|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rockstar North||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Rockstar Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 29, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (16 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
When Grand Theft Auto appeared on the Playstation, it was an interesting distraction but many gamers didn't take notice. Several years later when the series made the transition to the PS2 and created a sandbox world that had never been seen before, people fell in love. After a few era-specific spin-off titles and several years of development, Grand Theft Auto IV has finally arrived on the Xbox 360 and the PS3. The feelings that many players had the first time they played GTA 3 will be quite similar to what you will experience when you fire up GTA IV. As your jaw drops to the floor you quickly realize that it wasn't just a marketing gimmick, things really are going to be different this time around.
GTA IV delivers a compelling storyline about morality and the American Dream , the likes of which we have not yet seen from the series. You will play as Niko Belic, a man from a war-torn country trying to make a new and better life for himself and his family. He travels to Liberty City to join his cousin Roman, who is already quite rich and successful. At least this is what Niko believes, until he finds Roman living in a dump of an apartment, running a small cab company, and constantly being beaten up by petty thugs. As family often does, Niko decides to help Roman get out of the trouble he has gotten himself into.
Niko is the best character that Rockstar has ever created, and as such, helps to provide the best single player experience in a GTA game to date. As with every GTA title, you will do countless horrible things for many disreputable people. While in the beginning of GTA IV you may think that Niko is just another guy looking to make money and gain status, you begin to see the effect of the pain and suffering behind every evil deed that he performs. Instead of just being another Tony Montana (Scarface) type character, Niko clearly demonstrates that he cares deeply about the differences between right and wrong. As the game progresses you will find yourself easily becoming emotionally attached to this inwardly tormented character as he tries to make his way in his new life.
Every interesting main character must also have an equally interesting backdrop to exist in. GTA IV, as with GTA 3, takes place in Liberty City. I have a hard time saying that because the two versions of this city couldn't be any more different. Besides just the geographical differences, Liberty City has a completely different feel this time around. This is clearly a result of the increased power of the new consoles. Never before have I seen a living, breathing, sandbox world the likes of the new Liberty City. Each area looks distinctive, from the people who inhabit it to their buildings and even the condition of their streets. The details are fairly subtle, but amazing. The poorer areas of the city will have streets in horrible need of repair, crazy hobos and criminals lurking about, tons of graffiti, and a general sense of dilapidation. Rich areas however, will have much classier buildings, beautifully paved streets, more police wandering the streets, and nicer cars for you to steal.
The realism and differences shown in Liberty City only help to further convey this game's main theme. That is, not everyone can live the stereotypical American Dream. The United States is the land of opportunity but not everyone gets a fair shot at it. This kind of heartfelt look at the status of our country is somewhat unexpected from the guys who have been constantly demonized by most mainstream journalists as creating murder simulators. For people who know better however, this game's storyline clearly shows that there is more to GTA than just crime and destruction. I can't state this enough, the storyline in the game really needs to be played through to be fully appreciated.