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Review: Grand Theft Auto IV

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posted on May, 9 2008 @ 09:59 AM
Review: Grand Theft Auto IV

Score: 86%


  • Environment = 4.5 / 5.0
  • Characters = 4.0 / 5.0

  • Environment = 5.0 / 5.0
  • Music = 4.0 / 5.0

  • Animation = 4.0 / 5.0
  • Voice Acting 4.0 / 5.0

  • Writing = 4.5 / 5.0
  • Missions = 4.5 / 5.0

  • Controls = 4.0 / 5.0
  • Physics = 5.0 / 5.0

    TOTAL: 43.5 / 50 (86%)


    I know this is probably going to earn me the scorn of every GTA fan out there, but I found GTA 4 to be imperfect. There was no one gaping flaw to account for the score I gave it, but rather an accumulation of minor "B-Grade" results from the accumulated efforts that I sincerely hope are addressed by the time GTA 5 comes out.

    Let's start with the graphics. The character models are poorly animated, poorly textured, and stingy on the polygons. The clothing and hair never move, damage is barely even considered, showing nothing more than the occasional burnmark. In some cases, especially the strip club, the characters hit the "uncanny" valley where they're actually a bit revolting. Even the original X-Box had better character graphics on many games. That said, I have seen far worse, and these rank in the upper 80%. Still, with as big a title as this, and the level of anticipation towards it, I would have hoped their character model technology would have matured a bit.

    The environments are exceptional. It is obvious where the graphics technology was focused this time around. GTA4 uses what appears to be a bitmap system to in lieu of render-popping environments out of thin air. So, as you approach a cable-bridge, in the distance, it appears as a bitmap that grows larger and renders portions of it as you approach. From the highest vantage points in the city, you can see all the way around. Their avoidance of render-pops and half-invisible buildings due to "distance fog", combined with the fact I never experience a load time driving from one half of the city to the other, is top-notch. The newfound ability to wander inside of buildings is also great, but more on that in controls. The only nit-picky flaws I found in the environments are the blurry and stretched signs where textures didn't quite fit the store facade, and the washed-out look to the entire game. Several hours into it, and I still feel like I'm playing the game through a blue and gray filter. I find my eyes desperately searching after a while for any source of "warm light" or vibrant color, but usually find only another shade of blue or gray. This might have been excused if there were, at some point, extremely clever use of bright color or warm light to bring intense focus on a crucial plot point (like the little girl and candles in Shindler's List), but they fail to do this much. On such a minor point, I hate to deduct, but the effect on game enjoyment is palpable.

    The sound will not disappoint anyone but a career sound-technician, and even they will probably be happy with the result. The game works perfectly with the surround-sound system, and I have no complaints about the quality or effects.

    The music is, in some aspects, its biggest accomplishment and biggest disappointment for me. The best part about it is being introduced to a new favorite band: Glukoza Nostra (sings "Schweine"), who I would never have otherwise known of without this game, and with the addition of new station "Journey", which plays some great ambient "trippy" music, enough so I'm considering buying the "station CD" for that one. The disappointment comes in the otherwise near-complete lack of variety on radio stations. There are 2 Reggae stations, 2 disco stations, 4 or 5 HipHop/Funk/R&B stations, 4 or 5 easy-listening stations, 1 Latin, 1 Russian, 1 Punk Rock station, and then a couple of extremely annoying talk radio stations that make even talk-radio fans cringe. I really miss the variety and quality of the GTA San Andreas stations. There also doesn't appear to be an off-button. As a result, my dial is more or less looking for the one Glukoza track on the radio, or set at Journey, where at least I can ignore the music. I'm very disappointed this round, though I know the music probably fits the taste of many others. So rather than grade down based on the selection, I'm grading down on sheer lack of variety in what has become an expected part of each GTA installment.

