the_icon's Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) review

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  • the_icon has written a total of 6 reviews. The last one was for inFamous

Welcome to Liberty City......where dreams are shattered

Back in 2001, the world experienced a new type of game. It’s a game that couldn’t be categorized (as there was nothing similar) at the time. It was a game that was a blend of everything that was out now, with one new addition….freedom to do whatever you want, how you want, when you want, that came to be known as Grand Theft Auto III, or GTA 3 for short.  GTA III created the “sandbox” genre, such a genre in which the key gameplay is “freedom”.  GTA games allowed you to play as an antihero in fictional city based on real life, with unprecedented freedom, humor on mocking the American culture of that specific era, radio station boasting terrific soundtracks, humorous DJs, memorable downright weird companions, lots of weapons.; and of course to hi-jack  vehicles to get where you want as fast as possible.  GTA III spawned 2 main sequels, Vice City and San Andreas. Both improved on what made GTA III tick and expanded in both depth and quality, although the core gameplay and engine remained the same, it was not a “true sequel”.

However, it was not until April 29 of 2008, we got a true sequel to the GTA III, appropriately titled Grand Theft Auto IV. The game may not look like another revolution of the series like GTA III, but rather an evolution. But………..as soon as you put your foot down on Liberty City (no relation to the Liberty City of the first game), you’ll know……………”things have changed”.

There are just so many stuff you can talk about in GTA IV, you can't list them all, and simply you can’t. I’ll try my best to be as detailed as possible. As…believe me, the world of Liberty City is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a videogame.

You put on the boots of Niko Bellic, Eastern European former military personnel who wants to escape his horrific past, and what better way to start a new life than America? After all his cousin Roman sent countless letters and emails of how he made it big. Niko upon the request of his cousin arrived in Liberty City, only to find out that his cousin was in serious debt, the sports car he promised was a mere taxi cab and girls he was living around were just posters.  Welcome to Liberty City…..where dreams are shattered…

The previous games in the entry didn’t feature any original captivating storyline, heck…. The storyline of GTA was always been the weak link of the otherwise, a strong franchise; and because of this, many people didn’t even finish the story missions, also add the fact that how awful the shooting mechanics were and how you were punished when you died. Thankfully….all those problems are fixed and improved so much that, now it’s literally became the part of the franchise’s story.

The game borrows some of the best elements of third person shooters in the market, specifically Gears of War. The game employs cover system and over the shoulder view while shooting, not unlike Gears of War. The game has also a new semi-auto aim function. Holding down the L2/Left Trigger button goes to auto-aim mode, and slowly moving the right analog stick you can target specific parts of the body, like the legs or going for the head. Holding the L2/Left Trigger half-way engages the in manual shooting, good for targeting explosive barrels and tires. Previous GTAs had been criticized for the lack of shooting from car, well that is fixed in this installment as well. While the game is still all about grand theft auto, stealing vehicles this time around is riskier than ever before, as police are almost everywhere and now you need to kick out drivers who are “unwilling” to lend you their vehicle and sometimes requiring you to break the glass of cars which are parked and hot wiring it to start, during which anything can happen. That’s why it’s sometimes best to go by the taxi, new to the franchise. You can whistle for the taxi using the L1/Left Bumper and go anywhere designated in your GPS by you. While you are in the Taxi, you can tell the driver to switch the tunes and look out of the window and enjoy the living breathing world of Liberty City, you can tell him to put the pedal to the medal or you can pay him double the money for quick transport (teleport), it comes especially handy when you want to retry your missions.

GTA IV is a much more realistic than the previous GTAs, while it still has some arcade flavor to it, but it’s definitely darker than before. The cars physics are much more realistic with real weight to them, the way Niko walks and places one of his feet on a higher level is very realistic, the animation never seams to break, mostly due to the fact that, other than the cut scenes, nothing is pre-canned animation. The game uses a new type of simulated animation technology called Euphoria, which is unexplainable until you see it with your own eyes, because of this; no two animations or “accidents” are the same.

