on November 1, 2010
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 disc, 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.
Well worth picking up.
on March 15, 2011
I finally got a PS3 a few months ago and knew from the hype this was a game to get - no disappointments here. And with the other two games included in the pack (you load the game and the first menu you get to is which game you want to play) it's well worth the money.
The game is obviously good enough (just look at the reviews - like GTA: SA, it's an open world where you can drive around and do what you want) that I figure I'll put down a few minor things that were of note for me personally (may be different for others).
I did set my controls (as is an easy option to do) to the "classic" setting, where 'X' is accelerate, square is break, circle is e-brake, etc., since I found immediately I just could not get down using the top R and L buttons to drive.
For me, the camera view gets frankly really irritating at times when you're driving - it doesn't quickly center itself, and you have to double-tap I think select or some other button to get it to do so. So when you're, say, in the middle of a mission and a guy you're chasing hangs a hard right, sometimes it's hard to have the proper depth perception to be able to follow him properly until you're able to get around the corner. You may end up hitting a parked car, for instance.
I did miss the "car customization" shops GTA: SA had. Also there are three different clothing shops total, and the area comparable to Manhattan and Times Square pretty much just looked nice but there wasn't much you could do other than drive around it. I mean San Andreas had little hidden spots where you could play basketball, more obvious spots where you could gamble in casinos, and was massive enough you had to fly to get places faster, for better or worse. It was those small little things where you could interact with that blew me away in GTA: SA but where there aren't as much in this game.
You can visit strip clubs, bars, a comedy show, and play pool though. It's kind of like they got rid of the tiny little intricacies and hidden treasures and turned them into fewer but more grand of activities, which I guess showcases the power of the PS3 more, but at the expense of tiny little nuanced aspects. There are some amazing-for-being-in-a-video-game tv episodes you can watch, and the internet feature was somewhat cool. I also do like the taxi option of being able to get around much much quicker. That was nice.
One thing of note is if you want to explore the map, as you obviously should, you will want to go to the cell phone and turn the missions off, otherwise you will continue getting inundated with phone calls. I don't like talking nonstop on my cell phone in real life, so it's even more irritating to be trying to do something and get calls from random characters wanting to yak - and if you dare ignore the call, then you lose respect points.
Frankly I have not even gotten to the other two "Grand Theft Auto filler games" as I think of the smaller games released between GTA: San Andreas and GTA4, and these two, but I imagine they're the standard fare: more linear and smaller than the main game, but still enjoyable in their own right.
So those are not even necessarily CONS as much as just things I noted for myself slightly irked me. But all-in-all, still an amazing game. Maybe not quite as all-around perfect as San Andreas, but still amazing.
on September 25, 2013
Grand Theft Auto IV receives a lot of flack that I think is unwarranted. People complain that this game isn't fun, that it isn't super crazy and whacky like past games. If you want an over-the-top adventure, go play Saint's Row. Grand Theft Auto IV is a very fun game and it may not deserve the 10/10's that it got but I still think it deserves to be one of the highest rated games of the generation.
