Well everyones doing it so i might as well join in. My Game of the Year. Theres not going to be a list i'm just gonna skip all the bullshit and tell you my winner. Grand Theft Auto IV.
Some will agree with me and some won't. Thats expected especially with this particular game. So if you wanna know exactly what i thought about it you can read my review below. And that should give you enough insight as to why i choose GTA IV as my personal Game of the Year.
GTA IV's gameplay is basically much the same as previous GTA games. You can run around an open world jacking cars and killing randoms. But like previous GTA games there are also street races and many other mini games. There may not be as many mini games as they had in GTA San Andreas but there a lot smoother now and they actually have a purpose. The game also brings life to old a stale features and adds an extra realistic detail which makes it feel like your playing GTA 3 for the first time again.
The driving in GTA games has always been fun. Whether it's the sliding around corners or really getting that sense of speed, it was always just plain fun and only sometimes annoying. But with GTA IV comes a real learning curve. The car physics have been redone making the car control seem more real and more fake at the same time, it's a good balance. You'll still slide around corners like a madman but if you drive that way you'll end up smashing into the sides of a lot of buildings. You also won't feel the same sense of speed that you're used to even when you're a sports car like the Infernus. But those are just small annoyances when you consider how fun it can be learning to drive with the new car physics, at first it's hard but you'll soon realise that you have to break on every corner and then it will feel natural. Anyway, if you don't like the new driving you can always catch one of the many taxis roaming the streets of Liberty City. Which is one of GTA IV's new features and trust me your going to want to catch a taxi sooner or later, the ease of just hailing a taxi, holding the Y button to jump in and then letting the taxi driver do all the work for you. Or you may prefer to skip the trip all together for a little extra cost, but I do highly recommend listening to the hilarious dialogue of the taxi drivers. A little feature Rockstar also added was that you can no longer just open a parked car and drive away you'll now have to watch a short animation of Niko breaking the windscreen and hotwiring the car before you can drive away.
The aiming systems in previous games have been highly criticized for being clunky and very simplistic. Each game has slightly improved on the lasts aiming system but this isn't the case with GTA IV. The aiming system has gone under a complete over-haul which was much needed. You can still choose to lock-on or free aim at your target but you'll want to lock-on to your target because of being able to choose which part of the body you want to shoot at. This feature adds a lot of strategy to shoot-outs; with a flick of the analog stick you can take aim at an opponents head for an instant kill. Or if you're getting attacked by an enemy on a ledge you can take a shot at his legs making him fall to his death. Another feature that increases strategy in shoot-outs is the new cover system. Just like Gears of War if you don't take cover you will die... quickly. It was a smart move to add cover to GTA. In the old games shoot-outs were very unrealistic because you could run into a room full of twenty plus enemies and come out with barely a dent in your health meter. Alas the cover system has some flaws, like the old aiming system it is very clunky. The only real complaint one can have about the shooting in GTA IV is the extreme lack of guns. In total there are only 15 different weapons to have in your arsenal and the more destructive ones like the Rocket Launcher can be really pricey.
Friendships were subtly introduced in GTA San Andreas in the form of Girlfriends. In GTA IV they are a vital part of the game. Most friends you will meet during the games main storyline but you can also meet some male and female friends over the internet dating site love-meet.com. Each relationship will have its own benefit, whether it be a taxi service or dial-a-bomb they all add something new to the gameplay giving you an incentive to go out with them. To make your friends like you more you can call them or they can call you to arrange a game of bowling, darts, pool or even a little bit of drinking. The drinking will especially have some fun implications. You may also like to see a show with them, you could watch the cabaret or go to a comedy club and listen to well known comedians Ricky Gervais and Kat Williams.
The internet makes its debut in GTA IV in the form of internet cafes called tw@t (which we're actually in GTA 3 just not accessible). The internet offers over 100 pages of content which is all in its own way hilarious. Whether you're looking for dates, a new car or even hacking into the police database there will always be something for you to do on the internet. You can also receive e-mails form family members back in Russia giving a little bit of back story to Niko before he came to Liberty City. Some side missions can also be received via e-mail.
The side missions are much the same as they have always been. You have street races, vigilante missions, taxi jobs, deliveries, stunt jumping and hidden package collecting. And the addition of most wanted missions which along with vigilante missions are accessed through the use of a police computer. You may be thinking but wait, there was more in old GTA's and yes you are correct. There are no ambulance and fire truck missions. Which isn't a big loss as they where boring.
GTA IV has fewer mini games than GTA San Andreas. Which like the side missions is not a big deal. The mini games that they have left in are now just better and actually have a purpose. The mini games include pool, darts, bowling, Cubed and drunk driving. The drunk driving is extremely fun to do because it actually makes you feel like your walking around the streets tumbling off the curb and driving a car into lamp posts. After a while you can sometimes find yourself feeling a little dizzy just from watching the blurry screen swirl around. Pool is nearly an exact replica of the San Andreas version and darts is just too easy. Cubed is an interesting take on tetris which if you play too much you may just become addicted to it. The worst mini game of the lot would have to be bowling. The pin physics are horrible. What would be a perfect strike in real life would result in maybe five or six pins falling down. It's completely random if you get a strike or not. This is easily the worst mini game GTA has seen.
GTA IV's gameplay delivers everything you would expect from a GTA game. Stealing cars, shooting people and roaming around a city and doing what you like when you like. Which is a lot more than any normal person would need. It is only slightly let down by a few things that could have done with a bit of polishing like the cover system and bowling mini game. It's missing a few things from old GTA games that were never that great so it's really no big loss.
Past GTA games have had stories that were never quite 'there'. For example GTA San Andreas had a long story, longer than GTA IV, but 60% of the game was irrelevant to the story. Where GTA IV's story (which is about 90 missions long) is constant the whole way through.
