on October 27, 2009
I read a lot of reviews for this game. It was, to me, the game that would sell me into the current generation. I've completed the missions, but haven't reached 100% yet.
There are some things that I haven't seen mentioned much that I want to start with. I can't say that I was playing GTA when it was an overhead isometric game, but have been around long enough to remember when the first 2 parts came out. I jumped in when GTA III came out.
The first improvement for me is the way the police attention is dealt with. On the past games, you had numerous ways to escape a "wanted" status. One, Pay and Spray. Two, pick up the stars laying around the maps which were rarely in places you could get to easily while police cars rammed you.
On GTA IV, your mini-map flashes when a wanted level is present and you have an outline around it. This is the police's view of you. If you can escape the circle, which does increase in size depending on the number of stars, you will lose your wanted level. Another improvement, no more sliding into Pay and Spray with the cops right behind you. If you do it, the game will respond, "The cops saw you". How many times did we all laugh at the old GTA games as cops were still outside the Pay and Spray, suddenly dumb and forgetting that you just pulled in with a 4 star wanted level?
The AI overall is much better though not without flaws. Everything is more realistic now. Which can be a good or bad thing depending on your position. The dating returns, which was one of my complaints in my San Andreas review here on Amazon, it has improved a great deal though it seems pretty pointless.
Pointless why? Well, I have tried calling Carmen 4 times for health. It goes through the whole dialog of "Stay calm, hold pressure on your cuts" but no health. A glitch? It works when outside of a mission. But not in a mission. Why would I need health while walking around or driving around not in a mission? See. Pointless. I haven't tried calling Kiki to get the wanted level removed or reduced. A great deal of the fun of this game for me is trying to outrun the police.
The return of the boneheaded missions. Thank goodness they rid the game of the RC missions. The bad news is, you will still find yourself doing missions that are what I call boneheaded. You will see things happening that are boneheaded too. Like in one mission, you go into a strip club, assault the managers, one runs. If you get outside and get a clear shot at him, you will end up with wanted stars. So, while you're trying to drive, shoot, keep control of your car at a high speed, you also have cops coming from every angle sliding into your car. The mission, like many past missions in the GTA series ends up being a matter of luck. In this mission, I ended up playing it 5 times before beating it, takes from 20-30 minutes to play including drive over to the scene of the mission. No, I don't use taxis unless it is something that has to be done in a certain amount of time. On one of the tries, I had shot the escape truck enough to make it blow up. It blows up, the driver runs across the street on fire. I run over him while he is on fire. The damage addition, had to take at least few bullets during all the shooting. His vehicle exploded with him in it. He was on fire. He was ran over. As I'm driving away from the scene, I realize the red dot representing the target was still on the map. I drive back to run over him again. The guy must be Superman as it is. As I am driving at full-speed right at him he fires ONE shot through my windshield and kills me. That nearly cost the controller its life!
Most of the missions though have a logical way to finish them. I finally realized on the aforementioned mission to block the door the guy ran out of to escape. Pull a car in front of the door before entering the club and he isn't going anywhere.
Unlike others, I was glad to see the paramedic, pizza delivery, truck driving, vigilante and taxi driver missions...gone. I found all of those to be major drags when playing San Andreas, Vice City and III.
The good news for me at least. The characters in this game are great. Niko is not only a lot of fun to use, but has some great lines. Little Jacob is probably the best supporting character of the series. His Jamaican slang adds some humor to the game, especially watching Niko try to understand him. Roman is the type of guy you have to like which makes later missions genuinely sad. The girlfriends are better than San Andreas. And no, I don't mean in looks or in those ways. Just the way they fit into the game. For some reason, I have preferred the spoiled brat Alex to the others though Kiki and her obsession with Niko, constant texts and "dirty" texts is great too. Carmen's love of herself is also good for a laugh, "Niko, is this not the face that belongs on a magazine cover?"
Some complaints I've read that I don't agree with. People expecting more than drive, shoot target, take car or money. It's named Grand Theft Auto for a reason! All video games will fall into the category of possibly boring after awhile. I know of no games that truly allow 100% freedom. If they did, how would you ever know you had finished it? There has to be some basis and structure. It is hard for me to criticize a game about stealing cars for asking me to steal cars. Sure, there are redundant parts. How many times will Roman call you during the game and ask you to go to a strip club? It gets even more frustrating later in the game. You're way over in the 3rd island and he is calling you from the 1st island. You have no choice but to take a taxi and skip the ride over. It does go into drive from point A to point B and back or to point C in Roman's case. I've always thought these parts were in the game to improve your driving ability, not a stat, but your actual in-game driving ability and to see the cities without having a cop chasing you at high speed.
