“Daddy’s back!” What an appropriate line to start the unforgettable sandbox-gaming experience of the much anticipated “Grand Theft Auto IV.”
Players are swiftly tossed into the shoes of Niko Bellic, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who is currently on his way to Liberty City. With the promise of fast cars, luxury condos and well-endowed women from his cousin Roman, it would be hard-pressed for anyone to turn down a chance at living the American dream.
Unfortunately, Niko quickly finds out it’s all a lie. You see, Roman is very accomplished at embellishing things. You start off in a roach-infested apartment doing little jobs for your cousin and a few of his friends. Before you know it, you’re dealing with a bunch of characters who instead of befriending Niko, seem to be more interested in using him and his military background to help resolve their issues by any means necessary.
The biggest character however is the living, breathing Liberty City. Take this for example: I’d recently acquired a hot new sports car and was a little too hasty in testing out the throttle power on a crowded street. I accidentally bumped the car in front of me. The driver of that vehicle quickly jumped out, ran over to my car, pulled me out and began yelling at me. Needless to say, a fistfight ensued and a police officer who happened to be nearby came to my aid and arrested the “insane hooligan”. Random events like these make “GTA IV” so endearing.
Visually, the game is more polished than its predecessors. You may run into the odd glitch or two when the hit detection goes wacky and parts of Niko pass through walls and other objects, but that aside, the game runs extremely well for possessing such a huge world for players to get lost in. As far as game play, Rockstar addressed their targeting system to allow for automatic and manual aiming. Other elements were fine-tuned as well, such as the driving and flying controls.
For the first time in the GTA series, you can access a sixteen-player online multiplayer session that’s filled to the brim with games including death match, racing and free play. My personal favorite is the Cops N’ Crooks mode. You have one side of players playing as cops and the other as crooks. The rules are simple – the crooks need to get their leader (randomly selected among the Crooks) to a getaway vehicle while the cops need to stop them. Every person involved is on edge and the action always intense.
Rockstar has done it again. The company has crafted a masterpiece that is quite lengthy, full of memorable characters, a city that feels alive and an online multiplayer component that can stand on its own legs. “Grand Theft Auto IV” is the real deal and easily top contender for Game of the Year.
The game is available on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.