At this point, GTA IV has been out almost two months, so after the hundreds of reviews and blog posts written about it, I’m not really sure what more I could add to the discussion. That’s not to say I don’t have anything to say, I just don’t think much more can be said. So this will probably be the only in-depth GTA IV post for me.
I could write paragraphs detailing my exploits in Liberty City. I’ve had some amazing moments, some hilariously laugh out loud moments. In the end, though, that would probably be pretty boring. Those of you that have experienced them would know exactly what I was talking about, but the rest of you would probably yawn and move on.
I won’t bore you. But indulge me to write about some things I really like about the game, and a few things I don’t.
As a story, GTA has grown on me and become rather gripping. It started slow, but when I hit the first major plot “moment,” I was hooked. As Niko started to give us some background, some motivation, it struck a chord. I’ve been riveted ever since. I need to know how things end! (I’m pretty sure I’m getting close to a conclusion)
The writing, in addition to the actual story, is great. The main characters get fleshed out over trips to the bowling alley, dates, and missions. Some of the support characters feel a bit out of place, but overall the interaction between the characters are great. I love Niko’s one-liners. (“I hope you have health insurance!” “I see my invisibility pills are still working!“)
I love games that include those little details, those little nuances that elevate a good game to a great one. GTA IV is full of them. Just one example: You can car-jack a forklift (Fork-jack? Jack-lift?). If you’ve ever driven a forklift, you’ll know that the rear tires turn, instead of the front wheels like a car. It makes steering difficult at first. Sure enough, the forklifts in GTA handle just like their real-life counterparts. It couldn’t be any other way. I live for those kinds of details.
It’s all about the polish. I can’t get over the density of the city. I’ve read complaints that it would be nice if there were more ways to interact with the city (more shops, more buildings to enter), but honestly, there is already so much to do, there’s no way they could have added more. The amount of polish is staggering.
The characters, while mostly are caricatures and over-the-top, still work. Each character has a distinct individuality that resonates with my pop-culture addled brain. They crack me up. I’d go as far as say I’m emotionally attached to them and considered them “friends”. Brucie and Packie come to mind.
The amoral characters (not all of them!) are often conflicted and have issues. Niko, especially. I guess we all do.
One of the reasons I didn’t originally want to play GTA IV was that I was afraid I wouldn’t have the ability to impose my own morals (whatever that means) on the main character. I’m not saying I wanted to be a Boy Scout, but I wanted the chance to make a choice. There are times that I’ve been able to do that but unfortunately there are times when I can’t, and that bothers me a bit. The funny thing is, given a choice, I don’t always necessarily make the “right” one. I find myself considering what Niko would do. At least the Niko I’ve created. It’s not always black and white.
(Here’s an interesting factoid: Niko is Serbian for “nobody“.)
Of course, everything isn’t perfect. I wish everyone in Liberty City didn’t have such potty mouths (seriously!) and bad tempers. Pedestrians are ready to throw down at the drop of the hat. Every one is so jumpy! The driving isn’t the greatest, but I’ve gotten used to it. Speaking of being jumpy — the cops will PUT. YOU. DOWN. Do not mess with them.
There are occasional technical glitches, but taken as a whole, GTA is the total package.
Overall, I think I love GTA IV. It may have become my favorite Xbox 360 game, supplanting Dead Rising. Niko will probably go down as a favorite character as well. I wish I was playing it right now, actually.