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Grand Theft Auto IV review

Bigger, deeper and crazier than ever, the new Liberty City lives up to the hype

Pros

  • Like having New York as your personal playground
  • Deeper and more immersive than ever
  • The aiming's finally been fixed! (Mostly)

Cons

  • No downloadable content for PS3? Lame
  • Repeating tough missions over and over gets old
  • Trying to understand Little Jacob without subtitles

This review deals mainly with the PlayStation 3 version of the game; clickherefor a 360-centric review.

If you're anything like the rest of the internet, you've probably spent the last few months scrounging for every scrap of Grand Theft Auto IV information you could find. At this point, though, a lot of questions still remain, the first and most important being, "is it as good as its hype?"

The short answer is "yes." It's not flawless, and it probably won't change your life, but GTA IV is an absolutely amazing piece of entertainment. It does things that no other game does, it's immersive in ways that no other game is and it's one of the biggest, wildest, most enjoyable games we've ever played.

This review deals mainly with the PlayStation 3 version of the game; clickherefor a 360-centric review.

If you're anything like the rest of the internet, you've probably spent the last few months scrounging for every scrap of Grand Theft Auto IV information you could find. At this point, though, a lot of questions still remain, the first and most important being, "is it as good as its hype?"

The short answer is "yes." It's not flawless, and it probably won't change your life, but GTA IV is an absolutely amazing piece of entertainment. It does things that no other game does, it's immersive in ways that no other game is and it's one of the biggest, wildest, most enjoyable games we've ever played.

Probably the biggest reason to delve into GTA IV is Liberty City itself. Nearly as large as the state of San Andreas and easily a hundred times more detailed, Grand Theft Auto IV's game world looks and feels like New York City. Everything, from the crowded, borough-specific traffic and self-absorbed passersby to the imposingly tall buildings, comes together to make the town convincingly like the real thing. More importantly, it's all crammed with cool secrets to discover, ranging from weapons, cars and pigeons (GTA IV's version of Hidden Packages) to random people on the street who'll approach you and ask for your help.

It's also absolutely huge, and not just in terms of raw acreage. This version of Liberty City is filled with vertical spaces and seamless building interiors to explore, and a lot of the cool stuff is hidden up on rooftops - if you can find a way to get up there. You won't have any magical parkour abilities, but you will be able to climb ledges, ladders and fire escapes, so it's all a matter of knowing where to look.

Of course, this is a Grand Theft Auto game, so you'll spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car (or motorbike, or boat, or helicopter). Driving feels a lot different this time around; in many ways it's smoother, but more realistic handling (especially on the crappier, clunkier cars) also means it's a lot harder to brake or turn corners at high speeds, even if you're good enough to slide between lanes of traffic without scratching your doors. Your handbrake doesn't seem to work the way it used to, either; instead, you'll rely heavily on your "main" brakes to slide around effectively, while the handbrake is a modifier that enables sharper stops and turnarounds.

On the PS3, using the Sixaxis/Dual Shock 3's R2/L2 triggers to accelerate and brake might take a bit of getting used to. Once you do, they'll give you a lot of fine control over your speed, but somehow, they just don't feel quite as natural as the 360's triggers - or, for that matter, either controller's face buttons. PS3 owners get something 360 players don't, though: Sixaxis motion controls. (Don't start cheering all at once, now.) You can toggle motion controls as an option for each vehicle type, but the only feature we ended up using for more than a few minutes was the one that let us reload Niko's guns by just jerking the pad upward. That was pretty cool.

Sometimes, though, you may find that stealing a car just isn't as fun as hailing a cab and just teleporting to your destination instantly. You might miss a lot along the way, but at least you won't get stuck in traffic or be chased by police after accidentally running over some hobo. In a way, then, being confined to the unsexy boroughs of Broker (Brooklyn) and Dukes (Queens) while you get your bearings is a blessing. It'll give you time to readjust to the gameplay (which despite a lot of reinvention and fine-tuning, will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played GTA) and to adjust to exactly how deep and complex the game is.