Grand Theft Auto IV brings a sense of realism to the franchise that was previously less prevalent. You will play as Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant who finds his way to Liberty City (New York City) for a specific reason. He goes to see his cousin, Roman, but there may also be an ulterior motive there besides visiting a relative who claims to have found fame and fortune in America, although you will immediately see that he is eeking out a living in squalor. Niko sets about changing that and earning the Cousins Bellic the money they need to live comfortably in America. The story is great. The poetic tale about Niko, Roman and the American Dream is beautiful. You see, every GTA game has been about achieving the American Dream through criminal means, GTA IV is no different but it shows a different perspective. Niko doesn't like America, he despises our culture and annoying citizens, he longs for the old country and the simpler days but laments that he can never have either of these things back. Roman, on the other hand, has fully embraced America and wants to be here, he loves our culture of freedom and how he is free to do whatever he wants. He can gamble, there are so many cultures of women (that he claims to have an expert hand in laying with but is full of crap) and opportunity around every corner. He is an optimist at heart so he sees all the good things about America, willing to believe and dream. Niko is a man broken by war and crimes he's committed previous to coming to Liberty City, he has no optimism so all he sees are the negative aspects of American culture, it's interesting to watch these intertwining characters parallel each other in their views and their ultimate fates because of the stances they take. The other characters in the story are expertly done as well and since Niko is a more quiet character, they usually do a lot of the talking, letting you connect with them and figure them out, since they have to explain a lot of things to Niko. Every character is very detailed, they each have their own motivations and most of them represent their own version of the American Dream like we all do in real life. Packie is a man who is just surviving, knowing he's doomed to the eternal cycle of crime like the rest of his family and has resigned to the fact he is damned. Dwayne is a man trying to assimilate to life again after a very long stint in prison, Manny is a guy trying to save his neighborhood, Dimitri is a right-hand man to a Russian mob boss that wants to take things into his own hands. Each character makes sense and there are some weird, irritating and wacky ones, they seem genuine. And as for the ending, I won't go into details but I think it is truly amazing. People who have finished the game already may question what I just said but listen to what I have to say. The game doesn't have a really awesome, cool ending. It isn't epic and it isn't totally conclusive. It sets out to make you feel like Niko, it makes you feel exactly what he is feeling at the end. Even the trophy that pops when you win the game is ironic: "You Won". That alone is an ironic expression of how Niko feels. It is amazing that it makes you feel a certain way even though it isn't happy, it isn't overly sad, it isn't infuriating. It just is. That's all I will say on the matter, for fear of spoiling the ending for those who haven't played it yet.
The gameplay is great too. I think people who complain about the gameplay didn't really think about what they were playing. It would be different if GTA ever did direct sequels to past iterations but GTA IV has nothing to do with GTA III, Vice City or San Andreas. It shouldn't play like those, it doesn't have to feel like them and it has no obligations to past games. That is why when people criticize it for not being like San Andreas, I feel that they are unjustified because this game has no responsibility to feel like San Andreas. The driving feels different and while I think it is one of the weaker points of the game, which is unfortunate because you do a lot of driving in the story missions, it isn't bad. It changes from the cartoonish, arcade driving of past games to try a more realistic approach that is sometimes better and sometimes worse. The gunplay is fun but the controls can be a problem from time to time when Niko won't pull out a gun fast enough or he breaks from cover even though you didn't input that. And there aren't many options for clothing and other general aesthetic changes which is a bummer, although there are clothing stores, once you beat the game you'll have enough money to buy every piece of clothing without losing much at all. That's the stuff I would criticize about GTA IV's gameplay otherwise, I love it. The side missions are great, you can deliver drugs, you can get emails to go steal cars and deliver them, text message pictures of cars that you have to go find and deliver, a Most Wanted list that you can target for each island, taxi driving missions, vigilante missions and assassination missions to name most of them. Some of them are easy, some are fun and some are really challenging, it's a refreshing pace. There are tons of mini-games like bowling, darts, pool, QUB3D and some others that you'll have a chance to experience with friends and dates. The friend system can also be annoying when you are on missions but it's still fun to go play Darts (my favorite) with friends that when you hang out with enough, they unlock secret abilities like giving you access to a car bomb or a taxi service to pick you up anywhere. Same thing goes for girls you meet online, they too may have certain abilities. The game holds a lot of secrets to it and there are a bunch of things to do in Liberty City. Not to mention the internet, man, this thing is huge. You can literally explore the internet in GTA IV all day and still not find everything it has to offer. Same thing with the TV channels and the Radio Stations, there are so many funny segments that the laughs almost never stop at how crazy, how far Rockstar is willing to go with GTA. The rag doll physics also ensure that there are many laughs to be had at the destruction and mayhem caused around the city and the random things the citizens will yell out while just walking down the street. GTA IV has a living, breathing city that always has something interesting to look at and something to find (like random encounters with people that have their own interesting stories). Then you have the cell phone.
