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Review: Grand Theft Auto IV
by Matthew Meadows
4.6.08

Where do you start when reviewing a game that lets you do nearly anything? Like this: Grand Theft Auto IV is an example of what games should strive to be. It’s flawed, but so full of character and unapologetic in the way its story develops that you’d be insane (or under 18 without willing relatives/siblings/guy on the street to buy it for you) not to play this game.

If you are familiar with other Grand Theft Auto games this is more of the same in terms of basic gameplay mechanics and tone. If you are unfamiliar, Grand Theft Auto IV is a third person perspective, action based, free-roaming game which allows players to journey around a massive, if scaled down, version of New York City, called Liberty City. In this city, missions are completed for various characters to advance the story and unlock new areas. These missions range from clearing out X number of goons in an area, to the original chase 'n kill formula of GTA fame.

In traditional GTA games, a great amount of the pleasure you would gain stemmed from exploring the city and just messing around. This edition of the best selling franchise is no different, with an enormous amount of things to do. Highlights include: stunt-jumps, a fully functioning in-game internet, jumping off the Rotterdam Tower (see Empire State Building) and piloting a fully armed attack helicopter over the city at night with friends in the passenger seats via a fully-fledged online component.

Another reason you should buy this game is those moments you rarely get in gaming. Wow moments. Situations were you feel inclined to put the pad down, look at the screen and admire GTA’s quality. I mean, for the love of God, on this game it is possible to mow down five gangsters, on a moped, whilst listening to Queen’s ‘One Vision’ on the radio. Amazing.

Yet, for nearly every good moment there is a bad one. Glitches are common, the online is (or was at the time of writing) buggy and some characters will, at times, not move, causing missions to be restarted and thus copious amounts of swearing to ensue. These issues are annoying but in the grand scheme of things are glossed over by the rest of the game.

The story of GTA IV revolves around Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant with a shady past that is revealed throughout the course of the game. During later missions it is possible to decide which characters you will kill and which you let live. These decisions determine which of the two endings you get. The story is brilliant. Unequalled in my experience of playing video games, GTA IV’s story is not afraid to send you on an emotional roller-coaster ride that will make you laugh, and just possibly cry, even if at the hands of a crap cabaret club on the first island.

Gameplay is varied, and it should be noted that Rockstar made a significant improvement on previous GTAs. Driving is OK, if hard to get a grasp for. Shooting is decent on its own, but made better by a well accomplished cover system, a first for the GTA series.

Let’s face it; you aren’t going to buy this game for its marginally above average gameplay or for its standard graphics. You, however, should buy GTA IV because of its two main characters. Niko Bellic and Liberty City.

9/10

Matt

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- Matthew Meadows

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