10 May 2008
Grand Theft Auto 4 Review
GTA IV is a flawed masterpiece. There's oh so much that still wrong - despite massive improvements over previous iterations - that it falls just short of a shining gift from God. Instead what we get is a fantastic game that has quite a bit of quirks that range from the instantly dismissable to the outright frustrating.
Great things about GTA IV include the absolutely incredible graphics that - whilst they don't hold up to intense scrutiny - still look absolutely incredible when you're rocketing through the streets at 100mph, chasing down that last scumbag who thought he could get away! The gameplay is still just as entertaining as ever - with the multiplayer allowing you to share the experience!
The story too is absolutely superb - crafted immaculately with some excellent humour, fantastic set pieces and a whole host of extra content that you don't actually have to do. A stand out moment so far is the inclusion of an incredible bank robbery mission that was torn straight from Heat's chest and placed into a video game. It's cinematic gaming at its finest, and is the crowning jewel of GTA IV.
However, the bad things do rear their ugly heads. The on-foot combat controls - whilst significantly improved - are still incredibly clunky; the inclusion of a 'free-aim' system being the culprit here, as the attempt to combine both a free-aim mechanic with a lock-on one just means that sometimes you're left shooting at thin air when you actually wanted to lock on. The driving controls - however - are still as slick as ever; arcade-y enough for anyone to pick it up, but realistic enough that you can't behave like a complete moron when at the wheel - just a bit of a one...
Another quirk is that you're still forced to hold a freaking button to run, which is highly annoying when trying to manoeuvre through tight spaces. The analogue stick exists for a reason! Tilt it forward a wee bit for walk, fully forward for run, and then the good old fashioned tapping of A/X to sprint!
Finally, the AI is just as dodgy as ever - going into 'shoot Niko and only Niko!' mode, despite the fact that not only did you not start the fight you're in, you're also heavily outnumbered! Needs a bit of work, to say the least.
Still, what's left is still as addictive, violent and fun as ever. Still not quite a masterpiece, but bloody close - a few tweaks here and there in upcoming patches may well sort out some of the more major issues, but to be honest, if a game is still fun despite issues as big as those described, it's obviously doing something right!
Ross' Rating: 91%