The cell phone is where your friends call you from but more importantly, it's where you go to play online. I thought that was such a genius idea (although you have to edit your online character from single player for some reason!). You can also turn on Sixaxis driving but I've never even tried that so I wouldn't know if it works well or not. The online is actually amazing. I think a bunch of people thought it was going to be this tacked on team deathmatch garbage but it turned out to be so much fun. Your party gets your own version of Liberty City to mess around in and the cops don't exist while you try to figure out what game to play, I honestly have probably spent more time in the Party Lobby than I have playing games online. There is Team Deathmatch but what is fun is that you can change almost all of the settings. I once played Turf War, another game type all about controlling turf, where we all had RPG's. We were running through the alleys of Broker, shooting rockets at each other to control a street, it was so funny and insane. Cops 'n Crooks is definitely my favorite though. One team plays as a group of criminals getting away from a heist and the other plays as the cops chasing them. There are two versions of this where the criminals have a boss they need to protect and the other version has them all as equals, which I preferred because the match ends if the boss dies in the former version. The thieves have to make their way across the city to an escape vehicle (boat, helicopter, etc.) while the other team, the cops, have to stop them and take them down by force. It initiates this intense game of cat and mouse where the cops are hounding you across the city while you fight to evade them. It's seriously outrageous fun. And then there are a bunch of variations of races, and even story missions. There are three co-op missions that have their own story and revolve around Kenny Petrovic. Finally, there is just Free Mode where you and a bunch of people just mess around in Liberty City, I think something like 12 or maybe more, people can join and fight, race, do funny stuff in general. It is a seriously robust online that I wasn't prepared for and ended up being a massive part of what kept bringing me back to GTA IV. A game me and a friend made up is called the Highway Game. We would fly to one of the bridges and stand in the highway, trying to avoid the incredibly fast driving folks of Liberty City, to hilarious effect when you lose and get hit. We would even add incentive by blowing up a car or two to make the rest panic and drive at us even more crazily. You just don't run into stuff like that in other online games!
Since this is the Complete Edition, it also comes with the Episodes from Liberty City. The Episodes are great and add two more storylines to the mix that have their own unique features. What's cool is that there are a bunch of plot points in the main game that were ambiguous and didn't really make sense at the time but after playing the Episodes, they were completely cleared up and prove that the other two Episodes are relevant. They intertwine and tell the story about the American Dream from three different perspectives that are revolving around each other and colliding, some of them become friends, some enemies. The Lost and Damned is the first Episode and while it is probably the one I like least, don't take that as a sign that it isn't good. It is miles above most games, even if I like the other two more than this one. You play as Johnny, a biker in the gang: The Lost. You were the right hand man to the leader of the Lost but when he went to prison, Johnny stepped up to lead the biker gang, leaving behind the days of senseless violence and endangerment but bringing on an era of financial stability for the members within. That all changes when the original leader, Billy, gets out of jail and starts tearing it up. He turns everything upside down again and makes it a wild ride, tearing the gang in half with those who want to be psychos again and those who want to be with Johnny. The schism isn't overt for awhile though, so it's fun watching the gang writhing in uncomfortable situations. Johnny is a compelling character because he used to be that crazy kid who did heroin and was violent but you can sense a solemn maturity about him and that he has learned. He may not be a well educated man but he is wise at this point, he knows what choices will lead him to destruction. I liked Johnny because he lived the GTA lifestyle and tried to change and the Lost and Damned is about him getting sucked back in, him trying to resist it and overcome his tempters from the past. The new grain over the screen adds grit to the game as well as the change in music styles and motorcycle preference. It's also fun to note that Niko starts in the Eastern side of Liberty City and works his way West but Johnny starts out West and moves Eastward. The new changes to motorcycle driving are well appreciated because it was too easy to fall off of your bike in the main game but here, Johnny manages to stay on a lot better. There are some stuff to do outside of the story and while you won't be entertained for as long, there are new mini-games to play with your fellow gang members, there are old friends of Johnny's that he can call and talk to since he isn't fresh off the boat like Niko and actually knows people from before the beginning of the game which is a thoughtful detail of Rockstar and there are some side missions like gang wars, bike races and toughening up your two buddies: Terry and Clay. You can also get new bikes, there are new weapons and the previously mentioned changes to the radio stations which are minor. Overall, the Lost and Damned is an amazing DLC and it is better than most games. The story is deep although it might not appeal to everyone and there is plenty to do after the game is finished but be warned, some things might not be there or available after the story is complete, be warned.
