Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360 (tested on both for this review)
in the world right now, a woman is threatening to break up with her boyfriend
and he doesnt particularly care. Phone calls are going unanswered, homework is
going undone and sick days are being used all for the same reason.
Grand Theft Auto IV has arrived, and Playstation 3 and Xbox
360 owners the world over are hypnotized by a fantasy life of crime.
While GTAIV is actually the fifth sequel since
2001s III, its the first to appear
on this generation of consoles and incorporate online play (as if GTA wasnt addicting enough).
vets should still feel right at home since the core elements of the game
havent changed, but theres new depth added to every element of the game that
makes it feel fresh no matter how many hours you logged on previous versions.
story retains the same biting humor thats become a series trademark, but this
time the protagonist (Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic) actually has a
sense of morality and a complex motivation. Youll commit your fair share of
random acts of violence, but at several points in the story, youll have the
option of executing or sparing certain characters and your choices affect how
Nikos peers view him.
grand scheme of the story doesnt change much depending on your choices, but
there are missions that you will or wont get based on who you kill. At one
point, two of your associates will call asking you to take out the other,
creating a surprisingly strong moral conflict. Killing one will mean missing
out on a big financial benefit, but killing the other just feels wrong.
you bite the hand that feeds you to spare the innocent man or push your guilt
aside and do the job youre being paid for? Deciding is harder than you might
expect, and the fact that you even have a choice gives the story mode an
element of replay value that the past games never had.
down on the tedious legwork for those multiple playthroughs, Rockstar has added
a few elements that gamers have been begging for. For starters, you can always
catch a cab and have it take you more or less anywhere for a few bucks. That
alone is a huge time saver, especially since the more aggressive cops make you
think twice about jacking cars that you dont really need.
addition, you now have a cell phone that you can use to communicate with your
friends, employers and girlfriends. The
bad news is that just like in real life, the phone is a huge pain in the ass.
Youll get phone calls fairly frequently (even during other missions) from
people who need favors or just want to hang out. Its always up to you to
accept their requests or even answer at all, but every time you ignore a
friend, their feelings get hurt and theyll be less likely to do favors for you
down the road.
game quickly becomes about juggling the needs of your contacts, so get used to
your girlfriends calling while youre across town jacking a motorcycle to sell
to a dealer. It feels silly to ignore your real life phone to play a game about
a phone that never stops ringing, but your actual friends probably arent
calling to put a hit out on a crooked coke dealer either.
individual calls are aggravating at times, but its actually a great system
that keeps the pace up. Even when youre just ambling around, youll always
have something better to do than aimlessly murder citizens, though if thats
what youre into, you can always turn the phone off and temporarily suspend the
can also use the phone at any time to jump right into the new online modes.
Like the single-player game, you have free-reign to do whatever you like online
so its easy to make your own fun and invent things to do with your friends.
Just roaming around launching rockets at each other is fun as it is, but there
are a ton of creative mission-based modes to participate in when you need a
particularly creative mode, players choose to either be cops or gangsters in a
wild variation of Capture the Flag. One crook is assigned the V.I.P. role and
the others have to help him get to a specific point across town while the cop
players are tasked with hunting him down. You cant win by just running around
hurling bullets and it takes a satisfying amount of strategy and teamwork to
pull it off. Throw in the variety of races, vehicle fights and custom games and
GTAIV online adds up to way more than
anyone wouldve expected for their first attempt.
those that have both systems, choosing which version to buy isnt simple. On
the 360s side, there will eventually be a few additional missions to purchase
that supposedly wont be available for the PS3. On the other hand, the visuals
are more impressive on Sonys console and the load times are noticeably
shorter. You cant go wrong either way, but the PS3s smoother frame rate and
quick loading are a bigger long-term benefit than the extra missions, so that
version has the edge.
the exception of some odd adjustments to the driving controls, everything about
GTAIV is at least as good as, if not
better than, the last major installment. San
Andreas was already pretty close to perfect, so while the changes arent
huge, there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
a reason why everyone you know is talking about this game; Grand Theft Auto IV is probably the most hyped title in recent
memory, but it actually lives up to it.