Xbox 360 Review: Grand Theft Auto IV

Also known as GTA Evolved

What does the American Dream mean today? For Niko Bellic fresh off the boat from Europe, it is the hope he can escape his past. For his cousin, Roman, it is the vision that together they can find fortune in Liberty City, gateway to the land of opportunity. As they slip into debt and get dragged in a criminal underworld by a series of shysters, thieves and sociopaths, they discover that the reality is very different from the dream in a city that worships money and status, and is heaven for those who have them and a living nightmare for those who don’t.

By now, every man and his dog are playing GTA IV. Week one sales alone pitch it at over 6 million copies sold, so you’ll all know just how good of a game it is, but now that the hype has gone down, it’s time to take a closer look and see if it really did meet expectations. Well, I’ll answer that in due time but for now, let’s look at what it has to offer gamers.

First off is the main character Niko Bellic, who is not your typical GTA character. Instead of being a wannabe gangster like in previous instalments, he’s actually quite charismatic, vulnerable and even apologetic to some of his victims. He’s definitely the most vibrant and interesting character in the series thus far and you will come to love him and even his cousin Roman, who is clearly an idiot.

What’s ironic about the whole thing is that Roman depends on Niko to achieve the American Dream, yet he causes more problems than he solves. I won’t spoil it for those of you who either haven’t played it yet or haven’t finished the game, but let’s just say that Roman does not have an easy ride with his cousin.

The plot is at a level of a blockbuster movie, and with a total cost of $100 million to make (apparently) it’s clear that Rockstar had that in mind from day one. The attention to detail in GTA IV is just outstanding, the same attention has been spent on side missions as normal ones and the real truth is that Liberty City is the true star of the game. You’d expect with having to create a large city full of NPCs, that there would be some drawbacks to the visuals, but there’s not much in terms of that. Instead, it looks amazing. Pushing the hardware to its absolute limits, some have complained that the 360 version has had a few graphical irregularities, but I’ve only come across one or two throughout the whole 50 hours I’ve been playing it.

What makes GTA IV different are small things, the addition of an arcade game like QUB3D or bowling, darts, pool or strip clubs all make the city feel alive. Even the NPCs act differently, they don’t just all run away at any sign of trouble. Some will squeal, some will fight, some will even get weapons out and try and shoot or stab you. They can be very unpredictable, so beware! Driving is perhaps the game’s biggest change, the vehicles really do not like turning corners fast, and so it requires some getting used to.

Even some of the series’ problems like combat or shooting have been improved dramatically. Fighting with your fists is much better with the help of counter attacks and combos, shooting is much better thanks to the help of a lock-on system that works like a charm, and the cover system gives Gears of War a run for its money. The difficulty has also been quashed; the wanted system is easier to escape from now thanks to a circle that appears on the radar. site directory . Escape the circle, keep hidden and you’re free. Although the higher wanted level you are, the bigger the circle is, there are also achievements for escaping a 4-star rating and surviving a 6-star rating for a total of 5 minutes, which are actually tricky if you don’t know what you are doing.

Multiplayer is perhaps the biggest change to the franchise, mixing things up with street races and VIP style modes in which pretty much all of Liberty City is accessible, making it a huge arena to fight against your friends on. It’s all customisable and incredible; I only wish I had enough time to delve into it a bit more than I have.

The 94 missions will take roughly 30-35 hours to do; in fact if you manage to do it in 30 hours then you will unlock an achievement. I just missed it but will come back for that when I hit 100%, which I’m close to doing thanks to the Bradygames guide which helped me locate all the stunt jumps with fantastic descriptions and is helping me locate each of the 200 pigeons that need shooting.

There’s also the addition of a mobile phone that you can call your in-game friends to arrange trips to go drinking, for a quick snack or a game of bowling. It’s important to maintain their happiness for an achievement and also to get you closer to 100%, the phone is also customisable with ringtones and backgrounds that you can get on GTA IV’s own version of the Internet.

Yes you heard right, GTA IV has its own Internet. It’s not the ACTUAL Internet, but instead pages of info, you can arrange dates online and of course check emails. ask me questions All of those are important for later missions and there are also a few hidden websites that will help you hunt down those collectibles. But to be honest, it’s much better to use the guide for that. The franchise has always been famous for its humour, poking fun at most things going on in the real world. Liberty City is more or less a parody of New York, there are all references to things like blogs, podcasts and oddly, the game seems to actually make fun of Americans more than they realise. The radio stations are still as hilarious as ever, and the music selection throughout is just amazing, there are some real music lovers at Rockstar.

The Verdict

What can I say about GTA IV that hasn’t been said already? Not a lot, it’s without a doubt a top contender for Game of the Year and is definitely the best in the franchise thus far. I only hope that the next instalment is just as groundbreaking as this and that the main character has even more charm and realism than Niko, which will be incredibly difficult to do since he is an amazing one. So, does it meet expectations? Without a shadow of a doubt, I would give this an extra star if possible but it remains as one of our highest rated games.