I’m not going to bother going into the background of GTA IV. I’m not going to tell you about Rockstar and all of that guff. Everyone’s already read that everywhere else. This is not going to be a full-blown review since that’s also been done a billion years ago. But for a more concise and organized read, try here.
GTA IV undelivered, is completely over-hyped, and perfectly shallow. Getting perfect scores on reviews? C’mon. It’s a great game, but it’s far from PERFECT. I could just list them, but instead, I’m going to bring you through the disappointing journey of my completion of GTA IV.
The first thing I noticed when I picked up the controller and started driving was that it was way more difficult. Gone were the days of sliding around corners doing perfect 90 degree turns using the e-brake. The first time I tried turning a corner after speeding down Crockett Avenue in Hove Beach, Broker, I was heavy on the pedal and heavy on the e-brake. I ended up whipping right around, doing a 180, and I ended up smashing into a low wall or something.
After going through the first couple of missions and developing a real deep-seeded hatred for Vlad, I got the hang of driving. I feel that the handling is more realistic and it’s actually more fun to drive safely now. I rarely use the e-brake and drive like I would in real life: slow down when approaching the corner, accelerate out of it. I still haven’t really figured out how to use the e-brake all too well.I’m not the type who glorifies outstandingly slick graphics, but I will say this: GTA IV is not graphically amazing. There is a very good effort in giving a greater feeling of ambiance through the different lighting. Sunsets feel like real sunsets, mornings are refreshing, and afternoons are cheerful. The rain is fairly nice and affects driving in an appreciable way.
Overall, I feel that Rockstar tried their best to create a realistic world. A real living city. But they really fall short because everything is skin deep. You can’t really go inside that many of the buildings. You can’t go inside a deli and buy a donut to boost your health. You can’t walk into that fancy sports car dealership and buy a nice sports car. You can’t buy new apartments for a hideout. The number of clothing stores are abysmal. Basically, you earn a huge bunch of money and then you have nothing to do with it.
I also find that the structure of the missions and the rewards can use some work. I know it makes more sense that you get more money as you rise through the criminal ranks. But the cash that you get really stops mattering after a certain point. Once you get that huge $250,000 payoff, money seems to matter much less. There isn’t any reason that compels me to get paid. What the hell am I going to do with that money? I can’t buy cars, or apartments. And there are only three shops of clothing. I can buy weapons, and that’s all.
At least the weapon system is a little better now. No longer are you purchasing fifty pistols. Rather, you purchase a GLOCK at a reasonable price, and then the ammunition at a substantially lower price. It just makes sense. Back then you’d pay $400 for the pistol, and then $400 per magazine.
It was also lazy of them to make the same layout for all of the gun shops. These aren’t chain stores: they’re individual sellers operating from basements. Why would they all be laid out in the same way?
The new Liberty City attempts to be a living city, but it’s a hollow shell, one that only looks pretty on the outside. With any deeper examination, you see that’s it is very shallow. There is no depth in this city, no actual lives are being lived. People walk around with cups of coffee and cellphones, and that’s a nice touch. Rockstar tried to give the illusion that you are in a real world with real people. But that illusion falls apart very easily. You knock someone’s groceries down and all they do is stare at you for a second, then walk the hell away. They should be picking up their groceries. People are messing around in the trunk of their car, but they’ll stay there forever (I think, I never had the patience to check for an extended period of time). They should close up their trunk and walk somewhere. I never see people actually park their cars. I don’t see enough people going home, walking into their houses. I don’t see nearly enough people in Algonquin. Think about it: when have you seen Times Square NOT packed full of people? Most of the time the low density of the population isn’t noticeable. But there are more than enough moments where you’re wondering, “Where the hell is everybody?” Also, there are never any kids or teenagers around.
I can understand people being horrified at the idea of killing young children in a game. But think of it this way: there are prostitutes, Hispanics, Asians, whites, blacks, and Jews. I could turn Niko Bellic into a Jack the Ripper. Or a Jew-hating killer. Maybe even a murderous ethnic cleanser who hates the Chinaman, the nigger, the spic. Maybe Niko Bellic has a thing for killing young blondes. Or taking a baseball bat to old ladies. How about a shotgun to the bellies of fat guys? He can discriminate against so many, so why can’t he kill children and teenagers? In a realistic world, there are people of all sorts. Why should Liberty City be devoid of people under the age of 18?
Now, about the cops…
I have a real bone to pick with the LCPD. They have absolutely NO use of force training. I don’t understand why cops would start shooting at me and trying to kill me when all I have done is used my fists. They should be trying punch me right back. Give them nightsticks or batons for crying out loud. Maybe even mace. That’d make it interesting: the same way you get drunk and stagger around, mace could blur your vision and render you out of control for a couple of seconds. Cops should be able to take you down and arrest you that way.
The worse thing is that I’ve seen better use of force coming from civilians. For some reason, people in Alderney (primarily Hispanic and Asian guys) have guns. They must be affiliated with gangs or something, but who knows. Anyway, start a fist fight with this Hispanic fellow in a baggy white T-shirt and blue jeans. Who knew he was a real tough guy? I had trouble timing the dodges and he was a hard hitter. I was down to red health, so I took out my pistol. And he returned the favor, which surprised the hell out of me. Luckily I pulled a nice Mozambique on his ass and he hit the ground with a couple of wads of cash falling out of his pockets. This kind of behavior happened more than once, so I am fairly certain that it wasn’t some glitch. But if civvies with guns know to hit back with fists when confronted with fists, whey can’t the police? One last nitpick: why does Alderney use LCPD RMPs? They ought to have their own.
Speaking of cop cars…
On the automotive front, GTA IV really delivers. The car handling is wonderfully realistic. The damage modeling is so nice that it encourages me to avoid any accidents, no matter how small. Bullet holes and scratch marks appear where they should and stay there. There’s still the silly flimsy hood that happens to fly away. The cars really feel like their real world counterparts now. There is enough variety and the colors are less garish and cartoonish. But why the hell are cars STILL disappearing and appearing? This has been a problem since GTA III. You look down an empty stretch of road. You turn 180 degrees. It’s empty there too. Then you turn back, completing the circle. Suddenly there are five taxis lined up and a couple of sedans honking at you. It totally disrupts the immersiveness and realism that they tried so hard to create.
Speaking of driving, I heard that MADD is against this game. I find this ludicrous. They should be happy that GTA IV presents drunk driving the way it does. I for one was surprised. Firstly, driving is extremely difficult when Niko is drunk. It’s incredibly hard to get from point A to point B without crashing the car into something. Not only that, but if police see you driving while intoxicated, you’ll earn one star against you and the police will attempt to arrest you. I feel that it’s a responsible way to include drunk driving in the game.
Grand Theft Auto IV failed to deliver on the promise of a realistic immersive world. Much of the work they put in is shallow and falls apart easily. The gameplay, while having its moments, is still generally uninspired. The story, though interesting, does not really show us the inner workings of Niko Bellic. The mechanics of the game are flawed, and technical issues are still abound. I don’t know, it seems that critics were too forgiving of GTA IV.