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The American Dream?

Posted : 3 years, 6 months ago on 22 April 2015 06:45

After a few releases set in different locales the GTA series returns to Liberty City, last seen in the first 3D title of the franchise, GTA III. This is anything but a re-run however, taking full advantage of the PS3's hardware to deliver the most sophisticated game in the series to date. The contrasts to GTA III are striking, in place of a mute and colourless protagonist you get Nico Bellic, an impressively complex and intriguing personality who you will find out a lot more about as you progress through the main missions.

This time the story is a lot more serious than before and the narrative is much stronger; in place of a slightly random collection of characters and missions there are inter-related episodes and the characters you encounter will at times pass comment on your actions and who you have been hanging out with which made the whole thing feel much more realistic. The storyline tackles some interesting themes such as whether it is wise to seek revenge, can an immigrant create a new life for themselves or will they be burdened by the past and how people can see the world differently on account of their personalities. A big change to the more cartoonish style of previous GTAs.

Indeed, realism has been enhanced in many aspects of the game. GTA III was an impressive achievement at the time but this expands on it in so many ways. In place of an elevated rail system with a few stations there is an integrated overhead rail and subway system with several lines and dozens of stations. When travelling on the system you even get recorded announcements for each station. You can also get around town by taking taxi rides (as long as you have the money); doing so allows you to watch the city go by or you can just skip straight to the destination. The fast food outlets and clothes shops return from San Andreas as does the dating. These elements work in pretty much the same way as before though I did miss the fluctuating waistline element from SA which was pretty entertaining. As before there is a large range of cars and motorcycles in the city but their physics have been upgraded a bit, making them a bit trickier to control at first. You can actually cause a vehicle to spin out this time but it doesn't take too much time to get used to this.

The best thing about the game for me was Liberty City itself. It is just amazing. Each neighborhood has its own distinctive character such as one area which has many Korean-owned businesses indicated by bi-lingual signage. The attention to detail is fantastic: smoke stacks in industrial areas puff out smoke into the atmosphere, skyscrapers are floodlit at night, traffic lights sway in the breeze. Driving around town is a pleasure and the landscapes are so varied that it never feels repetitive.

The downside of all this is that the amount of detail used makes the city difficult to render resulting in noticeable pop-up, blurry backgrounds with greater distance and a slight jerkiness to the game engine. These aren't a huge problem by any means but they do detract from the experience a little. A bigger weakness is some of the missions. There were some strong ones but a fair number revolve around driving to a destination and shooting a bunch of guys which was a little monotonous at times. Rockstar have added a useful cover system which was a nice touch but that old bugbear a flaky auto-targetting system made an unfortunate return. To be fair it works reasonably well most of the time but still decides to lock on to a guy about a block away instead of the one right next to you on occasion which was irritating. It is disappointing that this long term problem of the series was not fully resolved.

You might be wondering where the laughs and silliness have gone. Don't worry, there are plenty of comic touches throughout the game. Nico has a dry sense of humour which is especially noticeable in scenes with his naive but optimistic cousin Roman which are at times hilarious. There are also the typically ridiculous radio stations, amusing comic characters like Brucie and the usual silly puns which can be seen in signs across the city.

GTA IV is very much evolutionary rather than revolutionary so if you hate the GTA series then this is unlikely to convert you. Everyone else should definitely consider playing one of the best games of its type to date. Although it has a few flaws they don't significantly detract from the overall experience of what is a very accomplished game.


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Near perfect sandbox of crime

Posted : 10 years, 1 month ago on 16 September 2008 09:16

Being a big fan of the GTA franchise when I heard GTA4 was coming it was both inevitable and a joy to hear.
Now that I've finally finished it, I am not disappointed.

GTA4 revolves around Niko Bellic, a immigrant from Bosnia trying to start his life over in Liberty City. But later on in the game Niko explains that his coming to Liberty City wasn't just to start over but to find who he thinks betrayed his former army unit.
On the way Niko makes friends and finds work with lots of different interesting people; from a Russian loan shark, a Jamaican arms dealer, a loud mouth (slightly gay) steroid user, to a family of Irish mobsters.

Graphics are pretty stunning and have forgone the cartoony look for a more realistic look and it pull that off really well.

Sound is a big plus in almost every aspect. The voice work on all the characters sound perfectly matched, the sound FX's are spot on, and the radio is full of tunes and talk stations that anyone is sure to find one or two that like.

Gameplay is fairly the same as the other GTA's as far as missions go but the rest has taken a major overhaul since the last GTA.
Shooting is a lot better with the lock-on system being really good at picking the dangerous targets before random passer-by and also the manual aim with the PS3's new triggers felt really natural.
The cover system is also new for the series and while not original or the best out there it's a welcome addition as with previous GTA's you almost had to have armor on all the time when fighting and the cover system gives the player a better chance against multiple enemies.
One of the more radical changes is the driving as there is now a physic engine and so driving doesn't feel as arcady and now more realistic and takes time to get used to.

Overall the game is great and near perfect and should be picked up by any 360 or PS3 owner.


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Grand Theft Auto IV review

Posted : 10 years, 3 months ago on 1 July 2008 09:29

I've done about 10% of the game and it's proven to be fun so far. I haven't played any of the GTA games before this one. It's not exactly an FPS, it's not exactly an RPG and it's not exactly a racing game either. It's not aimless meandering either, though you can do that if you want to. The missions so far have been varied which keeps things interesting. The missions will probably get tougher from here on.

The scale of the whole game and Liberty City is impressive. I still haven't been across the bridge yet (it's blocked by the police) and have already logged in ten hours of in game time. The attention to detail is extremely impressive too. All the characters have distinct personalities and it seems like so do the random people on the street. There's a bunch of radio stations in the car and the programming on all of them is keeping with the theme of the game and it's setting. Like I said, the detail is impressive.

It's not hard to see why this game series is extremely popular. The missions varied, the attention to detail is impressive and there very good integration of a storyline with the gameplay. Not my favourite game, but reasonably entertaining and immersive nevertheless.


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