Grand Theft Auto IV

[Dual Review] Grand Theft Auto IV

What? We're just reviewing this now? Clicky clicky to find out what the hold up was...
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 23, 2008
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Welcome all, to our dual review of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game that was released a real long time ago and that we're only now getting around to actually reviewing. So why the delay? Simple: we wanted to give everyone out there enough time to actually play through the game so we could talk about the entire experience without fear of spoiling something accidentally. We think that's the best way to discuss a game this huge and expansive without actually having to tiptoe around a major plot point that should be discussed. Also, we're lazy bastards.

So once again, if you haven't finished the game yet, do not read any futher. Here be spoilers. And Dragons.

What follows is the conversation that I had with Managing Editor Justin Young when we finally sat down to discuss the game after giving it plenty of time. Both of us have put in tons of time online, and have finished the game multiple times, exploring the different storyline threads in the hopes of actually seeing everything. It's an impossible goal, sure, but at least it means we've got plenty to talk about...

Sam: So, we've done one of these dual reviews for all the major GTA games since... I think it was Vice City, and they've managed to be pretty swanky, mainly because the games are so much about the sandbox-y experiences and no two people are going to play the game the same way.

It's been... well, months since the game came out, so I'm sure you've had time to let your feelings on things bake a little. Stuff seems all patched up and it's about as good as it's going to get. Sooo... Still think it's the best game you've ever played?

Justin: During the actual first playthrough, it's hard to be convinced of anything else. After the dust has settled and I've had a bit more time to sit back and reflect on the whole package, it certainly has its flaws. But it's definitely one of the better gaming experiences I've had. It's all time top 10 material for sure.

Sam: Oh, absolutely. It's up there with the best games on any platform, much less the slightly games-starved PS3, but even while playing it, while running around a city that's infinitely more immersive and alive than any other open world game I've played, it still struck me how little some things had changed -- particularly the missions. I guess that kind of became my hang-up: this world is absolutely gorgeous and the minutae is so insane that I almost wonder if they sort of lost the big picture and forgot to create more missions that weren't, "go here, kill this dude."

Justin: Well, going into the thing, you kind of have to expect it. The predictable missions, for better or worse, are kind of a staple of the series by now. Sure, you might be killing victim 4,068 in a new and exciting way, but when it all comes down to it -- you're probably going to be killing someone or taking something, probably both. I think that, given the direction the game took this time, it's more forgivable: the missions had to be a little less ridiuclous than with say, San Andreas. You can see where they tried to spice things up by throwing in little activities on the side like bowling, pool tables, binoculars on the beach pier, things like that. But yeah, for people who were maybe expecting a radical departure from the GTA formula, they're going to be disappointed.

Sam: It's not even that I was expecting something wildly different or anything, I guess I was just hoping for something more... elaborate. There are moments where the missions are absolutely insane -- the race on bikes through the subway system is a perfect example, actually. There were just a lot of slogs through some parts of the story, like the missions for all the Italian guys late in the game, that felt like a big step back. Maybe it was a statement about the older games -- especially GTA III -- that they basically treated you like Claude in that you were an errand boy.

Then again, when Niko finally tells them off, it's fantastic. In fact, for all the bitching I'm doing about the missions, I have to admit that Niko is a brilliant character. Easily the most human and likable of all the protagonists in the games, which for me were usually just annoying. Well, except for his constant, "AH NEED MAAAAHNEE!" comments while he makes while leaving his penthouse apartment and jumping into a fancy new Banshee.
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