To be honest, my ideal GTA IV review would simply read “more of the same.” But, seeing as that alone would get me sacked one issue into my editorship, I feel obliged to say a bit more. Brace yourselves, fanboys!
GTA IV is a bloody good game, and certainly an improvement on its predecessors; driving is now more realistic, making it far more satisfying if initially bewildering. Likewise, combat is a now a far more graceful, elegant affair, with Rockstar wisely doing away with most of the tiresome RPG elements that “graced” San Andreas. Niko Bellic is a terrific protagonist; wry, dry and surprisingly sensitive, he’s a character you can really identify with (even if most Exeter students aren’t trampshooting Serbian immigrants). And the use of taxis as city warp points? Genius.
But it’s still primarily just more of the same. Movement and jumping remains archaic and stilted, with m i s s i o n s themselves sometimes ridiculously and unfairly frustrating. The graphics, too, vary from the brilliant to the merely functional; you can still spot the odd pixellated clod of brown passing itself off as a tree, but get yourself to Time Square at midnight to watch the neon bounce off the rain-splashed puddles and you’re in heaven.
Thus, GTA IV is good. Very good, in fact. Fantastic, even. But, and I hate to be the voice of dissent, it’s not quite the earthshattering, tear-inducing, face-ripping behemoth that some of the more ardent fans seem to proclaim it to be.