Let's put it this way: it's not until several missions into the storyline that you'll even get your first gun. Until then, you'll need to get used to driving, fighting, managing your connections via cell phone and using the in-game internet. By the time the terrorist warnings are called off and the bridge opens to the second of the game's four main islands, you'll be well-prepared to deal with the take-no-shit drug thugs, cops and other challenges that lie in wait.

When you do get into the serious missions, the slow start gives way to all kinds of blistering craziness. While some of the tasks you'll be set to are based around the same old stuff from previous GTAs (follow this car but don't get too close, chase that guy across town, shoot up this warehouse full of thugs), a lot of them incorporate the game's new innovations, like its fully working cell phone and in-game internet. One mission tasks you with killing an unknown blackmailer; to find him, you'll need to head to a meeting spot, dial his cell and try to spot him as he talks to you. In another mission, you'll use the internet to arrange a job interview, just so you can get past the security around the guy conducting it. Usually, you're pushed toward these solutions instead of figuring them out on your own, but who cares? They're still things that we've never done before in a game.

When you do get into the serious missions, the slow start gives way to all kinds of blistering craziness. While some of the tasks you'll be set to are based around the same old stuff from previous GTAs (follow this car but don't get too close, chase that guy across town, shoot up this warehouse full of thugs), a lot of them incorporate the game's new innovations, like its fully working cell phone and in-game internet. One mission tasks you with killing an unknown blackmailer; to find him, you'll need to head to a meeting spot, dial his cell and try to spot him as he talks to you. In another mission, you'll use the internet to arrange a job interview, just so you can get past the security around the guy conducting it. Usually, you're pushed toward these solutions instead of figuring them out on your own, but who cares? They're still things that we've never done before in a game.

Let's put it this way: it's not until several missions into the storyline that you'll even get your first gun. Until then, you'll need to get used to driving, fighting, managing your connections via cell phone and using the in-game internet. By the time the terrorist warnings are called off and the bridge opens to the second of the game's four main islands, you'll be well-prepared to deal with the take-no-shit drug thugs, cops and other challenges that lie in wait.

When you do get into the serious missions, the slow start gives way to all kinds of blistering craziness. While some of the tasks you'll be set to are based around the same old stuff from previous GTAs (follow this car but don't get too close, chase that guy across town, shoot up this warehouse full of thugs), a lot of them incorporate the game's new innovations, like its fully working cell phone and in-game internet. One mission tasks you with killing an unknown blackmailer; to find him, you'll need to head to a meeting spot, dial his cell and try to spot him as he talks to you. In another mission, you'll use the internet to arrange a job interview, just so you can get past the security around the guy conducting it. Usually, you're pushed toward these solutions instead of figuring them out on your own, but who cares? They're still things that we've never done before in a game.

When you do get into the serious missions, the slow start gives way to all kinds of blistering craziness. While some of the tasks you'll be set to are based around the same old stuff from previous GTAs (follow this car but don't get too close, chase that guy across town, shoot up this warehouse full of thugs), a lot of them incorporate the game's new innovations, like its fully working cell phone and in-game internet. One mission tasks you with killing an unknown blackmailer; to find him, you'll need to head to a meeting spot, dial his cell and try to spot him as he talks to you. In another mission, you'll use the internet to arrange a job interview, just so you can get past the security around the guy conducting it. Usually, you're pushed toward these solutions instead of figuring them out on your own, but who cares? They're still things that we've never done before in a game.

More Info

GenreAction
DescriptionThe highly-anticipated sequel to the carjack-fest of the century is sure to satisfy all your mob and hooker related fantasy. Okay, maybe not ALL your hooker fantasies.
Franchise nameGrand Theft Auto
UK franchise nameGrand Theft Auto
PlatformPS3, PC, Xbox 360
US censor ratingMature
UK censor rating18+
Alternative namesGTA IV, GTA 4, Grand Theft Auto 4
Release date29 April 2008 (US), 29 April 2008 (UK)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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