Grand Theft Auto IV Review
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One of the greatest video game stories ever told. It may have its flaws, but it is the most ambitious game made to date and, without a doubt, the best game so far this generation.
- The movie-caliber storyline
- The stylistically unprecedented recreation of New York City
- The vast online experience
- The slight framerate dips and pop-in
- The lack of a checkpoint system
Grand, theft, and auto. These three words, when separate, hold little weight. When conjoined, however, they represent pushing boundaries, confronting the man and provoking society at large. I’m talking of course about the most innovative and controversial franchise to date, Grand Theft Auto. With over 70 million units sold worldwide, the series is one of the most successful in the history of video games. It continues thriving to this day, with its latest entry, Grand Theft Auto IV, arriving with remarkably hefty expectations from millions of prospective owners. Is it even possible for a game to live up to such insane hype? To that, I respond with a resounding yes.
As you surely already know, Niko Bellic has one troubled soul. A veteran of the Bosnian civil war, this immigrant is lured to America by his cousin Roman, who spewed incessant lies about his supposedly extraordinary and glamorous life in the United States. After arriving, Niko (rather despondently) takes refuge in a modern day Liberty City and begins his own search for the American dream.
This search just happens to involve an abundance of car-jacking, gun-toting and cash-grossing. In fact, these three occurrences tend to transpire every few minutes. Niko just happens to be a determined guy who isn’t concerned if he lives or dies; if it pays, he’s the man for the job. What I love about Niko isn’t his awesome accent or unwavering daring, though; his flaws define him. His emotions manifest themselves throughout the plot in a subtle yet dramatic performance. He expresses his sorrow, he makes jokes, he becomes irritated – simply put, he’s not a cardboard cutout, he’s a human being. Not that the other characters are any less brilliant, but you develop an inexplicable attachment to Niko during the course of the game that you’ll discover yourself deeply concerned with his fate. This is an achievement in every sense of the word.
There is one more living, breathing being that must be mentioned, and it’s not human. Liberty City is an unprecedented, near-perfect recreation -- in a stylistic sense -- of New York City. The streets are covered in grime, the populace is plentiful and no two buildings appear alike. The city, not as massive as San Andreas or as modest as Vice City, contains more detail and care than both areas united. Familiar landmarks abound, from the Statue of Happiness (holding a coffee cup in lieu of a torch) to a rendition of Times Square as extraordinary as the actual place itself. The grand set pieces are accompanied by an ample amount of highly detailed interior areas that are easily accessible and free of loading, whether entering or departing. Integrate indoor and outdoor areas into a single seamless world by dashing the Cabaret Club to catch a show or heading back to your apartment to watch the latest episode of ‘Republican Space Rangers,’ a shining satire of both Halo and current politics.
It’s uncanny how lively the city can be. As you stroll down the sidewalks of Liberty City, you’ll encounter groups of friends having coherent conversations, citizens walking to work in the morning chatting vociferously on their cell phones, denizens hanging out in alleyways and the like. Run into a person and knock them over and they could have a myriad of different reactions. Is this person an inherently irate individual and searching for an opportunity to start a fight? Or is this a person intrinsically frightened by strangers and seeking to avoid conflict at all cost? Perhaps they’re in the middle of the road and will simply proceed to curse at you angrily in their native language (apparently Niko is “una puta” and several Chinese phrases I couldn’t even begin to comprehend). The inhabitants of Liberty City aren’t on, say, Shenmue level, but then again, that’s an entirely unjustified comparison of dozens to millions. They’re not always perfect, but the general public is as vibrant as diverse as Liberty City itself. It’s apparent that the folks over at Rockstar put an insane amount of effort into every asset of Liberty City. It shows.
Outside of the physical world comes the nearly as meaningful universe of media. Rockstar has always nailed the city radio stations and it’s no different in this iteration. The assorted stations ... (continued on next page)