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Grand Theft Auto IV

Developer: Rockstar Games
Rating: 4/5

Buy Now: Amazon


What does the American Dream mean today?

For Niko Bellic, fresh off the boat from Europe, it is the hope he can escape his past. For his cousin, Roman, it is the vision that together they can find fortune in Liberty City, gateway to the land of opportunity. As they slip into debt and are dragged into a criminal underworld by a series of shysters, thieves and sociopaths, they discover that the reality is very different from the dream in a city that worships money and status, and is heaven for those who have them and a living nightmare for those who don't.

Beginning with the 1997 release of the original Grand Theft Auto, the GTA series has been one of the most prolific, controversial and down right entertaining franchises in video games history. This pedigree of success guarantees that the highly anticipated eleventh game in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV, will garner at least as much attention if not more.

The Plot
Grand Theft Auto IV is a brand new adventure in the GTA universe following the experiences of Nikolai "Niko" Bellic, a new immigrant from an undisclosed eastern European country whose troubled pa st and the persuasion of his cousin Roman have brought him to the fictional Liberty City. Unfortunately, Niko’s search for the American Dream and a much needed fresh start, hits an immediate snag when the rags to riches story Roman spun to pique Niko's interest is exposed as not only a complete fabrication, but a ploy to enlist Niko’s well-known skills as a tough guy against the ample list of enemies clamoring for Roman’s debt-ridden blood.

Because Roman is the only person Niko knows in Liberty City he begrudgingly accepts his role as Roman’s protector despite the deception. But as time goes on Niko comes into his own, and his experience on the wrong side of the tracks proves more valuable than he could have ever imagined as he fights for survival and later supremacy on the crime ridden streets of Liberty City.

Game Environments
Based on several of the boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey, Liberty City, familiar to players of previous games in the series, has been entirely redesigned for GTA IV. Players can expect visible detail down to the weeds growing in the cracks in the sidewalk, cars and buildings of visibly different ages and a much greater level if verticality in the buildings and bridges that they are able to explore as Niko moves through the city streets. In addition, pedestrians in GTA IV are much more realistic. No longer simply moving cardboard cutouts, these NPCs are intelligent, modern, human representations that laugh, cry, eat, drink, use cell phones and ATMs, and talking amongst themselves regardless of Niko’s interaction with them.

Historically GTA games have focused heavily on mission-based play, requiring successful completion of fixed tasks in order for players to progress through the game, but this has changed to a great extent in GTA IV. Players will experience an entirely new and exciting emphasis centered on the blending of on-mission and off-mission play, resulting not only in an increased sense of realism, but more interesting and unrestricted gameplay.

Aside from the car jacking and a detailed city environment here are the new features for GTA IV:
* Improved combat system - Now you can use cover and also a target lock system, which allows you to take out targets with greater ease and accuracy. Plus, you can engage in some hand-to-hand combat if you can't get your hands on a piece quick enough.
* Cell phone - Not just for basic phone calls anymore. Use your in-game cell phone to receive missions via SMS, snap photos, and ZiT (tag) songs that can be downloaded exclusively on
* Free time - In between missions you can take advantage of "me" time. There are gentleman's clubs, comedy clubs, bowling alleys, and bars, which all house unique activities.
* Take a break from the storyline - A variety of side missions allow you to help run a car service, "borrow" cop cars, assassinate targets, help solve problems for those on the street, or take to the air with stunt jumps that are scattered all over the city.
* Control your own fate - Throughout the game choice moments will arrive causing you to make a decision that will affect relationships and money.

Give Niko a rest and create your own multiplayer "hero." GTA has added multiplayer modes allowing you to take your creation out to play online in competitive, co-op, and free form modes. Competitive mode has you fighting against the cops, jacking cars, or racing to finish odd jobs. Co-op challenges you and your friends with various tasks including Hangman's NOOSE where you are responsible for escorting a wanted kingpin to a safe extraction point. Freeform lets you and 15 others lose on Liberty City. Use this mode to hit up the bar and play virtual darts versus each other or head out to the streets and set up your own drag races. If you can dream it, you can do it in Freeform mode.


Graphics: GTA4 has rather well defined graphics. It is definitely much better from it's predecessors. Among many of the improvements graphically; people in the car actually move as they speak, blood stains actually appear on your car if you hit people, hitting newspaper stands actually cause newspapers to go flying everywhere, and some of the text on those flying newspapers is actually legible. So, suffice it to say, GTA is graphically a good game. Is it as good as all the other games out there, not really, but it is an open ended gameplay where you can go anywhere, and as far as that goes, it is pretty great.