    The game is pretty immersive, but not nearly so much as GTA San Andreas. In San Andreas, the writing and voice acting were so compelling that I actually felt like I was a young black man ripped from his life and thrust back into a Compton Ghetto where the bonds of family and community versus a corrupt system designed to keep me down had forced my hand into a reluctant life of crime, to the point where I genuinely felt bad about robbing people in the game because they were "my people" in the game. In GTA 4, they fail to make this level of empathy happen. Niko (the main character) is all too verbal about how much he dislikes this country, Roman (his cousin) is far too loving of the wrong things about this country. I feel less like a real part of the story, and more like a dispassionate observer growing increasingly irritated that every single person I meet is a backstabbing, whiny, self-righteous, incompetent fool. In San Andreas, my fellow gang members felt like real people, individuals with their own hopes, dreams, frustrations, and wishes about how they could be anything but what they'd become. In GTA 4, I feel like everyone I meet is either a movie cliche or a cardboard cutout of an archetype. Finally, the voice acting is pretty good. Almost everyone does a good job conveying the proper emotions and such, with the glaring exception of a certain female voice talent. The actress who reads Michelle (Niko's first girlfriend) reads her part and others with about as much enthusiasm and emotion as J-Lo on Lithium.

    The content in the game is quite well done. The missions are diverse to the point of not sending me out to collect 10 tokens, though they still fall a tad short of predictable, and the writing on them gives enough flavor to keep it interesting. One of the newer additions to the GTA series is the choice of whether or not to spare lives in certain Main Story missions, or choosing who lives and who dies. I was genuinely torn on one of the mid-game missions as to who I would choose to take out versus who I would choose to take on.

    That said, I have two minor beefs with the content. One is the level of profanity. Now, I'm not above cussing, and certainly not a prude about it, but when 75% of every line of dialogue involves 4-letter words, it gets old real fast, and I'm left with the feeling that the entire script was written by a first year theater-mager, eager to throw as many curse-words in there as they can "for shock value." A curse is to conversation what a bullet is to a threat. Either, sparingly used and carefully placed, can make one scene memorable for life. Too much of either completely destroys the point. Take for example, Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom, when he stands upon the ancient, decrepit bridge, bad guys ahead of him, turning around to find bad guys behind him, and looks down to see a several-hundred foot drop with alligators below him, and with the perfect amount of resignation and inflection, Indy drops the S-bomb. That is how you use profanity as an art.

    GTA IV doesn't use profanity as an art, it uses it as a chain gun versus dialogue. It doesn't even keep it to the level of the average uncensored Gangsta Rap. Quinton Tarrantino didn't even put this much cussing in Reservoir Dogs. At one point, it gets so ridiculous, that one of the lines of dialogue goes something like this: "I'm so sick of this s____, I just want to say f___-it, man. F___ it. I mean, like it's like s____, you know? F____!"

    VALLEY GIRLS have more substance to their conversations than this. I mean, they don't even bother getting creative with the cussing anymore, it's just see how many S's and F's they can drop into a sentence and then throw in a few metasyntactic variables for good measure. It just looks sloppy, ridiculous, and frankly, I wish I could just turn the profanity feature off at this point because the conversations would be about 40% shorter.

    The other problem I have with the content is that often GTA feels more like a dating sim than an action game, and yet, often this ex-army badass who goes around killing and stealing cars and racing on a casual day to day basis is forced to go on dates with dudes on a near-constant basis to keep them happy enough to let you use their special ability. And since you have a cell phone, they can reach you anywhere, at any time, asking if you want to go hang out. And if you decline? You lose friendship points. I've literally had three in a row call me and ask to hang out while I was en route to pick up a fourth. Your option when they call is either to accept and abandon the person you were going to pick up, or decline and anger the person who called you. And despite the fact it takes 2-3 hours of gametime to drive across the city, you only have 1 hour before you're late picking them up and incur a friendship penalty. And since you have no idea what they are going to like or not like, you might have to try three or four places before you find a place they like. It's extremely annoying. I've even been called during "sneak up on this person" missions, and because of button placement, you are forced to answer or if you manage to decline the call, you still take the negative hit. They really should have given that one a lot more thought.

    That said, I really like the special ability features of the friends, and it makes it worth putting up with the major headache of their maintenance.

    The controls are fine except in turning corners in cars, and sticking to walls when going for cover. Oh, and use of the left-bumper for hailing cabs is very stupidly disabled for several minutes after getting drunk. No matter what car you are in, turning a corner feels like you've got street-slicks on wet ice. Anything but a perfect touch or slowing down to a crawl will cause your vehicle to spin out crazily. And when the weather effects take hold, and the roads themselves become slick, driving is almost impossible. Thankfully, there are cabs all over the city, and you earn enough money to use them whenever you want. This comes in especially handy when you are called to a mission 2 islands away, and have to repeat it, or when a friend wants to hang out.

