About a week after the long anticipated release of the 4th addition to this infamous family, I purchased it at the local gaming hole. The first thing I thought when I popped it into the console was, "Ok, another game with better graphics and more advanced driving...But what about gameplay?" So, I popped this baby into the disk tray, started it up, and so began my journey into the new and improved Liberty.
You're Niko Bellic, a Serbian immigrant traveling over to the states in hopes of a better, more lavish lifestyle with his estranged cousin, Roman. In numerous emails, Roman has accounted his many women, his big house and 10 or 20 cars. But, as soon as Niko gets off the boat, he learns quickly that Roman's life isn't all glam and glitz as described in the pages of lies that were emailed to him. Roman, instead of owning a lavish manor, owns a taxi service. And he has many cars, all of them smell like weeks old babaganoosh and cabbie farts and have probably had more hookers riding them then the johns themselves. Niko is furious when he finds that Roman has been lying to him for months. He soon finds that not only has Roman lied about his lifestyle, he has also failed to tell Niko about his mob troubles and pulls Niko into the betrayal, murder, and thievery that is the mob underworld. Hoping that he may be able to get Roman out of his debts and find a long lost "friend", Niko reluctantly jumps at the chance to join the mob activities and do small odd jobs for those in bloodthirsty need of his services.
GRAPHICS - 10/10 - Stellar graphics, large attention to detail, gritty back alleys and streets that overtake the beauty of this city leave us breathless. Each island has its own feel. Broker has the run down but somewhat comforting feeling, Algonquin has its lit up streets and cold alleyways, and Alderney, the equivalent of New Jersey, has its gritty industrial zones and ladies of the evening, outlined by suburban settlements. Definitely the best environment in the series hands down.
GAMEPLAY - 10/10 - Movement, Combat, and overall gameplay have been greatly improved from its ancestors.
INTERACTION - 10/10 - I don't usually do an interaction title in my reviews, but this game deserves it. Remember when they introduced CJ's ability to reply to people's comments on the street in San Andreas? Imagine that interaction, but 10x better. Beggars ask for money, Cabbies give you rides to your destination, interiors that you have visited in previous missions can be revisited, people are more intelligent, not to mention that movement affects almost everything. Damaging the environment has been added into the game(Firing rockets at buildings will NOT create massive holes or collapses), Crashing a car into another car could send you flying out the front windshield or killing the driver in the next car, and falling from a height can ACTUALLY KILL YOU. Get this, this city ACTUALLY has a TV network. No more hearing about these shows and never getting to see them. You can watch TV in your safehouse now.
SOUND - 10/10 - I was really surprised to go through the radio stations and hear songs that I know from the real world FINALLY make a breakthrough in liberty. No more Punjit Kavaskar....or w/e his name was. Another thing that you have to love, is the voice acting. I think this was probably the best voice acting I've heard in the series. Niko and Roman MAY have some accent issues, but we can excuse them.
CHARACTERS - 10/10 - The characters in this game are so cinematic. It's almost like you would see these people in a real mob movie. Development of the main character has been toned down to further the interaction with others. No more sex appeal or stamina or health upgrades. Just change your clothes and your on your way. Interaction between the characters has been revamped to usher in the new era. Your own decisions can make or break friendships, relationships and even end lives. Morality is playing a big part in this game.
STORY - 10/10 - The best story I've seen so far in a game since Half Life 2. A man comes to America in search of a better life only to get sh*t-canned and dumped on by mobsters and criminals. The greatest thing I've noticed is that the game has a more serious tone to it, with some humorous undertones. Niko Bellic is by far the most interesting character I've played, again, next to Gordon Freeman.
OVERALL - 11/10 - Ya'know, they tell me to grade it on a 1-10 scale, but I gave this game over ten, because that's just what it is, over ten. It's the best game I've played this year, and if it doesn't win GOTY, then there is something seriously wrong with people. Rockstar drags you into a world where the impossible is possible and anything can happen. A gritty underworld of crime, treachery, and betrayal. a world of sickness, greed, and despair. A sickening thud on the American Dream. When Rockstar takes chances, they go beyond the call. Thank god that this game was delayed for those 6 months, because without them, this would have been another generic mob simulator. But with those 6 months came the opportunity to witness something truly amazing, something that broke the rules and gave us the chances to live out our most daring and criminal fantasies. This is the new generation of GTA games, this...is IV.
From the Reivewer's Square (sending a big TY to R* for the Best Game Ever) JP