Rockstar’s 2008 release in its hugely popular action-adventure series, Grand Theft Auto IV is not actually the fourth installment of the franchise. In the intervening years since Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar released Vice City and San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto IV was built with an entirely new engine and designed specifically for the next generation of consoles. This meant that many players expected a clear jump compared to the previous iterations.
Grand Theft Auto IV makes something of a departure when it comes to its protagonist. It features the Eastern European Niko Bellic as the main character that the player takes control of.
He arrives in Liberty City to start a new life in the U.S. and meet up with his cousin Roman. What follows is an immersive narrative that shows how the American dream does not work out for everyone.
It turns out that Roman has got himself involved with some dodgy people and things soon begin to unravel. You then begin to get caught up in the criminal underworld of Liberty City as Niko gets dragged into events.
The very first cutscene in Grand Theft Auto IV immerses you in the world. Considering that the original release is 2008, the title is an incredibly cinematic experience. It ensures you get engrossed in the story.
As you would expect from a Rockstar game, the characters are all interesting individuals that provoke a variety of emotions. There are even moments of interactivity, where you can make decisions that actually affect the story. It is another first for the series, but helps to get you even more involved.
As always, the main gameplay mechanic in Grand Theft Auto IV is driving. At the time of release, few people had complaints about how the cars handled.
However, in comparison to more modern titles, things do feel a bit too realistic. There’s a lethargic and heavy feeling to vehicles that makes them feel awkward to drive. It just isn’t as fun as many other games to drive around.
On the other hand, the general shooting and movement is still great. Niko is nimble and can move around in a satisfying manner. For this reason, gunning down enemies is a very enjoyable experience.
The missions you take part in are pretty standard for the series. You drive to objectives, kill enemies, and collect goods to deliver. Don’t expect to find too much variety here. Grand Theft Auto IV very much follows the lead from its predecessors in that respect.
Yet, there are some new things you can do around Liberty City. Maybe you want to go to a comedy club or go bowling. Just phone up one of your friends and arrange the event, which can add some entertaining downtime and break up the action.
Unlike previous Grand Theft Auto games, this installment includes a range of extensive multiplayer options for the first time. All you have to do is jump to the online section of your cell phone and you can jump in.
Thankfully, there is not even that much time spent waiting in lobbies. Once you decide to go into multiplayer, the game throws players into Liberty City to free roam until a mode is picked.
This can be anything from races to deathmatches. Thanks to the selection of options you can customize, things should never get stale. Even driving around the city with 15 other players can prove to be a hell of a lot of fun.
One of the most impressive things about Grand Theft Auto IV is that the world of Liberty City really does feel like a genuine city. It is a convincing environment that you sense is alive. People go about their daily routines and Liberty City seems to continue to operate around you as the story progresses. It is a genuinely impressive accomplishment and is easily one of the best open worlds of that generation.
But, the graphics are not the best you can find in a video game from that era. However, they are very good for an open world title with such a huge world. They are particularly impressive during rainy weather and intense action sequences.
Even better is the audio. Whether it is the collection of radio stations playing great tunes or the polished sound effects, everything has a high degree of quality to it.
Without a doubt the main problem with Grand Theft Auto IV, though, is that is it just too grim. There’s none of the color and character that was present in games like Vice City. Therefore, the entire world of Liberty City feels cold. Everything is gray or brown, to the extent that you appreciate the variety you get from the outlandish cars.
Almost everyone who was playing games in 2008 will have played Grand Theft Auto IV. It is a truly remarkable title that excels at creating a living and breathing world around you.
There are plenty of minor issues that stop it from being a perfect game, but it is about as close as you can realistically get. Despite the fact that it is more than 10 years since the original release, Grand Theft Auto IV is still something that everyone should experience.