as part of a bank robbery crew. Naturally, nothing goes right. The brilliant cutscene along with an action-packed, bullets-flying-everywhere gunfight with police as Niko and his two surviving accomplices fight their way to escape through Liberty City ’s streets was easily one of the best in-game missions I had ever played in any game. Anybody who remembers the movie Heat, starring Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer, may see this mission as homage to a similar scene in that film. But again what makes GTA IV so special is that instead of simply watching this exciting exchange of gunfire and deadly mayhem unfold on a movie screen, you get to experience the pure, unadulterated exhilaration yourself.

 

gta iv          gta iv

 

Another big factor in how far ahead GTA IV really is of the usual gaming experience is in the choices it gives you as the story unfolds. Throughout the game, there are missions that present a choice: do you choose to kill one brother over another? One employer or the other? Decide to swallow your pride and make some money, or throw it all away for a chance for revenge?

 

Emotionally, these choices are difficult. There are more than a few chances Niko has to decide on vengeance. Niko spends three-quarters of the game obsessed with seeking “justice” for a past wrong, but when he gets a chance for “redemption” what choice does one make? Yes, gamers actually choose Niko’s path to the finale, and I challenge gamers to just try to make one of these decisions without having to wrestle with one’s inner voice as to what decision to make.

 

Liberty City is the perfect setting for GTA IV, because literally right around the corner from the lap of a luxurious landscape is the unsightly underbelly of every big city. Just like Liberty City , GTA IV hides its blemishes – by masking it underneath a wonderful but rare gaming experience that will run the gamer’s gamut of emotional attachment from anger and homicidal rage to the hurtful despair of love lost forever. GTA IV is a rollercoaster of emotional gaming hidden under the typical killing and murderous maiming so perfectly provided by the GTA franchise.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(June 11, 2008)

 

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