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May 24, 2008

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV

Grand Theft Auto IV
Rockstar Games, Rockstar North
Available now for Xbox 360 and PS3

Rockstar has finally released their latest addition to the Grand Theft Auto series with GTA IV and it promises to be the best yet in a long line of amazing games. But before I go into any details, I just want to remind Pulse readers that Grand Theft Auto IV is rated M for Mature and should not be purchased or played by any one under the age of 17 as it contains sexual content, partial nudity, strong language and extreme violence.

In the newest addition to the GTA series, Players follow the storyline of Niko Bellic, a fresh-off-the-boat, yet tragic anti-hero who comes to American to join his cousin, Roman in his perfect dream life, but instead finds only that his cousin lied and is wrapped up in same type of criminal world, he came here to escape.

Instead of the predetermined characters on criminal paths we usually find in GTA games, Rockstar decided this time they would allow players to choose the path of Niko, by allowing them to choose between either honourable or harsh ways to end certain missions. These choices change the storyline as you play and really add to the game’s replay value.

Driving through the streets of GTA IV’s Liberty City, players may feel like they’ve seen these streets before as the city has been almost mirrored completely to look like New York City. Though you are confined to certain areas of the city at first, more areas open to you as you complete specific missions and you will be able to hit all the hot spots Liberty City has to offer like Tw@ Internet CafĂ© which has an entire internet for Niko to surf or Honker‘s Strip Club, where you can spend some time with the ladies of Liberty City.

Besides the usual romp in your car with a prostitute, players can have Niko take part in different activities throughout the city which can add to Niko’s cash flow, build his relationship with friends or just add to your game completion score. Mini games like bowling or darts can be played on evenings out with a date or friend to build rapport with them and add to your game score, while street racing adds cash to your pocket and add to your game score. There are even hidden pigeons to kill in the streets of Liberty City to add to your score.

Building rapport with Niko’s friends is important in the game if you wish to have access to extra VIP elements of the game. For example, spend time with Roman and he’ll offer you free Taxi service. Each friend has something to offer Niko, so make sure you spend some quality time with them. Niko will also have dates during the course of the game and, if you spend some quality time with the ladies, the ladies will maybe show you a good time at the end of the date.

The driving physics have been changed to make driving more realistic, but I found driving is much harder now. If you drive anything but a compact car, you spin out of control and even using the hand brake doesn’t help to take corners at fast speeds. The GPS tracking system is still available and allows you to see where you need to go in missions or where to find specific locations, but Rockstar probably should have made it bigger to allow you to see a bigger chunk of area. Setting waypoints really helps in finding locations easier and I wouldn’t suggest navigating Liberty City without doing so at any point.

There are still a few collusion detection problems or bugs within the game that has the characters walking through walls, getting stuck between cars, or has you getting into the wrong cars when there are too many around you, but bugs in such a huge game are too be expected and can be slightly forgiven.

This time around players will finally have the chance to take to the streets of Liberty with their friends or complete strangers online all with a touch of a button on your cell phone. Players have the chance to go online with up to 15 players to play in different modes like cops & crooks, death matches, turf wars, etc., and if you host a game, you can change the variables in the game like friendly fire, police presence, weapons sets, traffic levels, radar functionality, and many more.

Graphics in GTA have come a long way since we last played and the series looks incredible. From characters to the city, everything has been given a better textured and detailed look. Character animations actually sync to their dialogs, even during game play and their movements are so much more human from the way they stroll up and down the streets to the way Niko hot-wires his cars. The city in general has a life of its own now and you could spend hours just watching the NPCs living out their daily lives, because Rockstar has made sure that each of them have their own stories to act out.

Rockstar didn’t seem to employ a lot of big name actors to voice any of the character this time, but honestly the game didn’t need it. Every character sounded spectacular and brought a genuine realism in their roles across the board. The only downside is you have to listen to such great acting while some dumb hot dog vendor is screaming in the background about how great his long, hot wiener tastes.

At first, I didn’t care for the music picked for the different radio stations in GTA IV, but after a while I found a few hidden gems, though mostly on the Russian station, Vladivostok FM. The instrumental music, especially the theme, manages to mix some European old country sounds with more modern beats and come up with the best GTA original music yet.

If you’re wondering about the differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, there isn’t much. PS3 version has an install and patch to download before you play, which shortens the load times, and you can use the SIXAXIS to control vehicles in the game, if you choose. The graphics and audio are the same, as are the online play, so really the only factors in which system you choose to buy the game on, are only your friend’s list and your patience for load times.

I generally am not a fan of Grand Theft Auto games, but this time Rockstar has made a game that mixes art and entertainment so perfectly, you can‘t help but want to play it. Sure there are a few bugs and the driving mechanics suck, but when you put those things aside this game is pretty damn near perfect. Perfect enough though for every mature gamer out there to have to pick this game up.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Buy it!


Ry-Tron said...

Hadn't ever owned a GTA game before this, but landed a copy in TO cheap for the PS3. Single player's good and multiplayer is a fucking riot if you play with your friends list. Speaking of which, I have yet to drop a grenade under a swat truck with ya Faith.

Faith said...

Honestly I wasn't big on the multi player. I kept getting my butt kicked before I even found a weapon.
My new addiction is the new Penny Arcade game

André Jochemsen said...

Got it. Love it. But love the expension pack of PixelJunk monsters a little more :)