    Gunplay has improved tenfold in GTA. Perhaps the most significant advancement of the franchise is that we now get to fire a gun in a way other than "blind whirling". This makes ammo conservation and targeting immeasurably easier to the point I cannot imagine why it was never added before. The cover system, likewise, is a new, well-loved feature, except that trying to separate from the wall you've got your back against is like trying to pull apart two very powerful magnets from one another.

    Overall, GTA IV is a great game. Despite it's minor flaws and annoyances, it still manages to keep me enthralled for as long as I can play each day, and yearning to play more when I'm not. GTA fans will love this title, and newcomers to the series will find this an excellent starting point. However, I think the prolific perfect scores it received immediately after launch were, like the company's approach to certain aspects of the game, a bit immature. Had they a little more time to grow up, it might have been perfect.

  • posted on May, 9 2008 @ 11:11 PM
    Libra, that review makes me want to go pick this game up. I haven't bothered yet as I'm not one to wait in line for a game and the two times I've went and looked for it it was sold out.

    Solid writing as always man.

    Originally posted by thelibra
    Glukoza Nostra (sings "Schweine"),

    Those guys are right on. I just finished watching a couple of there video's. I wish I spoke Russian but the video for Schweine, I don't think ya need to know Russian to get the message.

    posted on May, 9 2008 @ 11:14 PM
    great review!

    I have a laundry list of complaints some of which you have already stated but mainly there needs to be a instant reply button!

    honestly I am not as impressed as I was with san andreas and I have been playing since the 2d days.

    posted on May, 10 2008 @ 12:25 AM
    I haven't played the game, I'm just gonna wait for the PC version.

    As for the low polygon, maybe because GTA IV is a big environment game, and limited by the hardwares, especially since it's on consoles.

    Personally I was never really impressed by the GTA 3D series (nor the 2D), but in general I like exploration games a lot. And GTA IV is considered to be the best of them all (at least by the more mainstream) especially if you look at all the reviews.

    Check out this ranking. GTA IV is the best of all time. Beating one of my all time favorite the Half Life 2s.

    posted on May, 10 2008 @ 12:29 AM
    reply to post by Jazzyguy

    yeah i love just exploring the environment, whats really funny is a bunch of my friends are somewhat new to the series and they dont understand i love just getting as many stars as I can and try to get away. Soon they will understand lol.

    and the music zomg amazin the fusion and journey are my favorite so far.

    posted on May, 10 2008 @ 05:21 AM
    reply to post by thelibra

    Great post, and definitely a great game.

    Just thought I'd let you know that you can turn the radio off. On the PS3 version you just hold the left button and it turns off.

    I haven't really listened to any of the radio stations but I'm gonna be searching for the Punk Rock one.

    posted on May, 16 2008 @ 01:00 AM
    Michelle sounds like she is reading her lines because she is. In the story (Spoiler alert I guess.) She is a government agent pretending to be into Niko.
    Niko is an awesome charachter to play as, I hated San Andreas because they tried to make this gangster a good guy. (The stereo type didn't work for me in that game. It very well could have been the black thing.)
    I actualy felt like a polock (Or wherever he is from.) fresh off the boat When I palyed GTA4. I think Niko is a great charachter, he is easy to read because he is a foreigner and can only voice his opinions in such a blunt manner. (Which I think is funny and deep sometimes.)
    4 gripes
    3 things that are bad in the game and the only reason they're bad is because of the reputation it has to live up to
    Graphics do seem outdated I agree. No excuse for that.
    The music did not live up to it's old standards
    The game was a bit too short compared to Vice city.
    For whatever reason they added some new innnovations but removed a bunch, Like not being able to buy properties no charachter customization like san andreas. there was absolutely nothing to spend money on was my biggest gripe. In vice city I had to save and save to buy a strip club in this game you rob one bank (Fun as hell mission.) And you're set.
    I think 86% is a fair good rating. Espicially since it should have been a 99%

