Welcome to VGReaction.com

Grand Theft Auto IV
by Greg McDougal

Niko’s nightmare ends up being the American dream.


When it comes to open-ended game play, it’s safe to say that the Grand Theft Auto series paved the way for how future games can be played.  In 2001, Rockstar released the third iteration in the crime franchise, which was the first 3-D installment.  It introduced the “sandbox” style of gameplay, meaning you could go anywhere and do almost anything.  If you wanted to steal a vehicle, go ahead (hence the title).  The game also allowed players to pick up prostitutes, shoot random people, play the role of police officer and much more.

It’s because of those very same features that the game has been under much scrutiny.  They say the game causes violent behavior and makes people irrational.  I believe those statement’s are as bogus as Ben Affleck’s acting, but that’s another story for another time.   How does Rockstar respond to these allegations; by making two more installments, which by the way were much better than part three.  However, as great as the games were and as lively cities you get to roam in were, they were held back by the graphical limitations of last-gen consoles.  Nevertheless, the series has been considered by many (including myself) to be one of the greatest videogame series of all time.

Now that XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 are among us, Rockstar has released the “true” fourth installment as the ones between three and four were more like side games.  Now that there have been so many “open-ended” style setups in many other games, can the company re-enter the ring to remind everyone who is the champ?

Each Grand Theft Auto has had an intriguing main character, from Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti to San Andreas’ CJ, as well as each game’s side characters.  However, none of them hold a candle to Grand Theft Auto 4’s Niko Bellic.  From the moment you pop the game in, you become engulfed into his world as he gets off the boat from Europe and steps onto American soil looking for a fresh start.  I say fresh start because Niko has been through a lot in his “old country” as he refers to it, and wanted to escape his past to have a better future.  However, after meeting his cousin Roman, who by the way has a gambling problem (among other issues), as well as other people, he falls into new sets of problems.  On top of that, without revealing too much of the deep story, his past comes back to haunt him.  I don’t mean that Ghost of Christmas crap, I mean literally.

I can honestly say that for the first time ever in the series, I wanted to do more story than side missions or free-roam.  That’s not to say that past installments didn’t have engaging stories, but this tale seems more interwoven with the characters the game surrounds itself with.  Each time I finished one mission, I was enticed to see what happens next.


GTA’s mechanics have always been the same, ranging from doing missions for various people to exploring the city to killing people and more.  However, when it came to the actual hand to hand combat, it was the game’s kryptonite.  For part 4, thankfully that has been improved as controlling Niko during fist fights feels more fluid and responsive.

Another critical area in the series has always been the shooting aspect.  The aiming in previous games ranged from piss-poor to average.  This has also been improved, as you can choose between auto-aim and free aim.  While the change is much needed, the aiming could still use a bit more work, as Niko sometimes has trouble determining the nearest threat.  There were times I died because Niko aimed at the person 15 feet away instead of the guy who was practically breathing on my neck.

Also, vehicles now move like actual vehicles.  No more driving at break neck speed and making sharp turns.  While I respect Rockstar’s decision to change the driving mechanics, I am not a fan of the change.  There were missions I lost because of the “realistic” control.  By the time I got use to the control scheme, I was halfway through the game.

New to the series is the heavy use of your cell phone.  This is where you store your contacts that will offer you new missions or might just want to hang out.  Speaking of hanging out, it is in your best interest to make friends with those you come into contact with.  For example, when you meet Little Jacob and complete his side missions, as well as taking him out for drinks, bowling, etc., he will sell you weapons out of his car for half-price.


Graphically speaking, this is a great looking game.  You actually feel as though you are in a living, breathing city.  New Yo…I mean Liberty City is a sight to behold.  Characters look almost life like as their lips synch to what they are actually saying.  I was taken back when it was raining and civilians used their umbrellas.  Driving through an area that is obviously a representation of Times Square and across the Brooklyn…I mean Broker Bridge shows that video games have come a long way.  The world is not bigger than San Andreas, but it’s much more refined.

As great as the game looks, there are a few hiccups in the graphics.  While rare, there are some occasions where the game will have a pop-up while you are driving through Liberty City.  There was one time I was driving under a tunnel only to see ocean instead of the actual tunnel for a total of six seconds.


As great as the game looks, it’s the voice acting that steals the show.  Every main character has a personality all their own and makes GTA IV as good as any mafia movie from the past 20 years.  All I can say is wait until you get to the mission, “Hostile Negotiation.”

The soundtrack has always been a selling point for the series and this installment is no exception.  With songs from Kanye West, Freddy Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Minnie Riperton and more, it’s no wonder why the soundtrack was included in the special edition of the game.

Lasting Appeal

Once you’ve beaten the incredible main story, you can tackle some of the online multiplayer modes.  These range from “Team Deathwatches” to “Cops n Crooks” to traditional races and more with up to 16 players.  These modes are fun and doesn’t seem as though Rockstar just put them in because “all the other games these days have online multiplayer.”  While there are various single player side missions, for the first time in GTA, the main story is more appealing than the side missions.  Don’t get me wrong the side missions are fun ranging from bowling to online dating to darts and more.  However, it’s hard to pop in my copy of Grand Theft Auto IV just to play those.

The 411

While the shooting mechanics still need a bit more work and there can be a graphical hiccup here and there, this is hands down the best GTA period.  From the unforgettable characters to the amazing city, it is a wild ride.  Did I mention that there are two endings?  While Niko’s trials and tribulations were hell for him to endure, it was quite the dream to play and experience it alongside him.  I hope Jack Thompson will have a fondness for the game.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Games »

Ridge Racer Vita Review

For as long as I can remember, racing has been something as alien as the bad-guys numerous action/sci-fi romps have asked me to combat.

Wrestling »

Raw Supershow 3/5/12 Results

The Rock still delivers the most hilarious promos: All of his three funny promos were simply spot-on - that's The Rock who definitely deserves all the praise he's still getting from all over the world.

Sports »

UFC 144 Aftermath.

The UFC made a long anticipated return to Japan for UFC 144 and did not disappoint. Many Japanese fighters along with former PRIDE fighters were on the card for Japanese fans to witness.

Movies/Television »

Safe House Review.

Safe House is your standard "cat and mouse" action thriller. I wasn't expecting it to blow my eyeballs out of their sockets with its action scenes, or have the hamster that powers the wheel keeping my brain functioning to spin off its axis.

Feature Articles

  • Faceless Etiquette

    Take a step back, and†think†before you act. Even before you act the defender against ruthless trolls.

    Continue Reading »

  • The Nick Diaz Effect

    Nick Diazís second stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship was supposed to be more successful than his first.†

    Continue Reading »

  • Last of Us

    There was once another fairly prominent game that featured a father-daughter relationship, and it deserves a fond looking

    Continue Reading »