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Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) artwork

Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) review

"So, this is it. The much anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV. After years of playing of the original game system built for Grand Theft Auto III, and exploring Liberty City twice, Vice City twice, and the state of San Andreas, GTA is back again, this time with a brand new system on new generation consoles. Grand Theft Auto IV has been in development for quite a long time, and it's finally ready to rock. "

So, this is it. The much anticipated Grand Theft Auto IV. After years of playing of the original game system built for Grand Theft Auto III, and exploring Liberty City twice, Vice City twice, and the state of San Andreas, GTA is back again, this time with a brand new system on new generation consoles. Grand Theft Auto IV has been in development for quite a long time, and it's finally ready to rock.

Grand Theft Auto IV tells the story of Eastern European immigrant Niko Bellic, who has just arrived in Liberty City (which has been completely remade to look different entirely), to join his cousin in the ideal life in the United States of America. Niko soon finds out that all of his cousin's emails to him were false, and that Roman has not been living in a mansion, driving a sports car and dating super models. In fact, reality seems to be the exact opposite of what Roman had described for Niko. Roman lives in an apartment the size of a small office in a trashy part of town, and owns a run down taxi company. He was run up massive debts gambling, and owes money to the wrong types of people. Niko tries his best to help out his cousin get out of debt and fight their way out of poverty, and becomes engulfed in the seedy underworld of Liberty City in the process.

Grand Theft Auto IV features a brand new system from the old 3D GTA games. There is a new physics system in the game, as well as a truck load of new gameplay features. The core of Grand Theft Auto gameplay is at heart, driving a car. The new physics system takes realism much more seriously then the old one did. Cars are harder to control and handle much more realistically now, rather then feeling like toy cars easily manipulated with the push of a few buttons. The new system makes sure you drive carefully, with braking and steering requiring more skill then it used to. The days of cars feeling like they could easily sway in the wind are over.

Along with a new driving system, GTA IV features a brand new damage collision system. In previous GTA games, cars could only have doors torn off, hood torn off and bumper crushed. In GTA IV, cars are damaged according to where the damage took place. If you ram your car's bumper into another car, the bumper will dent and the paint will be scratch, unlike previous GTA games, where it was more likely that your windshield would crack. Paint can now be scratched off the side of vehicles, as well as blood splatter from pedestrians ending up on your car. On the rare occasion that you drive horribly enough that you manage to damage the engine of a car enough, it will refuse to start. Forgot to wear your seatbelt? If you manage to hit something head on at a decent speed, Niko will occasionally be launched out of the car, causing you some minor windshield damage and a lot of head damage. Gone are the days where flames suddenly burst out of your vehicle once it has been flipped. In GTA IV, if your car has been flipped, you simply crawl out of the now useless vehicle and move on.

The right trigger is used to accelerate in cars, motorcycles and boats, and used to gain altitude in a helicopter. The left trigger is used to brake in most vehicles, and used to descend in a helicopter. While completely stopped, the left trigger is used to reverse the vehicle. For those times when the regular brake just isn't enough, the A button is used as a handbrake either to be used in conjunction with the regular brake for extra stopping power, or simply to maneuver around those tight corners. Drive by shootings being preformed simply by aiming your gun out the left or right windows no longer exist. Instead, if the left bumper button is pressed, a crosshair appears on screen, and Niko fires either his handgun or submachine gun out the window. Niko can also throw hand grenades out of the window and drop them on the ground. The crosshair is controlled by the right analog stick, while steering of the vehicle is controlled by the left analog stick. When not firing a weapon out of the window, the right analog stick is used to control the camera around the vehicle. To change weapons, press the X button. This button is also used to toggle high beam headlights on and off. The left and right buttons on the D-Pad are used to cycle through the game's numerous radio stations in vehicles that have radios. The down button zooms out the map for a moment, and gives you the name of the street you are currently on. The up button is used to activate your cell phone, both in and out of vehicles.

On foot, press the right trigger or left trigger lightly will enable free aim. This allows Niko to him his equipped gun with the right analog stick and a reticule. Pressing down hard on the right trigger fires the equipped gun or attacks with an equipped melee weapon. Press the left trigger down hard enables auto aim, which makes Niko automatically target a person with his equipped weapon. The auto aim reticule will surround the target, and their health will appear in a circle around them. If they are wearing body armor, a white circle will appear over the health circle. The circle will diminish as the target sustains damage. While in auto aim, the right analog stick can be pushed in any direction to fine tune the auto aim slightly. Press down the A button while on foot will send Niko into a light jog; will rapidly mashing A will make Niko sprint for a limited amount of time. The X button allows Niko to jump, or to climb objects and fences when standing beside them. The Y button allows Niko to enter and exit vehicles, or to climb ladders when standing beside them. The right bumper allows Niko to hide behind objects as part of the new cover system. While behind cover, Niko can move left and right along the cover. He can choose to blind fire by press the right trigger while hiding behind cover, or to pop out, aim and shoot by aiming before leaving cover. At all times with a weapon equipped, pressing the B button will make Niko reload his gun.