Now integral part of game play is your cell phone, it’s the central hub for communication. Now not only you can receive phone calls as before, but you can call your contacts as well, you can for example, ask your gf on a date, call your cousin for a good game of bowling or get drunk (which is really entertaining and fun, especially to drive) or you can call an underground arms dealer for a car loaded with weapons. Its best, though not necessary to keep good relationship with your friends or gfs, as they often come up with their own perks. Oh yeah, just so you are wondering, it does not include any hot coffee scenes.

The story is far more human this time, unlike previous GTAs, its not but coming to the town and taking over, it’s all about survival. And the way Niko behaves and talks, he will instantly be a very likeable character surrounded by a full cast of interesting characters, like his cousin Roman.

As the game takes place in modern times, so with it comes things which we use everyday, like the internet. Yes, GTA IV has its very own interweb, with surprising debt to it, from blogs, emails to online dating service.  There are also usable TVs in the game with good amount of programming, some of them are really funny and amazing, you’d wish they aired it real-life. Like the previous GTAs, the radio stations are back with new DJs. The soundtrack in the radios covers almost all the modern genres, so there is bound to be something you’ll like, although the quality of selection is still not on par with Vice City, it had to be said, than again, its mostly to blame the modern era for its diverse genre. There is also a load of cool min-games, which are almost as good as games on their right, like bowling, darts, pool. There is even live comedy shows you can attend or watch in the TV.

The graphics is vastly improved with much detailed textures, new realistic lighting that produces great shadows and changes realistically as the day progresses and night falls. When you fly high, the city is undistinguishable from New York City. The character models and animation are as detailed as ever. From artistic point of view, the developers at Rockstar North did an amazing job to capture the look and feel of New York City.

The sound is on par with graphics. Backed up by solid soundtrack, the game is also superb in the other areas as well. Just stand your character for a minute, close your eyes, and just with the sound, you can picture what is going around you, provided you have a 5.1 sound system of course.

The game has also immense replayablity, so when you game finishes. You can go for the 100% completion, acquiring you to do things like killing all 200 pigeons/ “flying rats”, making all the unique jumps, etc. You can also play the story again, as it never gets old and try to take different paths in the game to see what is the outcome (there is a degree of decision making in the game, like who to kill or not, though not as deep as Mass Effect).  Or a very popular practice is to just mindlessly cause chaos with your RPG.

Or you can hop onto the multiplayer. There are loads of modes to choose from and most of them are pretty unique and fun. While the game has some multiplayer issues when launched on the PS3 version, the latest patch as of writing for PS3 (1.02) fixes most of them, and I personally didn’t experience any problems until then. You can also check various stats at Rockstar online stat tracking website, called Rockstar social club, here you can also preview the track marked in the game and buy digital download from Amazon.

Both the PS3 and 360 versions are amazing, this can hardly be said as a lazy port for PS3 (Xbox 360 was the lead platform for the game). Ironically, in some cases the PS3 version tops because of its Initial 8 min installation prior to starting he game for the first time. Because of this, less data have to be streamed from the optical disc, and so when you are driving at high-speed, the pop-up, yea its still there, not a big issue on the PS3 version compared to the "old versions" 360 version, as on some of the 360s with older Disc Drives, the read speed cannot always keep up and a result, you’ll sometimes find a car or a wall suddenly pop in before you can react. While most new 360 models (my friend), don’t have much of a difference.

Well there you have it, it’s the longest review I’ve ever done, by a long shot, but this game deserves it. I still left a lot of details about the game, this game is epic huge. You will soon realize that, all the small things which happen in the world of GTA IV merge and form a much bigger picture which really sucks you in the game. There is simply no immersive game than GTA IV……perhaps GTA V?

Other reviews for Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)

    ART 0

    I had never viewed the Grand Theft Auto series as legitimate. To me, it always brought itself into attention through shock value and sex-driven advertisements. It could have been possibly growing up in a sheltered, upper-middle class community as well, and a FOX News report may have made its rounds to my mother and her book club circle, and that may have shaped my view. At its surface, GTA has always seemed like a shallow, killing simulator that prided itself in being one-dimensional and evil. ...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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