The main reason GTA IV's story succeeds is the main character. This time around you fill the shoes of a Russian immigrant who is just arriving in Liberty City because his cousin lied to him about living the 'American Dream' with many women. But as the story progresses you'll learn that he is also trying to escape from his past. To quote him, he's killed people, smuggled people and sold people. His name is Nikolai 'Niko' Bellic and he is the most three dimensional character the series has ever seen. Unlike the old characters he's not a yes-man. Instead of doing everything he's told like a good boy he questions his employers motives and makes them give him a reason to do there dirty deeds. Hell at some points in the game you're given the opportunity to spare your targets life for your own benefits. It's moments like these you realise that Niko Bellic is no ordinary video game character. Oh, and lets not forget, Niko is a cold-blooded badass with no morals.Now you try tell me he isn't appealing to you.
The secondary characters in the game are varied and interesting. You have your comedic characters that you love, and the tough mob bosses that treat you like crap which you can't help but hate. Having these interesting characters draws you into the story of the game in new ways. You're no longer playing through the story to unlock everything you need to cause destruction, your playing through to see how the characters evolve around you.
As I briefly mentioned previously, at certain points in the game allow for you to choose what you want to do. I'm not going to go into to much depth but at certain points of the game you can choose to kill your target or go after your employer, each option will have its benefits in the long run like earning houses and bonus outfits. You may even get a different ending. This helps the player immerse themselves into the story of the game.
GTA IV's story is one of the best I've seen in a videogame. It has dynamic characters that evolve over the progress of the game. Rockstar have given us the chance to change the story by making our own choices during the game which can result in two different endings. Few games can boast a story to be better than that of GTA IV.
Sound has always been one of the GTA series strong points. There amazing dialogue, diverse radio stations and the sounds of the city are top-notch, and this GTA IV is no different.
The dialogue in GTA IV has been called Oscar worthy. That may be a slight exaggeration but without a doubt the dialogue is excellent. Rockstar has done things a little bit differently this time around, instead of hiring big Hollywood stars like Samuel .L. Jackson and James Woods to do voice over work they've essentially hired a bunch of nobodies. This helps make the game more realistic because you're not relating characters to there voice actors. You have no choice but to let the character tell you who they are, giving more depth to the characters and story.
The radio stations in GTA games have always been diverse and besides a few exceptions, hilarious. Like always there are talk stations, hip hop and rap stations, funk stations and rock stations. But what makes GTA's stations special is that even stations with the same genre of music have a unique flavor. The music of GTA IV consists of licensed music from names like The Smashing Pumpkins, Queen, Kanye West and there's pretty much a whole radio station dedicated to the legendary Bob Marley. GTA IV's soundtrack also consists of music written specifically for the game that fits seamlessly with the feel of the game. Rockstar has also bought back the fan favorite radio DJ Lazlow.
"Get moving you jack***!" "Get out of my way you **** face!". Ahhhhh the serenading words of your fellow Libertonians... yeh not quite. While your walking through the streets you'll be treated to sounds of pedestrians conversations, engines failing, metal clashing against metal, an inconsiderate ped drive by with his radio booming and occasionally a gun shot or a ear shattering explosion. These improved sounds really makes it feel like your there during that gun fight or when your speeding down the 'Booth Tunnel' at a 100 mph.
The sounds of GTA IV are extraordinary. The dialogue is movie-like; the radio stations are as good as ever, and you can really tell the difference between firing a pistol or firing a shot gun. Everything just sounds, right. It's things like these that make GTA IV what it is.
The first thing you will notice about GTA IV is the graphics, they are technically outstanding. They may not be the most photo realistic graphics you've ever seen but if you take into account the sheer size of the redesigned Liberty City and how much is always going on you should realise that GTA IV's graphics are a technical masterpiece.
Even when your just taking a stroll through the streets of Liberty City you'll notice how much effort Rockstar North has put into getting the animations right this time around. The animations in previous games were at best sub-par. GTA IV ends the tradition of clunky animations through the use of the Euphoria game engine. Niko's motions are now fluent and well choreographed, adding to overall realism. For example if Niko were to turn left while running his body will tilt left. The sharper he turns the more he tilts.
It's clear that Rockstar has also worked on improving pedestrian looks and behaviours. You will rarely see two pedestrians which are identical, contrary to previous GTA games where in area with 10 pedestrians in it 3 of them would look exactly the same. The peds actions have also been improved, instead of walking around aimlessly they will read the paper, tie their shoes and even enter and exit buildings on their own accord. The improvements to the peds really helps sink in the fact that Liberty City is now a living, breathing world not just a bunch of pixels shaped into a city.
Like all games in the open world genre the frame rate isn't perfect which is understandable considering the game's size. But what makes this game better than the rest is its frame rate issues are minor and barely noticeable. In 3 hours of straight game play I only noticed it play up twice, compared to the GTA games of old where you would see a car pop-in every two minutes.
Although GTA IV's graphics aren't the most photo realistic we've ever seen they are truly astonishing to look at. You could spend a whole session of playing just walking the streets being amazed by how Rockstar succeeded in creating a living, breathing city.
Do I think GTA IV is worth buying? Yes. I was asked about a week ago if I would buy GTA IV if they were selling it for $300. My answer was yes. GTA IV is jam packed with content which will keep me busy for months. And that's not even starting to think about the DLC that they will be bringing out. If you buy one game this year make it this one. You could call it game of the year, or you could call it the game of the decade. But what it should be called is the best game ever, period. For every bad thing in GTA IV there are 50 good things. This game is so full of content that 80% of people will never experience it all. It may be a while before you see a game that tops this one.
Grand Theft Auto IV in one word...... Revolutionary