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
(continued from previous page) ...The world doesn’t have a set of pre-determined objects that Niko can hide behind; literally everything within the world can be used as cover. This can cause minor issues as the game occasionally misinterprets where you intend to take cover, but for the most part, the versatile system in which you can blindfire, target and free aim adds immeasurable depth to firefights. One personal tip that you may not discover whilst playing through the game – cars are brilliant cover, as they’re transportable. If you’re in any large, open area where you could benefit from a cover point, just snag a car (preferably a large one like an SUV or a Patriot).
This brings us to yet another area where GTA IV dominates its predecessors – driving. Initially, the handling of vehicles in general felt loose and atrocious, but after playing the game for a few hours, I came to accept that it just wasn’t possible to whip an SUV around a corner at 150 miles an hour. It’s simple physics after all. A measurement of current velocity and acceleration concludes that it’s not possible to turn a specific car at such an angle and speed, thus the car crashes into a wall and Niko gets flung through the windshield and painfully tumbles across the cement until he comes to an eventual stop.
It’s moments like these that really reflect the glories of NaturalMotion’s ‘euphoria’ engine. Dubbed “euphoria: unique game moments,” this Dynamic Motion Synthesis system runs parallel to the game's animation engine and is called by the game's AI whenever synthesized motion is required instead of canned animation. In addition to handling the highly-complex physics throughout the world, it really comes through on delivering inimitable moments. Every time Niko bails out of a moving car or crashes into a pedestrian, you’re seeing a different outcome based on both the physics of the situation and the natural survival instinct within every human being.
One thing still remains the same when you hit a pedestrian – the cops still don’t take to kindly to it. The six star wanted system of Grand Theft Autos of yore is still in full effect, though it touts one very noticeable tweak. After committing a crime and obtaining a star, a small circle -- viewable on the mini-map -- is created in your general vicinity. To lose your wanted rating, you must escape the confines of the circular area without being spotted by the cops. If you are spotted, the circle will re-center around the location where you were seen. With each additional star comes a larger circle radius. So, for example, while a one or two star rating is fairly simple to expunge, a three or four star wanted level is far harder to drop. I commend anyone who can acquire a six star rating, let alone survive it for any period of time.
The LCPD isn’t the only opposing organization you’ll face in Liberty City. Missions will have you confronting against all sorts of groups from gangsters to “union workers” (a cover-up for the mafia). At its core, Grand Theft Auto IV hasn’t strayed from the basic formula that gamers know and love. Different people offer you assignments, which you can accept at your own pace. You then complete the missions and the plot progresses. As diverse as the missions are, I expected that with over 90 primary story episodes, they might become a bit of a slog at some point in time. I was wrong. The missions, despite lacking checkpoints, never become repetitive. Part of the draw is the deep narrative and the ability to affect it (you’re faced with moral dilemmas -- to kill to not to kill -- at several junctions throughout the game). Also, you’ll want to hear every bit of tremendous dialogue the game offers. Still though, GTA IV simply has the fun factor locked down. Particular missions never feel like an afterthought, they’re always wholly enticing, ranging from excellent to epic.
Part of the engrossing nature of the various missions lies in the game’s astounding audiovisual presentation. Open world games usually make some sacrifices visually to achieve an acceptable quality throughout the rest of the game. GTA IV sacrifices next to nothing. The game looks stunning for its genre. The sweeping ... (continued on next page)