    posted on May, 16 2008 @ 06:56 AM
    I'm still having fun playing the game but two other minor gripes: I'd really like the ability to save without having to be in a safehouse, or at the very least, have my mission-restart locations happen at a point AFTER I arrive at the mission action location, rather than the pickup point. It's really annoying, for instance, to get all the way through the bank escape only get gunned down right before the mission-end cut scene, only to respawn all the way back across town, on another island, with no car and no armor. So I have to find another 4-door, I can't even taxi to the bank to skip the time, stop for armor all over again, and then drive back to the bank. It takes like 10 minutes just to restart the same mission back at the point where there's any action again. That's fine for people who have unlimited hours outside of work to play, but I've got a wife and kid, and I'd like to play something besides the same 10 minutes over and over in my half-hour or so per night I get to play this game.

    My other complaint is how ugly everyone is in this game. I don't so much mind the guys being hit with the ugly stick, but it's really hard to even tolerate, much less want to participate in, the dating-sim part of the game when Packie's sister looks like an older version of Hillary Clinton with a more butch haircut. Supposedly there's a rather attractive chick with a lolipop at some point in the game, but up to the point I'm at, the women in the game make Bea Arthur look like Victoria Secret. Which would also be fine if I wasn't expected to try and date them, especially when the conversation is equally uninspiring.

    Toy_soldier, thanks for the tip, but I have a 360. My left button breaks the window to aim a firearm out of it.

    Zealot, yeah, the lack of anything to spend money is kind of annoying. I've got around $70k, maxed out on weapons, armor, and ammo, and the most expensive item I can find is a suit for $2k. It'd be nice to be able to customize my car, or face, or buy some property, or a helicopter, or something. It's more like the money is a score rather than something you'd spend on anything.

    Maybe there will be more offered in downloadable content or something.

    [edit on 5/16/2008 by thelibra]

    posted on May, 16 2008 @ 11:58 AM
    Nice review. Having already completed the game after a week of owning it and having a progress of 65%, I'm doing nothing but running/driving around looking for secrets, such as the pigeons (flying rats), of which I have 190 more to find. The game is great but the missions are far too easy, there was only a couple that I died on but done them easy enough second time around. If more elements from the previous games had of been added it would have made the overall gameplay much more rewarding, in my opinion. What I do like about this game is all the little touches and detail, such as bullet holes etc, doing a burn out for too long which pops the tires and driving around with sparking rims! The visuals are eye candy for sure and the level of detail is superb. The cut scenes get abit tedious and boring after a while and the story is virtually non-existent. Overall it's a good game but as I said it's pretty unrewarding and there's nothing much to spend your cash on like you could in SA: houses, clothing, tattoo's, different hair styles, I feel alot more could have been done. As for the ending, not to spoil it for anyone that hasn't completed it yet, lets just say you will be sorely disappointed. After doing the last few (harder) missions you expect alot more from the ending than the one you're given. I guess one nice bonus in owning the 360 version is the ability to download more content, so I'll be checking that out pretty soon. Over all a decent game with some nice touches, but lacking in other areas. If I had to give a score out of 10 I'd give it a 7, or a 3.5 out of 5.

    posted on May, 19 2008 @ 02:03 PM
    Why are you guys harping about the graphics? If the texture resolution was higher then load times would increase. Remember that you have only ONE load screen before you are let into a seamless Liberty City. The only time you ever see a load screen in game is when you are starting a mission or teleporting across the map via taxi.

    Also when rating the graphics, what are you guys comparing this game too? The only game that you can compare it to is Saint's Row and that game can't even touch GTA4 in just about every way.

    As for the extras, there are loads in there you just have too look. I don't find the lack of options to spend money to be a problem either, Niko wasn't a Coke dealer or a African American "business-man". He is an ex-soldier with revenge on his mind. Kind of hard to do that while trying to run several businesses doncha think?

    [edit on 19-5-2008 by sardion2000]

    posted on May, 19 2008 @ 02:34 PM

    Originally posted by sardion2000
    Why are you guys harping about the graphics?

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is there for everyone to see. Most of the characters in this game are just very very ugly. Texturing and polygons notwithstanding, they made everyone ugly as sin to look at. Considering other GTAs did not have this problem and yet ran on weaker consoles, leads me to believe it was more laziness than intentional.

