Grand Theft Auto 4 - Please Rate This Review
HIGH: Sumptuous visuals, a fantastic script, memorable characters and a tighter, more focussed experience.
LOW: Fewer activities than before; the experience has to end eventually.
WTF: Watching a pedestrian gesticulating at a driver for his bad manners. Such realism!
Although Sandbox games are appreciated for their variety, it's often this exercise in diversity that proves their downfall. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas offered equal chunks of shooting and driving with the odd lithe-stepped filch as an aside. However, when each of the elements that made up the game were viewed separately, the package seemed distinctly less impressive.
Ultimately San Andreas and its ilk have gotten away with wowing you by their sheer size. Had the driving sections in Carl Johnson’s adventure been a stand-alone title, review scores would have been vastly lower. However, since the entire package was weaved together to form a cohesive experience you tended to overlook the lack of depth.
Grand Theft Auto 4 on the other hand strips the fat from the formula and provides a far more solid experience. While some might baulk at the game’s lack of RPG experience points (a feature of San Andreas, its forebear) it’s difficult to deny that what is on offer is expertly executed. The gunfights, for one, rely on a cover-centric model similar to Gears of War. This instantly transforms the gameplay and more intelligent firefights ensue. The realistic driving mechanics take getting used to, but once mastered, the experience feels akin to a proper racing game. The fact that the shooting and driving and the various other activities are housed under roof in such fine style (and are all comparable to genre-equivalents) only helps to solidify Grand Theft Auto 4 as the best in the series. Moreover, it can be taken seriously as a veritable experience on all fronts.
The game’s protagonist, Niko Bellic, becomes a hitman of sorts as his sociopath willingness to do anything (if the money is right) is revealed. The character is beautifully handled by Rockstar. Bellic runs the gamut of being too bloodthirsty while housing an aptitude for morality under his cold veneer, and his shady past adds intrigue throughout proceedings; a far cry from Carl Johnson’s fairly spelled-out past. What propels this moral juggling-act forward is the fact that, during the course of the game, you’ll be given the choice of killing certain characters or letting them live. While it sounds fairly straightforward, the sheer quality of the writing ensures that you’ll deliberate your decision.
Of course, Grand Theft Auto 4 could always have benefited from more to do. The entertaining internet cafes only appeal for so long and the clothes-conscious will criticize the scant collection of garments on offer. Still, Rockstar has ensured that no element of the game has gone half-baked and whether it’s the technical prowess on display or the sheer quality of the writing, you’ll finish the title appreciating the effort that has gone into this slimmer experience. Grand Theft Auto 4 plays it safe. And safe has never seemed better.
Disclosures:The game was obtained via a store and reviewed on the Xbox 360. The game was played for approximately 35 hours.
Parents: The game features excessive violence, and should be kept away from anyone under 17 years of age.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Though the experience will be lessened, Grand Theft Auto 4 features sub-titles and can still be enjoyed by gamers with hearing impediments.
Last edited by AudioSoldier; 10-16-2008 at 12:59 PM.