Despite all these new changes to the formula of Grand Theft Auto, the basic idea remains the same. You can drive freely around a sandbox style area, which is the new Liberty City. The main story of the game can be done whenever you please, and is told through a serious of missions and tasks that Niko undertakes for various friends and employers that he meets throughout his adventures. To activate these missions, Niko can drive to the location on the map where the target is. Some missions require Niko to answer his phone and have a conversation with the contact, or to recieve a text message. Often times when one of these phone call missions are started, they require Niko to immediately proceed with the mission, without any prior warning. In addition to these main story missions, Niko can undertake a variety of side tasks in order to earn money. These include killing criminals for the police computer, taking on assassination missions and delivering specific stolen cars to a garage. What can Niko with all his hard earned money? He can visit a restaurant and eat some food to restore his health, head to an illegal gun store and buy some hardware for his next job, or maybe go buy some new clothes. Bored of hanging out in the city alone? Niko can call anyone of his friends, as well as a number of dateable women, and ask them to accompany him for a trip in the city. These are almost mini missions, where your goal is to take the person to the planned event, complete the event before they get bored, then either take them to another event, or drive them home. At the end of a successful day out, their fondness and respect for you increases. Similarly, if you ignore your friends and turn them down every time they ask you to go somewhere with them, your standing with them will decrease.

How does Grand Theft Auto IV look? Everything in the game is meant to take your breath away as soon as you see it. Metallic surfaces reflect light and are pretty shiny. Bullet holes and blood splatter appear on glass exactly as you would expect them to. Explosion and flame effects, while not exactly realistic, are fantastic effect for you to want to stand around at a safe distance and watch them. Player actions are much more believable animated now, with realistic hand and leg movements. Smash open a window with your rifle? You'll be able to see a little shard or two. Have a new background for your cell phone? Not only will you be able to see it in your cell phone view, you'll be able to see the new background on the phone in Niko's hands as well. GTA IV retains the cartoon style animation as its older cousin’s do, while at the same time creating some more realistic effects, giving the game an overall fresh feeling to it.

Crank up those speakers and listen to Grand Theft Auto IV! GTA has always had an extensive and often excellent soundtrack for its radio stations, and IV is no exception. You'll hear a large variety of music, from classic rock to heavy metal, all from bands that exist in real life, big and small. This is to ensure that you're completely merged into the game experience, with "real" music playing on the radio. Instead of having one long recorded track with DJ, commercial and songs played in a loop, songs, commercials, and DJ commentary now appears to be completely randomized, so you're not likely to hear the same songs in the same order for a very long time. In addition to all the fantastic music, you'll be hearing not one, but three separate talk radio stations if you feel the need for some humorous commentary on daily life. Once in a while, when Niko takes part in a large mission that affects the entire city, you'll hear a news report on it on the radio.

The sound effects on GTA IV serve their purpose, which is to let you know that something has happened and that it has made noise. However, this time around, gunshots and explosions aren't really anything spectacular at all, which is unfortunate, because every other audio aspect of the game is fantastic. The vehicles make a large variety of noises however, which will make you want to try different vehicles just to hear the various noises that each makes.

To top things off, as if Grand Theft Auto IV was missing anything, Rockstar decided to include multiplayer. Jump online and play with people in modes such as team death match, death match, races, and variations on attack and defend. These modes all use the same system and controls as the single player. A free roam mode is also included for a few people to use if they just want to fool around in the city together, but unfortunately it appears that law enforcement cannot be included in this mode. Regardless, the multiplayer definitely adds some depth to the game. If players come to the online modes expecting tactics and carefully thought out movement, they will be sorely disappointed. Combat is really based on whoever shoots first. Vehicles surprisingly do not make it harder for other players to kill you, but rather makes it even easier when auto aim is turned on. Although it was great that multiplayer was included, it does not feature any gameplay modes that make people want to keep coming back. That said, the online community is sure to remain healthy for quite some time.

In closing, Grand Theft Auto IV is quite an achievement in the series, and probably in gaming itself. It was recently announced that GTA IV was the biggest media launch of all time, and for good reason. GTA IV has definitely lived up to it's hype, and then some. If downloadable content is released, I don't see this game going away for a very, very long time. A worthy successor to the series.

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Community review by Probester (May 20, 2008)

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