Posted by: Rich Cumbers | May 6, 2008

GTA IV: A week on from the release.

GTA IV has been with out a doubt one of the most anticipated games if not since gaming began, then certainly on the so called ‘next-gen’ consoles of the Xbox360 and PS3. Ever since it has been announced at E3 in 2006 that Rockstar were going to release it alongside the PS3 edition the anticipation has grown and grown. Microsoft thought it was such a big game that they ensured that only they had downloadable episodic content. Needless to say, unless you have been sleeping in a cave, you will know that it is out!

So after a week of playing and with all the pre-release hype dying down, and the 10/10 reviews that some gamer sites have been giving it I thought I would give me take on the game. I am roughly 25% of the way through the game, having taken about 10 hours (Addiction Level: Getting Sketchy) to get that far. I am playing on the xbox360 and only have 7/50 acheivements so far, (see here for complete list). I am a GTA fan, having played the original when it was written by a company based in Scotland, so I know the roots and the format well. I will not go into the story too much as that has probably been done now to death by everyone else. Instead I will just go straight for what I like, and what I do not and a short piece on the mini games. So here goes:

The Good

I guess the first thing to talk about is the graphics. They are pretty spectacular as they should be after all the delays. Driving round either by night or day offers stunning visuals, I especially like the haze in the distance, which adds a certain amount of realism. There are issues however, see “The Bad”.

There are lots and lots of nice touches, you can turn your headlights on full (xbox360 – Hold X whilst in a car), when it rains you can watch people get their umbrella’s out, and if you scare the little old lady with her groceries in her arms then she drops them, and they are all individual objects, all of which add to the sense of realism. Another nice touch is toll booths, but I really could go on forever about all the little things…..

The introduction of a mobile phone as a way of keeping in touch with in-game characters, keeping updated via text about potential jobs, and the addition of an organizer that holds times/dates of potential activities is brilliant and feels completely natural. Don’t want to talk to your girlfriend when she rings? Then hang up! Actions like these have consequences on your relationship, but sometimes you don’t want to talk to her! Later in the game you get a new phone, which is another great idea, but I won’t go into details about that….

Finally before this entry gets too long, there are the choices that can be made. There are probably not as many choices as I thought there would have been, I initially envisaged Rockstar making it a lot more freeform then it is when it comes to missions, but dotted around the story are decisions that you have to make. My latest one was to either take out “Business Partner A” and get a lot of money, or “Business Partner B” and potentially get nothing except a good friend. I did not take on this mission for a little while and found myself agonising over which character I should ‘dispatch’ of. Let’s just say I valued friendship over money!

The Bad

There is not much wrong with this game. It is a great game but I feel I should point out some annoying things that I have found since playing it. All great games have their flaws, and it is no big deal that they exist in this game, however I feel they should be talked about and discussed.

Graphics…yes they are great, but every so often textures take 2-3 seconds to load, or worse objects suddenly jump into the scene. This does slightly detract from the game, but does not happen often enough to annoy me too much.

Money. I am terrible at saving, but at the moment I have $45304 burning a hole in my pocket, money is not a problem except that I cannot spend it. I seem to recall in previous versions of the game that you could buy houses etc, and maybe there will be a use for my large stash soon, but for the moment I am restricted to buying every bit of clothing from the high end clothes shops 😦

The autosave functionality is great, a nice touch so that all my progress from a mission is not lost. The flaw in this aspect of the game is that the first time it wants to autosave after turning on the xbox and entering the game the xbox asks you what storage device to store the data on. A few times there has been information given to me in the top left hand corner that I cannot read because I have the xbox save blade open so I can select my HardDrive 😦

Finally the mobile phone is a great idea, but why can I not run with it? Why can I not get into the car? Not too much to ask is it?

Mini Games

In addition to driving around killing both innocent civilians and nasty criminals you can go out for a social with the friends in your mobile phone contact list. These include bowling, pool, darts, a comedy club, strip club, a bar and a couple of others. The last one mentioned has proven quite controversial and I will leave it up to individuals to decide whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. I have ummed and erred about what is reasonable to say about this matter and have decided to leave it to others. The rest of the mini games are brilliant and well thought out. There is a surprise for anyone who visits the Comedy Club, but I won’t let the cat of the bag!

Summary

The game is fantastic, graphics, gameplay and general feel are spot on (minor flaws excepted), and I am proud to say I own this game. I have yet to make a serious attempt of the multiplayer games, but on the single player game alone I feel I have gotten my monies worth. I would give this game a not unreasonable 9.5/10.

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