    Besides, 4.5/5 and 4/5 are like 80 and 90%. That's hardly harping. That's just keeping it against a benchmark. Fact is, they could have done better.

    Originally posted by sardion2000
    If the texture resolution was higher then load times would increase. Remember that you have only ONE load screen before you are let into a seamless Liberty City. The only time you ever see a load screen in game is when you are starting a mission or teleporting across the map via taxi.

    Yep. I took that into heavy consideration. It's one of the reasons they scored as high as they did.

    Originally posted by sardion2000
    Also when rating the graphics, what are you guys comparing this game too?

    Personally, I'm using Bioshock as the best environment I've seen yet, and Dead or Alive 4 as the best Characters I've seen yet. This is purely graphics-wise, not a commentary on either of the other two games themselves.

    Originally posted by sardion2000
    The only game that you can compare it to is Saint's Row and that game can't even touch GTA4 in just about every way.

    No, I can compare it to just about any game out there. I do have to agree though that Saint's Row didn't even come close. By the way, as far as GTA-like games are concerned, there's also Crackdown.

    Originally posted by sardion2000
    As for the extras, there are loads in there you just have too look. I don't find the lack of options to spend money to be a problem either,

    Well that's great, but I've got 250k burning a hole in Niko's pocket. What's the point of all that cheddar if there ain't no baked potato?

    posted on May, 19 2008 @ 02:42 PM
    And they got Cope2 to do the throwies in the background

    posted on May, 19 2008 @ 03:24 PM

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is there for everyone to see. Most of the characters in this game are just very very ugly.

    I never even addressed that and I agree, most of the characters were pretty ugly, including Niko himself, though you can get some hot dates off the internet
    You should go read up on all the previews from a year back. I believe the devs mentioned that they were going to do something like this intentionally, at least for Niko that is. Just curious, what platforms did you play the GTA3 trilogy on? I only played them on PC so I don't have any basis for comparison.

    No, I can compare it to just about any game out there.

    In the Game Review business they tend to compare games in the same genre to arrive at a sensible score for all categories. Of course you can compare it to any game out there, it is your thread but all I'm saying is that doing it like that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Something about Apples and Oranges comes to mind. Like really, how can you compare bioshock with gta4 in anyway whatsoever? The games bear no similarity at all. I used this same argument with people who were trying to compare Bioshock with COD4 about the control scheme and water effects.

    What's the point of all that cheddar if there ain't no baked potato?

    Play online. Thats what the Multiplayer option on your Cell phone is for man. You didn't mention that once in your review did you... I'll go back a reread but I'm sure you didn't even touch that aspect.

    I just think it deserves a 10/10. Yeah they could have added more but if they did that we'd still be waiting. You don't want GTA to turn into another Duke Nukem do you? It's amazing they have churned out 4 great games of this scale in a decade(not including PSP games, as I never played them) and each and every iteration just gets better and better.

    posted on May, 19 2008 @ 03:29 PM
    Nice review.

    That review is probaly better then 90% of the gaming sites...

    It seems everyone is all Ape-(blank) over GTA4... while, all in all, its mostly the same game as before...

    A game with as many mistakes, and glitches as this one, shouldn't be given the mantle of Greatest game Since Ocarenia of Time...

    It seems the only thing money is for is for Taxis... and hot dogs...

    The graphics were as good as they need to be, Bioshocl graphics are better, but the envioroment in Bioshcok is a little bit smaller then GTA...

    It did seem like you have to 'run errands' too much.

    You lways had to go do something stuipid. It goes like this, answer phone, get in cab, go to guy, get out of cab, get new cab, go to striop club, leave, call cab, get out of cab, call cab...

    You spend most of the later part of the game in a Cab... or thats what it seemed like to me...

    posted on May, 20 2008 @ 12:49 AM

    So you can't buy property? Do you have places to store cars etc?

    The best part (for me) of San Andreas was saving up to get that new mansion in the new area etc. and then filling it's garage with customized rides.

    That's kind of disappointing.

    As like some of the others, i'm waiting for the PC version to come out. Hopefully it will have a few tweaks and additions by the time it turns up.

    posted on May, 20 2008 @ 01:21 PM
    No, you can't buy property. The property you do get there is a space marked with a yellow parking square on the road outside your property. You can squeeze about 3 cars in there.

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