Top positive review
13 of 18 people found this helpful
on August 28, 2012
Long time fans of Grand Theft Auto know that each of the games in the post-PS1 era is thematically linked to a particular genre of movie. GTA III is heavily indebted to Mafia movies such as Goodfellas and The Godfather, as well as to the cable television series The Sopranos. Vice City is clearly influenced by Miami Vice and Scarface, while San Andreas draws a great deal of inspiration from Colors and Boyz N the Hood.
GTA IV-The Complete Edition carries on this tradition by transforming Grand Theft Auto IV into an homage to Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. As in Kurosawa's film, a set of events is seen from multiple points of view, leaving the player to decide which perspective he or she believes is the most credible. Niko Bellic, Johnny Klebitz, and Luis Lopez, the main characters, each bring a different experience and interpretation to GTA IV's story line. Niko is an immigrant, forced to assimilate and adapt rapidly to a world completely new to him. Johnny is caught in a classic master versus apprentice situation. Luis, who is the only character with any kind of insider status, must choose between building his future and honoring his past.
These are all familiar character situations in videogames, of course, but Rockstar creates deeper and richer stories and characters than most other game developers. The majority of games stick to the bare rudiments of character motivation and development. Rockstar has given us THREE strong stories in the GTA IV series, each with a complex and compelling main character. It was ambitious of Rockstar to release Niko's view of the story first, in isolation, without any indication of what was to come later. Many of the events in the Niko version of the story, in fact, aren't fully explained until the Luis and Johnny episodes. Compare that to the usual rote or clichéd story arcs found in too many games, even multi-episode games. There are a few studios that consistently produce well-written games in addition to Rockstar--Bungie, Valve, and Kojima Productions are three standouts--but the vast majority treat story and plot as afterthoughts.
Story and influences aside, the bigger question is whether or not GTA IV and the two Episodes are fun to play. The answer is YES, even though it is clear that Rockstar devoted a lot more development time to Luis' episode than it did to Johnny's episode. TLAD feels somewhat stripped down and is similar to GTA III in many ways. You'll spend most of your time following the main story, driving or riding to combat missions. If you fully explored Liberty City in Niko's episode, there isn't a whole lot to discover or do that you haven't already experienced. On the other hand, TBOGT contains a much broader variety of missions, side activities, and minigames. Most players will spend more time with TBOGT than with TLAD--but now that they're both part of this value priced bundle, it's no big deal. The important thing is to play the series in the order in which it was released (GTA IV then TLAD then TBOGT). If you don't, you'll miss out on properly experiencing how the full story unfolds.