GTA IV, This Much Fun Should Be Illegal
(And your senator probably wants it to be.)
I'm not normally the type to wait in line for a game at midnight, but I wanted to get my hands on GTA IV as soon as I could. Not 30 minutes after its release, I was home and driving through the newly redesigned streets of Liberty City. How has my ride been? Awesome.
This is a significant improvement over other GTA titles. It is not simply more of the same, but an evolution on the theme that takes you on its own uniquely insane ride.
The biggest difference may be fully executed online multiplayer. Deathmatch, racing, and good old cops and robbers play out over the entirety of the game's city map with up to 16 players.
The first thing that impressed me was not the new gameplay but the writing and presentation. Niko is the first GTA protagonist that I would consider a deep character. His supporting cast is similarly so, though most appear as thin caricatures at first glace. You get the sense that the actors were really, oh I don't know, acting. The main characters give a fantastic performance I've rarely seen the kin of in the video game industry. Some scenes fall flat, but overall this story is as much fun to watch as it is to play.
Then we have the technology. Obviously, it's pretty. Most impressive to me, however, is the Euphoria engine. This software allows the game to dynamically generate many of the characters animations. Gone are ragdoll physics, in favor of intelligent human reaction. The point is that no two instances of similar events, like jumps between buildings, should look the same. This prevents the visual repetitiveness common to video games.
GTA veterans will notice little touches that fix old realism issues. You can hail taxis, not just steal them. Drivers have stopped leaving cars unlocked with the keys in the ignition. If you steal a car with a passenger in it, he might attempt to take you down. Overturned cars do not necessarily explode. You can call the 911 as easily as anyone else. It feels like they really sat down and addressed every problem they had with San Andreas.
The only area I've seen gamers overrating the game in is its combat. Both the melee combat and gunplay are far better than they have been in previous titles in the series, and they're quite enjoyable, but it's not quite as fluid as some games designed entirely around firefights.
GTA normally risks offending people, but discovering the ability to drive drunk was a surprise. You're guaranteed to wreck and get police attention, but you can do it. More interesting is that if you are merely buzzed, you can drive fine. Things are just a little blurry. Like other things in the game though, it's an option and exists in case you'd find it fun.
I give GTA IV a 100% rating. I wanted to be the guy who saw through the hype, but this is simply one of the best video games ever. If you own a PS3 or 360, buy it. Hell, steal it. Just get it!