Glitches: The game has quite a few glitches, as most of them do, which cause random events from a car to start flying in circles to your legs falling through the floor. It is expected in most games of this style I suppose, but is worth mentioning that these are no fewer than any previous GTA Game.

Setting: Taking place in a new liberty city similar to New York, the game offers little in the ways of variety. You go from tight closed off streets with big buildings to tight closed off streets with really big buildings. It is a bit claustrophobic, giving you very little room to just drive and speed up to top speed. San Andreas was expansive, giving you three cities completely different in appearance, numerous small towns, mountains, forests, and deserts. 4 gives you one city, nothing else.

Car Gameplay: The cars in this game seem much more difficult to control, was this done for realism sake, I am not sure. However, sometimes, some cars have incredibly poor traction and put you into terrible accidents when you think you have plenty of time to stop. It is hard to tell which cars are better, as appearance doesn't always suggest driving style. A couple of added things kind of make the gameplay funner. Most park cars are locked now, so you actually break the window, unlock the car, then actually hotwire it, You can speed up hotwiring, but it usually doesn't take more than a couple seconds anyway. Also, you can receive damage, fly out the window shield, die in fatal accidents, drive drunk (which always gets a cop on your tail) and even have a car die and won't start up again. However, many of these events seem random, and you can ram a building at 50 miles an hour and recieve no damage, or hit a fence and 25 miles an hour, fly our your window shield, and have you car land on you. So that kind of sucks.

Person Gameplay: On a surplus, you can now use cover and hide behind stuff, also peaking out from behind cover to shoot an opponent. You also have a new melee system, which includes kick, punch, and block combos. It isn't much better than the original system, but it does give you a bit more control over what you are doing to your opponent. However, once you get a couple guns, this becomes almost irrelevant anyway. Everything else is just about the same from previous games.

Story: The story is OK. I can't say I feel too passionate about the protagonist, who just doesn't appeal to me as much as the GTA3 + characters, who were frequently hilarious and likable. Niko revenge story does not seem as passionate as GTA3, and that guy was a mute. He lacks the ambition of VC character, and SA did a better job of displaying that protagonists goals and ideals(protecting his home and family). Besides that, it seems less humorous and more serious of a story. It still has all the jokes from the previous GTAs, I can't really put my finger on it, but everything in this one just seems more serious. One reviewer believes that this is GTA with a conscious, which I kind of agree with, maybe groups put pressure on Rockstar to make them show the consequences of your actions, since it seems like you're constantly being reminded that killing, drunk driving, and prostitution are bad.

The Extras: This is where I feel the game fell. Had this game been the direct sequel from GTA III, I probably would have been a lot easier on it, but VC and SA existed, and this game almost seems to have forgotten that fact. This game almost seems like a stripped version of it's predecessors. No gang wars, no gambling, no owning businesses, no car collections. Flying has almost been cut out of this game, although I can't imagine why, it was such a successful feature. Fighting on a flying plane, then para shooting out was the coolest thing ever, not to mention stealing a harrier jet from a battleship. The girlfriend thing from SA was added to, making normal friends too. This is worse, as you now have to maintain relationships with not only your gfs, but any friend you make as well. I also believe the "sex scenes" you get at the end of the date are toned down a bit. I dislike where Rockstar is going with this game, it almost as if they want to take the open part out of open game. They keep you caught up with their characters with frequent cellphone calls, rather than letting you initiate your own sidequests by setting in the right vehicle or shiny circle.

Sum it Up: So in general, this game is a worthy sequel to GTA III... as long as you pretend SA and VC did not exist. It cuts out way too much content added in the last two (what do you call them, expansion packs?). Why they felt the need to cut so much? Or did they feel they had to to make room for more graphics? If so, I would pick side missions and content over graphics any day.

One more beef that bugged me endlessly, they cut out hidden packages and replaced it with flying rats that you can shoot. That was a good idea, but the thing is, you don't get anything unless you shoot all 200, which gets you an achievement (big whoop) and a pop up for just about the only flying thing in the game (helicopter). I always depended on those items that pop up have 10, 30, 50 packages. Just knowing that if I got arrested or used up my ammo, that I always had a store at my place was great. This just bites, what horrible thing happened to Rockstar, whom created a nearly perfect game with San Andreas, feel they needed to take a chainsaw to the game and cut out all of its charm. Oh well, I hope that answers your questions and helps your decision in getting GTA 4.

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