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Game Review: Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)
Keyser Söze   |  

By Keyser Söze

Grand Theft Auto IVGrand Theft Auto IV
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Mature
Developer: Rockstar Games
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Price: $59.99 Released: April 29, 2008

Carnage. Pure, unadulterated, mind-numbing, stomach-churning, retina-burning carnage. That is what springs to mind as soon as someone mentions the words “Grand Theft Auto” to me”¦ and Grand Theft Auto IV is no different. However, it’s not the explosions, or the adrenaline-fuelled car chases that I’m most impressed by with Rockstar Games‘ latest release”¦ but I’ll get to that soon enough.

Grand Theft Auto IV follows the story of Serbian war veteran Niko Bellic, who heads to the U.S. to join his cousin Roman in the pursuit of the American dream”¦ and obviously such a task is normally undertaken via distinctly shady means. The storyline as it progresses can be a little predictable sometimes, with the usual backstabbing going on, and you being used as a mindless thug by Tony Montana wannabes. But, it’s still extremely well thought out, leading to some great cinematic set-pieces.

The control system is fairly intuitive, especially if you’ve played any of the previous 3D prequels of GTA. The left analogue stick controls movement, the right controls the camera or gun aiming, with the triggers controlling weaponry, vehicle acceleration, etc. A new addition for GTA IV is the mobile phone, which is triggered at will by tapping up on the d-pad.

Now I have to say this is absolute genius. The mobile is my favourite feature of the game, mainly because it works exactly like a normal phone – you can call your friends to arrange to hang out, call your girlfriend and ask her for a date, and even use the ZiT! Service”¦ this is basically one of those “hold your phone to the music and we’ll tell you what song and artist it is” premium services.

Grand Theft Auto IV screenshotHowever, the mobile is a lot more functional than that – it acts as a second menu system for the game. From the phone you can access the Multiplayer option, receive missions, and when you fail a mission, you receive a text message asking if you’d like to retry it. Later on you even get a mission to use the phone’s camera to take photos of your assassination target just to clarify his identity with your boss. You can even call 911 and request the emergency service of your choice.

This leads me on to the main facet of why I love this game: the painstaking attention to detail, which is all thanks to Rockstar’s R.A.G.E engine. Another good example would be the AI pedestrians – in previous GTA installments there weren’t many different character models, and their behaviour consisted of walking and running away from you. GTA IV raises the bar in this respect – the pedestrians now interact with you, and each other; they start fights, police chase criminals (not just you), they carry umbrellas when it rains, read newspapers, talk on their mobile phones, and much more. The level of detail is so acute on so many levels, it’s possible to get lost in the game without even progressing the main storyline missions. There is even a fully functioning artificial internet within the game (which is another source of missions).

However, there are ways in which the game has taken a step back. Two examples would be that you’re no longer able to tweak your character in terms of abilities, weight, and general appearance aside from clothing, and you’re confined to a (admittedly huge) city as opposed to San Andreas’ whole state. After reading up on the game’s features a little more, the city is roughly the same size as San Andreas, just more compact (no countryside or desert). These aspects are completely forgivable though when you take into account what Rockstar have achieved with New York Liberty City in its place.

One of the major new steps forward is the online multiplayer. This wasn’t available in previous iterations of the game, except for a modified version for the PC called Multi Theft Auto. Supporting up to 16 players (depending on the game type) in 15 separate game modes, this is where the word “carnage” describes it perfectly.

You can take part in a basic tutorial that takes you through customising your player, joining a team deathmatch, and killing some dumb AI bots and some basic controls. Once this was done, I decided to jump in at the deep end.

Grand Theft Auto IV screenshotMy first foray took me into the free for all mode doing jobs for Petrovic, consisting of hits, picking up weapons for delivery, killing the LCPD – cash is earned for each job, or each player killed, and this can be spent upgrading your character. Effectively the more you play, the more customisation options are opened up to you.

For a first try, the match went pretty well, as I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, so I ended up gunning down a few cops and players, and coming out a semi-respectable 4th place, netting me a little shy of $2,000. My enjoyment was only hampered by the incessant babbling of the gangsta wannabes that happened to be in my group of 16 players, but every game has them.

Overall, Grand Theft Auto IV is a masterpiece of modern gaming art – and believe me when you play it, you’ll agree it definitely is a work of art. Rockstar has raised the bar yet again, and you can’t help but tip your hat to them. There are a few rough edges here and there (graphical glitches, NPCs that still wander around after taking a shotgun round to the face, etc), but looking at the big picture, these are very insignificant.

If you own an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3, this game needs to be in your collection – the replay value is immense with the mini games and random destruction factor, let alone the exceptionally well-crafted multiplayer modes – and with the (hopefully) soon-to-come downloadable episodic content, GTA IV will be at the top of my most played list for a long while yet.

1 Comment »

  1. I wished I played more games!!!

    Comment by Jerry — May 7, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

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