Game review: Grand Theft Auto IV

Written on April 21, 2009

The fourth in the Grand Theft Auto series was released on April 29 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Windows users had to be patient for more than half a year, because this game was released on December 3 for PC.
The most recent Grand Theft Auto game has undergone some substantial changes to the gameplay. This review will describe the most significant ones. In doing so, I'll refer rather often to its predecessors. I'll also give an overview of the main storyline and its side missions.
At the time of writing, the first of the two planned episodic expansion packs was released on Xbox Live: 'The Lost and Damned'.

Gameplay

I think most of you are familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series. From this point forward I shall use the well known abbreviation 'GTA' to refer to this game. GTA4 can be described as a combination of a third-person shooter and a driving game. An entire city is at your disposal. You can walk, run, swim, fight people, shoot people, steal vehicles, drive, fly, etc... until you die or get busted. Afterwards we can start all over again. Now what's new of what's changed in this latest release?

Combat skills

In GTA3 it was possible to fight and shoot people, but nothing more. Isn't that enough you might think. No it isn't. In GTA4 for instance you can first disarm someone and punch the person down, followed by kicking him in the stomach until he dies. Hand to hand combat comprises even more, but you should experiment yourself. There's plenty of people!
Gunfight on the other hand has also been improved. Where GTA3 only supported free aim, GTA4 added some new features like blindfire, covering behind walls or cars, etc. And believe me, this can come in quite handy when an entire gang is shooting at you (including snipers, shotgunners and other riflemen). When locked on someone, the target's health is indicated by an eight segment circle: green for peaceful people, red for enemies and blue for armoured targets (e.g. special forces).
When your health reaches a critical level you can recover by hiring a prostitute, eating some hotdogs, using medical kits, etc. Body armour is also quite useful. It can be bought in the ammunition shops. When your health level reaches zero, you will respawn at the nearest hospital.

Wanted level

GTA4 retains the six star wanted levels with increasing resistance. However there are some changes too. In GTA2 or GTA3 the police could search for you at almost any location. GTA4 on the other hand introduced a search radius in which the police could search for you. This radius gets bigger with increased wanted level. When you reach a six star wanted level even a chopter cannot help. The legendary Pay 'N' Spray shops can help to lose your wanted level. Other options are escaping the search radius or rapidly changing cars. Off course you shouldn't commit any further crimes.

Main storyline

Don't be afraid of spoilers. In fact, I won't tell anything because it would be quite stupid to ruin your game experience. I'll just give a quick introduction of how I experienced this game.
You are Niko Bellic, an illegal immigrant and veteran of the Bosnian War. Niko travelled to Liberty City in pursuit of his cousin Roman. But he quickly learns that Roman's tales of luxury were nothing more than lies. That's all you need to know for starters.

When I first played this game, I tried to steal a car by crossing the street. A car got me and I was squeezed to the nearest hotdog stand. In my second attempt I was beaten by the car driver. When I finally stole my first car, I took a crash against a traffic light flying throught the windshield of my car. And it gets better and better. But again you should try this game yourself.

Side Missions

GTA4 also has an extensive list of side missions. I try to list them all.

To be honest I didn't complete all this side missions. Completing all 50 stunt jumps and killing all 200 pigeons took me about 24 hours. The main reason is definitely the enormous city in which you get lost quickly.

Conclusion

This game is definitely worth its money. You can play for days if not weeks. Even I didn't finish this game yet. I'm occasionally playing a few side missions. And sooner or later I will finish this great game.