The Ballad of Gay Tony is the second Episode from Liberty City and it is amazing. You play as Luis, the right hand man to Gay Tony who is the owner of the hottest night clubs in Liberty City. Gay Tony is having a mid-life crisis and made some bad decisions, now they are catching up with you guys and Luis is doing everything he can to get them out alive. Luis is cool because he is different than the other characters too. While he went through a tough time when he was younger, like Niko and Johnny, this is his prime, this is the part of his life that will set the course for the rest of it. Niko already had that, he was in a war back home and then did a lot of crime with some Russians that led to him fleeing to Liberty City and his part of the story. Johnny already lived that crazy life, things got bad, he straightened them out and is now trying to survive his past catching up with him. Luis doesn't have that yet, this will be the events that shape him like it did the others. I like to think that Luis is rising, Niko is at his breaking point and Johnny survived his breaking point already. Luis is also from Algonquin, the center island which differs from the other two as well. He has friends that deal drugs small time like he used to before he went to prison, he doesn't want to be like them though and tries to shut them out. The brotherhood between Luis and Gay Tony is probably the strongest element of the story, they get so irritated with each other but they stick together and tough it out because they are friends, closer than friends really, but not that close if you know what I mean. The missions are even more wacky when you meet people like Yusuf Amir and Brucie's older brother, Maury. The crossover between this Episode and the other components brings it to a close and really makes you go "Ohhhh, that's what happened" by the time you finish. The new guns, radio stations and neon effects are well done and make Ballad feel completely fresh. There are even more things to do outside the story like cage fights, drug wars, parachuting missions, golf mini-games and dance mini-games as well. The clubs are really fun and there are so many funny moments and moments that push the boundary too. There is also a new ranking system that gives you a percentage and star ranking of how well you did on the mission, giving you incentive to go back and replay missions solely for the purpose of scoring higher and higher, striving for perfection. Something about the Episodes is that they also include new multiplayer game types. I haven't really played around with Lost and Damned multiplayer but Ballad is awesome. There are parachute races now and so many new features that make it just as fun to play as the core game.
Basically, GTA IV: The Complete Edition is the complete package and will offer you so many hours of gameplay. I probably beat the story this time through in 24 hours and I was rushing, I didn't explore the city too much, didn't hang out with my friends or do side missions, just focused on the story with a few exceptions. That is a long game nowadays and the other two will net you a good amount as well, that's not to mention how much extra content and exploring of the city you will do. I also just want to debunk one rumor: There is no Ratman. We've searched the subway tunnels for hours for Ratman and he doesn't exist, it's just an urban rumor. That's how extensive and alive this game is, there are rumored mutants in the subways, there are FBI websites that are sting operations and will give you six stars, there are secret cars that you can only find in a certain hiding spot, there are so many signs and posters to read that are hilarious. There is so much detail, so much care in this game, it's hard not to be impressed every single time you start it up. I still find new things after playing this game for nearly five years. I still find new stuff that is in plain sight and it makes me laugh and appreciate the game more every time. I think GTA IV is also a huge leap in storytelling and writing for videogames, the poetic nature and symbolism in this game is ridiculous. The characters feel more fleshed out than most characters from movies. I give this game the highest recommendation and hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy it, just try to look past what other people have said about it, form your own opinion and actually explore, give the game a chance. The game isn't just meant to be played for it's story, it's meant to be played to live and breathe with the city, discover it's secrets and learn about it's people, you won't regret it. Grand Theft Auto IV is simply one of the best games of this generation and the Complete Edition is one of the best deals you will encounter.