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Grand Theft Auto IV Review

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Developer: Rockstar North Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: April 29, 2008 Also On: PS3 and Xbox 360

The blockbuster hit of 2008 is Grand Theft Auto 4 – by no surprise. The hype machine has been rolling along for this huge hit since last year. Rockstar has delivered a game which is more of a life simulator than even The Sims can claim to be. There is so much content packed onto your disc that running out of stuff to do just won’t happen. Enough with all the praising though, here is my review.

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has never been one to blow you away visually. San Andreas’s strongest visual point was the mere size and scope of the world you lived in. GTA IV goes back to the roots of the franchise in Rockstar’s mock of New York in Liberty City. From the moment Niko steps off the ship at the beginning, you will be blown away by the environments around you. Not only is it a close resemblance to the real NYC, the design is completely thorough and constant throughout the city. While the actual character models may not blow you away, they are a step in the right direction and the variety of different characters in the game makes run-ins with the same NPC almost negligible. What Rockstar was able to do on its 2.0 game engine is really remarkable.

The strongest point of the GTA franchise has always been its sound. Going out of the way to grab great voice talent is a plus in any game, but Grand Theft Auto goes above and beyond, nailing down each supporting character to allow for a dynamic and powerful storytelling. In addition, the powerful writing sucks you deep into the heart of the game, which has always been to add more chaos in the world. The radio system throughout GTA includes over 200 different tracks, bringing a diverse, yet spectacular soundtrack to the game. Coming across the same track may not happen for hours.

While the GTA franchise has always been rather simple to pick up and play, some gameplay elements have changed to make it more enjoyable. The new cover system allows for Niko to take cover behind cars, wall, crates, etc. when stuck in a gunfight. You are also able to blind fire out of cover, much like Gears of War. I must say that blind firing a rocket launcher is probably one of the most amusing things I have done. The new targeting system allows for more accurate shooting instead of the quick lock and fire system the last three Grand Theft Auto’s supported.

Your cellphone is the universal portal to the world. Not only will you need it to start missions, but you can get into multiplayer through this as well. I must say that GTA multiplayer is one thing you are sure to not put down for a long time. You also will have to access the Internet at local cyber cafes on your map. One of the missions has you e-mailing a gay guy to meet him. When you arrange a date and finally meet him, you kill him.

Of course missions are only one part of Grand Theft Auto IV. There are a ton of optional side missions that you can partake in. Your map marks places you’ve been to and can go for some fun. This introduces another element of the game, which is the relationship system. Much like The Sims, you have to maintain relationships with people in your life. In GTA IV, that means your cousin, (potential) girlfriend, colleagues and so on. You can call them or they may call you. Sometimes they will want to go out and do something like eat dinner, play pool or shoot darts. These all act as mini-games within the GTA IV universe to keep you entertained.

Rockstar has been working on Grand Theft Auto IV for a long time. They’ve spent a lot of money and put a ton of effort into making this the best GTA game possible. They accomplished that quite easily. Whether it is the high-rise towers spanning Liberty City’s center or the ocean-bound boats floating underneath the Brooklyn Bridge look-alike, Grand Theft Auto IV recreates New York City in a way that one could not have imagined. The story is compelling, Niko is a likable character and the missions are fun to play. It’s no wonder this early-in-the-year Game of the Year contender sold over 6 million copies worldwide in its opening week.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.5
Written by Shawn and Kyle Review Guide