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GTA IV - The Game Behind the Hype

by May 05, 2008
Is it really what you are told it is?

Is it really what you are told it is?

Platform: Xbox 360 (also available on PS3)
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Game Resolution: 1080p/30
Display: Westinghouse 42-inch 1080p LCD
Reference System: Reference System 3
MSRP: $59.99
Style: 3rd person Action/Adventure
Rating: Mature (Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol)

Huge world to explore
Much of the violence is by player choice
Like playing a movie

Graphics not quite cutting edge
A few quirky controls

The Review

After all the hype and "best game in a million years" talk, I just couldn't resist. This is the first GTA game I've played mostly because of timing. I was out of gaming for all of the other GTA games so I'm looking at this through "virgin" eyes. First - a bit of background. For fans of the podcast, it will come as no surprise that I generally don't play sports games. I'm OK with platformers and puzzle games, hate driving sims (sorry GT fans), but love first and third person shooters. Back in the day I was a huge fan of fighting games but I seem to have outgrown that phase recently. Grand Theft Auto seemed like it would be a good fit for me - third person perspective, adult themes, shooting... Now I've played it for a few days, let's talk about the hype -

The Best Game Ever

Um... No. No it isn't. So far it is cool and I'm enjoying it but it is far from the best game. The sheer size of it it staggering and the thought put in to all the characters is great but the best game... sorry. My problem - the gameplay. Sure, it's fun to do all the stuff you can do but I am more often irritated by the controls than anything else. Hand-to-hand fighting is a joke - the controls just don't respond fast enough nor are they intuitive enough. The gunplay is better but the auto-lock function is a pain and holding down the aiming trigger half way when you've got 15 cops firing at you from all sides takes a bit more concentration than I have at my disposal. The driving is pretty good and you definitely get the impression that each of the cars is different but how is it possible that light poles fall like matchsticks at the slightest tap but the thinest tree can't be plowed through even at top speed? While there are plenty of instructions and hints in the game, I'm often confused as to what I'm supposed to do. During one of the side-quests, you are routinely "caught" by either rival gang members or cops. Now, with rival gang members I know what to do (shoot them) but with cops? Um... run? Fight? Not sure. Plus, there seems to be only one driving law in Liberty City - Don't run into a cop car. Run red lights in front of them? Drive on the sidewalk or wrong side of the street? No problem. But if you tap their car you're a dead man. I'm pretty sure if you run one of them over (or a pedestrian in front of them) you're in trouble too but I haven't done that yet.

A Great Game?

Oh yeah! The scope... the cinematics... the characters... You really feel like you're playing a movie. The Main story moves along nicely with just enough gritty realism and character quirks to keep you interested. The side plots are like a break from the main story. You get a chance to practice some of your skills and earn some extra cash. The radio stations are great and really make all that driving bearable. The cell phone is nice because you don't have to run all over town just to talk to people. All in all, it is a very immersive experience.

The Graphics

The graphics are mostly excellent in a "can't touch Army of Two or Gears of War" kind of way. They feel like a step up from last generation graphics but still fall short of the top tier games. Are they good? Yes. But not perfect. Eyes, for example, just look... wrong. They either don't blink enough or are too white... not sure the problem there. The way people walk and move is awesome though. Very convincing.

The Controversy

It wouldn't be a GTA game without controversy but surprisingly (to me at least) the amount of bad press this game gets is way, way, WAY over the top. Do you have to steal cars to get around? No. Do you have to kill civilians to win the game? No (at least not yet). Does your character drink and do drugs? No (well, you can drink in the game but you don't have to). Basically, in the game you are forced to kill criminals and drug dealers. Everyone else is optional. If you get drunk you have to option (other than driving while intoxicated) of walking home, waiting until you sober up, or calling a cab (so back off MADD). I will say that as someone that has been intoxicated before, they do a fairly accurate job in recreated the experience. I wouldn't want to play a drunk scene too close to a projection screen - Dramamine here it come! In all the cut scenes (so far at least) your character refuses all offers of drugs and alcohol. When he is sent to kill a criminal and the criminal claims that he was set up, you have the option of letting them go. Do you? Who knows, but you're aren't forced to kill him. Rockstar must have had a blast making this game as evidenced by the talk radio stations. Yes, I said talk radio stations. The characters they have on there are obvious slams at they type of detractors that love to denounce their game without ever playing it. It's easy to do when your game is named after a crime. But this game isn't necessarily about racking up the most kills (like Halo) or wholesale slaughter (like Army of Two or Gears of War), it's about a story. A story that you, the player, become intimately involved in. It's about trying to make money and get the girl (oh yeah, you never hear about how you've got a girlfriend in the game and if you stand her up she gets mad at you). It's about survival for an immigrant that finds himself trying to make the most of a bad situation. It's a story you've heard before, one you've paid money to see on the big screen. And now you can be part of it. And yet those close-minded idiots out there that sit in their little worlds telling each other that it's GTA's fault that their child is a delinquent don't need to play the game to be convinced. They don't need to talk to gamers to "know" that GTA is all about having sex with whores and shooting children. They don't need to look at the research to the contrary to "know" that the main audience for this game is young kids. The fact that they have ignored their own families while on their crusade doesn't even factor into their thinking. They know where the real evil lies... outside of themselves. Of course.


Visuals - 4
The cutscenes are awesome and the in game graphics are great but they don't really hold a candle to games like Gears of War or Army of Two.

Sound - 5
Great soundtrack, tons of effects, and the surrounds are used to let you know where the police are when chased.

Gameplay - 5
This is a seriously fun game. The few control issues aside, the sheer scope of the game and the variety of the mini-games will keep you coming back for more.

Special thanks to AV Rant for letting us reprint this review


friedchicken posts on May 26, 2008 20:38
The game is so immersive, its great. The problem I have with it is that the controls arnt great, mainly because the developers are trying to do too many things and its hard to do every well. So its not really a problem but more of a complaint. The 3rd person controls could be a bit better. Car physics could be a bit better. Soundtrack is great. The voice acting is top notch. If the graphics were better, I would've thought I was watching a movie if I've never heard of GTA before. Its great game. Best game of this type in the current gen system.
Djizasse posts on May 26, 2008 20:09
There's a cheaper way to get fast to any location. After you get access to the Heli Tours, just go there and steal a Heli to park it in each of your houses. There's nothing like loading a savegame, exiting the house and enter the heli.
I normally just use the taxis to go to the Heli Tours.

That how I roll
armaraas posts on May 26, 2008 19:42
It was in the neighborhood of $1200-1400 that I got. The armored truck was pushed up against a building on one side, so there could have been more that I wasn't able to get to.
MinusTheBear posts on May 26, 2008 19:09
armaraas, post: 416818
FYI- I hijacked my first armored truck tonight. You can get the money from them, you just have to drive it until it blows up. Or I suppose if you have a grenade launcher that might work too. The truck is so tough though it died on me long before the point it would blow. Luckily a dump truck was happening by, so I got into that rammed and it a few times til it finally blew up and spewed money everywhere. Jackpot! Now, time to find that ice cream truck…

How much money did you get from that?
armaraas posts on May 26, 2008 18:59
FYI- I hijacked my first armored truck tonight. You can get the money from them, you just have to drive it until it blows up. Or I suppose if you have a grenade launcher that might work too. The truck is so tough though it died on me long before the point it would blow. Luckily a dump truck was happening by, so I got into that rammed and it a few times til it finally blew up and spewed money everywhere. Jackpot! Now, time to find that ice cream truck…
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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