Friday, May 16, 2008

Suprise,suprise...GTA IV.

So,Grand Theft Auto IV.Where do I start with this game? I feel almost obligated to an extent to discuss this game,and while everyone has their opinions on it already,I still feel as though it needs to be touched on here at least once.After all everything deserves a fair shake right?The launch hype of the game is done and over with as well so there's no time like the present I suppose.

Grand Theft Auto is a long running series that among other things asks the player to shed his or her morality and engage in family-friendly activities such is murder,arson,soliciting prostitution,shooting up city blocks,and the titular grand theft auto just to name a few.In early titles we were offered a top down view of our world ala Micro Machines.It wasn't until Grand Theft Auto 3 that we were introduced to the 3d world we've grown accustomed to now.Seeing the cars we had to steal,interacting with the people of the city on a whole new level.It was incredible.Subsequent sequels expanded on the ideas and added new elements including new cities to cavort in,richer character development,more weaponry,and crazy new vehicles like Jet-packs.

From GTA3 to GTA:San Andreas the game matured into a full experience.Including stat development for your character,a simple but effective respect system,and a HUUUUUGE playable area.At this point Grand Theft Auto IV sounds INSANE."How will they expand on San Andreas?" I thought.So they day is fast approaching and pictures and videos of the game are being released and as I read about this I seethe since as opposed to expanding on San Andreas things are being REMOVED.So going into this game I had the worst of expectations.I reluctantly take it home and fire it up...

Already the game has been streamlined even in the loading screens.We are introduced to the new art-style,it takes on a more serious,realistic tone as opposed to the generally comic look of the previous trilogy.Immediately we are introduced to our main protagonist,Niko Bellic.An illegal immigrant from eastern Europe thats lived a harsh life.Promised a life of wealth and luxury from his cousin,Roman Bellic,he comes to find anything but upon his arrival to Liberty City.

Already you can see the overall environment is more detailed than any other entry in the Grand Theft Auto series.In fact everything is more detailed than previous installments.Shoot a pedestrian in the leg and they will hobble,clutching their wound in agony.Run over a person and you can see the dent they made in the car and the resulting blood spray on your hood.In some cases people implore you take them out of their misery,really ramping up the overall creepiness factor.

All the changes aren't violent,bloody ones though.The main emphasis on Grand Theft Auto IV is being social.On top of taking jobs and doing missions for the denizens of Liberty City's underworld,you can go out to get drinks with them,catch a standup show,shoot some pool along with other cool mini-games and activities.This isn't just some distraction however,keeping a healthy social relationship with these people can net you rewards like free taxi service,car bombs,and other perks.It replaces San Andreas' mentality of "improve yourself through training" with a "Get more connections" sort of feel.This way when you move up in the ranks,you really feel as though you are moving up.Calling people up on your cell,making deals and getting work,it all feels very authentic.

Speaking of the phone,it will be the most central part of your adventures in Liberty City.From calling up friends and contacts to get more money or go out ,dialing up 911 to 'acquire' a police vehicle,finding out the name of a song,and changing up your appearance in Multi-player modes or starting a Multi-player game in general.The cell phone makes for some hilarious moments too,like getting phone calls from Roman in the middle of gunfights.

Being a fan of the Radio stations in the previous entries one of the first things i did was check out the sounds.The soundtrack is as diverse as ever,from staples like Talk Radio to European Rock it's definitely a treat.Joining the Radio in the media ensemble is the Television and the Internet.The game's irreverent humor reaches into these realms as well,providing hilarious TV spots and short shows as well as fake websites that spoof popular internet pages all laid out authentically(you can even use your USB keyboard to type).The attention to detail is definitely there.

The game offers you tons but like any story,without a strong lead character it falls apart.Grand Theft Auto is known for it's charismatic leads and Niko is no different.He shows emotion and feels regret.You are often put in situations that dictate whether or not characters live or die.The gravity of these choices along with the character's history lends him a feel unique to the players actions.Is Niko a lost soul living life with a 'do what you gotta do' attitude?Or is he a cold-blooded killer that lost his remorse and kills without mercy?

Truly,Grand Theft Auto IV is an experience that is unique to the player,which is a first for the series.And while it lacks the inner depth of San Andreas,it has a social feel to it all it's own so you feel more attached to the living,breathing city.Even if you loathe GTA you owe it to yourself to sit down and play this game.