GTA IV: Deadly Satire
I’m not going to sugar coat the violent nature of Rockstar’s latest incarnation of the Grand Theft Auto series, but it’s only fair that I tell you I’ve been a fan since the original top down version way back when games were played exclusively on PCs. Grand Theft Auto IV is a very violent game, not only the physical violence on screen, but also the audio violence – the language used is akin to a physical assault on your ears. The strange thing is though, as jarring as it may be at times, the language or violence doesn’t feel gratuitous.
Lets put the game in context: The story revolves around your character, Niko. Niko has just illegally emigrated from Eastern Europe, seeing Liberty City as a way to put behind him the horror of the Bosnian war. His cousin has promised him the American Dream, but on arrival he discovers that Liberty City isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and to survive these mean streets, Niko has to become a killer and enforcer for the Russian Mob. With a storyline such as that, it would be impossible to make a credible game with out violence and foul language, so why make such a game you might ask?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but violence for violence sake isn’t what GTA is all about. If you want violence and fun with no social commentary I can list a whole heap of games that nobody seems to complain about, but I’m not going to get that far off track. The issue I think most people have with GTA is that it allows you to do certain things. It’s a game that trains you to kill cops I heard on a local radio station on the day of release. Sure, you can kill just about anyone you want to in GTA IV, however that’s not exclusive to this franchise. What people don’t focus on is the consequences.
In this latest installment of Grand Theft Auto, you can’t drive one block with out seeing a cop car. The police seem to be everywhere. Try randomly jacking a car without first looking for cops and you’ll soon be in a police chase that will quickly escalate in a life or death race for Niko as he tries to elude the entire city police force, with (at one point) three police helicopters. Try killing a few cops and SWAT will be down on you like a ton of bricks. So yeah, you can kill cops, but it’s detrimental to the game.
Of course there’s plenty of killing in the missions, and to complete some you’ll have to kill. In others however you have to choose between killing someone and letting them live. That’s a pretty big choice, you’ve been told to kill this guy, but in the end you have to decide, and live with whatever the consequences are later in the game. I let the guy live.
The killing however has changed. In previous editions of Grand Theft Auto, when you killed someone on the street, you knew they were dead by the pool of blood they were lying in. Walk away and you left bloody footprints. Not so in GTA IV. Shoot someone and you get a misty puff of blood, but no more pools of blood.
But I didn’t buy this game so I could kill people; I can do that a lot better online with COD4. No, the beauty of GTA is being able to explore a living city, drive like a maniac and enjoy the satirical social commentaries. Ever since GTA went 3D, one of the enjoyable elements of playing has been listening to the car radio, being able to change channels to get the station that suits you. The bogus adverts, dj commentaries and news reports were all designed to put a smile on your face, and possibly, to make you think. In GTA IV, Europeans get slammed on talkback for having an easy life with ready access to health care and too much paid leave. Is that really an anti European rant, or is it a non-too subtle dig at American society in the vein of Michael Moore’s Sicko?
Of course not all the humour will appeal to everyone, with some of it having a non-to subtle degree of perverse sexuality to it. All of it however is a critique of what is wrong with America, and if anything, GTA IV goes further. Starting with a watchable TV in your room that has programmes in a similar theme to the radio shows. In a violent, sex saturated culture that puts rich, white rights ahead of everyone else; it’s refreshing to have such an in-your-face, satirical commentary. Sure, it’s mature in content, but then this is an R18 game. It approaches gameplay with a dose of humour as well; with one cut scene having a go at the online sensation of you tube:
“Tell that idiot if he doesn’t stop staring at me, I’ll get his head chopped off and put the film on the internet.”
Not everyone’s sense of humour I know, that that’s why I wouldn’t recommend this game to anyone who isn’t a mature game player, and even then, as I said in my first review, I’d recommend renting the game first.
Grand Theft Auto IV is a lot harder to get into, it has sweet cinematic cut scenes, but as I also said in my first review, it’s not as fun to just dive into. It’s growing on me however, and whilst it may never replace the experience of GTA III, I can feel my self being drawn into Liberty City and I’m likely to stay for sometime, which means that my ultra realistic killing machine, Call of Duty 4 is going to be gathering some dust.
I think I’m gonna give it another star.
PLEASE NOTE: Film Guide recommends that parents do not let their children play R-Rated games. Just because it’s a video game, doesn’t make it suitable for children, in fact statistics show that the average gamer is now in their 30s and game developers cater towards this mature demographic.
See also: GTA IV initial thoughts.