Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV has been getting a lot of perfect 10 out of 10 scores from overseas reviewers, but I’m not ready to do the same. In fact my initial impressions were not that great. The sluggishness of your characters movement and seemingly slow driving speeds reminded me of how slow the second (top down view) GTA game compared to the fast and furious original.
Fortunately things got better. Niko, the dude you play has the ability to sprint, but his natural tendency is to slouch and take his time. As for the sluggish cars, well you just have to jack a faster car. Whilst we’re on the subject of cars, they handle pretty much the way I remember, with a very bouncy suspension and almost mandatory Hollywood style sliding round corners. GTA has remembered to keep it fun.
The graphics are a huge improvement, and the city looks immense. The missions start out simple and allow you to get used to the controls, which are pretty standard. You get to meet a few people and start doing odd jobs. You even get a girlfriend, and you have to take her out on dates. It’s here that it all gets very adult very quick. At the end of a typical date you have the option of seeing how far you can go with your girlfriend, which typically leads to you going inside and a cut scene of the outside of the apartment and some suggestive sounds. The first time this happens, you get an Xbox achievement, titled ‘Warm Coffee’ – an humorous throwback to the ‘Hot Coffee’ scandal that got people all hot under the collar over GTA San Andreas. Personally I never understood what all the fuss was about, especially because I had played games with much more ‘interactive’ content. Now before anyone gets upset, I don’t think this is a necessary part of the game play and fortunately (from my limited time playing thus far) I’m pretty sure you can choose to avoid any kind of hanky panky.
So after three and a half hours of playing Grand Theft Auto IV I can say that it plays pretty much like any previous incarnation, it just all looks much, much better.
There are some noticeable additions however, one being the ability to get drunk. Though this is not interactive either, it’s just and either or. Either you go to the pub or you don’t. If you do, when you come out you’ll find walking or driving to be extremely difficult. Now I know some people are going to think that this is akin to GTA promoting driving drunk, but in reality It only goes to show that alcohol adversely effects your ability to drive. GTA, now with a positive social commentary? Not quite. Especially as they have revamped the combat system, giving you greater control over how you beat people up, and a better cover and targeting system for shooting. But these are good points for a game like this!
The other noticeable thing is going to upset a number of fans, and that is the ability to go and do your own thing. Sure, you can still do your own thing, but exploring the city doesn’t seem quite as exciting for some reason, I didn’t see any obvious shortcuts or massive jumps that I could do. Any buildings whose roofs I could launch my car off to access other areas. Maybe this is a reflection of my recent playtime on Burnout Paradise. The other issue fans are going to have is with the police. A fun distraction for a portion of GTA players is the ability to go on a rampage, but as I found out by accident (I was driving a little fast and ran over a cop) is that if you get the Police on your tail for anything other that a minor traffic offense, it’s very hard to shake them, and things can soon escalate with multiple Police Helicopters chasing you, giving you no where to run. Soon enough your car will be damaged enough that it will breakdown, or worse, explode into a huge fireball.
It seems like the Rockstar boys are trying to be a little more responsible, but this may backfire and anger die hard fans.
Now three and a half hours is not nearly enough time to be able to really get a feel for a game of this magnitude, but I will say this: I’m excited enough to want to play GTA for a while yet, but I’m not as excited about playing it as I was before it was released.
I’ll have more to say in a couple of weeks (which may include a higher star rating), along with (hopefully) another reviewer’s point of view. Until then I’d recommend that you rent GTA IV over the weekend before you put down a large wad of cash and purchase it.
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.