The graphics are some of the best and most detailed I've seen. Right down to the cars having markings on the bumper or grille to tell you the maker. Speaking of the cars, much more recognizable than in past games. You also get a more realistic experience from the different cars. My stats show that my favorite car has been the Oracle. A run on the higher end BMWs. This doesn't surprise me since I prefer good speed with excellent handling over excellent speed with average handling.
Though you can't modify the cars, you can find modified versions of the cars around the game. The modified Sultan is twice as good as the regular Sultan. Giving you something new to look for or hunt down. Most of the higher-end cars have a modified or rare version for you to search for though it is not part of the game. You can find many lists on the internet to let you know what to be looking for. GTA IV rare cars search will show you them.
The weapons in this one are very good as well. I went with the Desert Eagle/Combat Pistol over the traditional 9 MM. The AK-47 is a marked improvement over past renditions of this powerful weapon. The grenades are still not as good as I thought they could be and I don't like the "drop" a grenade ability. I'm sure everyone that has played this game has at least dropped one on accident and saw Niko play like Rocketman.
The physics of the game are much more realistic. No more of those falling flat down kills. Now you see enemies or you even, grab their leg, crumple into a heap, fly through the air when hit by moving cars AND their legs and arms flailing. Old GTA games, the ran over enemies would just fly into the air and somehow die in mid-air and lay down in the air. One this one, they bounce, jump out of a helicopter to get the full effect as you bounce off a building only to then wrap around a telephone poll.
The drunk part is funny the first few times you do it. After that, you'll find yourself dodging the bars as much as possible.
The game has a lot of depth to it and if played to 100% is long. As of right now, I have completed all of the story missions and some of the side missions, my completion percentage is 61%.
Speaking of the side missions. Though Vigilante and its 12 levels of capturing "bad" guys is gone. You can do side missions that require a police car and police computer to hunt down wanted criminals. There are also random characters that show up on the map that have separate missions for you from the regular story. There are 3 sports activities, bowling, darts and pool. Though I thought they blew it by having a putt-putt course on the game, but not allowing it to be used in the game. There also are side races for the hilarious Brucie to do. Stealing certain cars for Stevie.
I'm guessing you are getting the point by now. I really wasn't for sure that I was going to be that happy with this game because of the reviews that talk about "Dark, less humor, more serious". I don't see that completely. There is a lot of humor in the game's dialog, though some of it is dark humor or potty humor. The game does seem to take a serious turn later in it as you start to realize that Niko has been in places and situations most people haven't had to face. He all but meltdowns late in the game with screaming fits during shootouts. Think Al Pacino in Scarface. You most likely will come away from the game really liking the character. I refused to read a walkthrough on the missions and recommend the same for anyone buying the game. This allowed me to experience the plot twists and turns without a walkthrough spoiling it for me.
Definitely not a game for the little ones. Besides the language, some of the killings are just brutal. Wait until you accidentally hit someone in your shiny white car and see their blood splattered on your hood and bumper.
One last complaint, did not care for the soundtrack. There are maybe 4 stations playing original songs by the original artists. Tuff Gong is probably the best as it is a reggae station that has nothing but Marley songs on it. I have broad taste in music and think they missed the boat by not putting a country station on it. Who wouldn't like listening to maybe Johnny Cash? Put his song, "13" in it or the original Danzig version of the same song and you have Niko's theme right there. The rap stations are okay. The Classic Rap station is much better than the newer one though I thought they picked the worst possible Gangstarr song to use in it. That annoying scratch/squeal sample has no place in a video game. Probably the biggest fault here, one of the more enjoyable songs in it by Rick Ross, is only used in a comedy sketch. Liberty Rock is okay too, I had forgotten all about the song, "Evil Woman" by ELO as it was one of the better songs on the soundtrack.
That may explain the 4 star on fun. A big part of the fun for me is driving around listening to the different music. You can put your own music in it, but it doesn't synch with the game like on Vice City on the original Xbox. You have to turn the sound effects down all the way.
Still, I couldn't at this point, recommend a game for the 360 any higher than this one. I'm getting ready to grab the two DLC episodes Ballad of Gay Tony and Lost and the Damned. Making it an even deeper game. I was never a big fan of Liberty City in the GTA III days, but this version of Liberty City is much improved with more open streets. I did miss the areas from San Andreas, like Back O' Beyond and Mount Chiliad, but it wasn't that big of a deal.
I do recommend saving it to your hard drive and playing from the hard drive. The game's sounds and music are nearly blocked out by the 360 loading the disc if you play it straight from the disc unless you blast the volume. This is my first game on the 360 so some of the opinions in it like about the graphics and depth should be thought about in that sense. I have very little else to compare it to at this point.