, 2008-2009

Grand Theft Auto IV - Review
By Rory - May 2, 2008

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360

Check out the Video Review!

Visuals: 10
Audio: 10
Story: 10
Gameplay: 10
Entertainment Value: 10
Overall: 10

I couldn't imagine a more perfect world.

Back in 2001 a company called Rockstar Games released a title known as Grand Theft Auto III, and needless to say it shook the entire gaming community and forever changed the way we look at both open world gaming, and games in general. Since then, Grand Theft Auto has been one of the biggest, if not the biggest gaming franchises in history. Hot on GTA 3's heels came the next installment in the franchise, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, which was set in a fictional city made to resemble Miami in the 1980s. This game improved upon, and managed to outsell Grand Theft Auto 3. Then in 2004, Rockstar introduced the next iteration in the series, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. This was by far the most refined (yet most controversial) game in the series, at the time. It took the Grand Theft Auto series to new heights and introduced gamers to the largest open world city that has ever been seen. It also became the best selling game in the series, as well as one of the best selling games of all time. With the announcement of Grand Theft Auto IV on the next generation of game consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, gamers had their expectations set high. After years of waiting and numerous delays along the way, the game we've all been waiting for is finally here. So... how is it? Better than we could have ever hoped.

The visuals in Grand Theft Auto IV are simply stunning. Gone are the outdated and overly simple graphics of the previous games. Rockstar has finally stepped it up and I'm glad to say that we now have a Grand Theft Auto that can hold up to other games in terms of visuals. The graphics themselves are very impressive. If you want to put them under a microscope and compare them to other major games, they may not be quite as good. However, when you start playing and realize just how much is going on and how much is being rendered all at once with almost no load times or performance hitches, you'll be pretty amazed by them.

The art style has also been completely overhauled and the game has been given a much more realistic look, which is pulled off quite well. The buildings, the cars, the streets, the pedestrians... everything looks great and it really has the appearance of an actual city. You'll no longer see flat buildings, generic cars, and the same set of people walking by every 10 seconds. Rockstar has paid careful attention to detail and has given the proper care to every single piece of Liberty City.

The textures are incredibly detailed as well. In previous games the roads, grass, sidewalk, etc. were all pretty much a single repeating texture. This is no longer the case. Just about everything has been individually designed and there are now things such as cracks in the sidewalk or graffiti painted on buildings that you'll never see more than once. Make no mistake, this is a fully designed city and nothing is half-assed here.

The lighting in Grand Theft Auto games has always been pretty good, and now it's better than ever. The lighting and atmosphere are completely dynamic based on where you are, what time of day it is, the weather conditions, etc. and the vibrant yet realistic colors really allow the lighting to bring things to life. It's hard to explain how good it is in words, but when you're crossing the bridge to the main island at sunset and see the entire city lit up in front of you, you'll understand just how amazing an experience it is.

Welcome to Liberty City.

The animations are one of the biggest improvements in the game, due to the presence of actual physics. The Euphoria engine has done wonders for the game and has really breathed new life into Grand Theft Auto. Everything now reacts completely realistically to the world around it. People are no longer boring and robotic. If you ram into them with a car, for example, they won't just go flying up with a preset animation. Now everything from the speed of the car to the direction it's going to exactly where you hit the pedestrian is taken into account. If you graze them from the side, they'll go flying left or right. If you ram into them at full speed, they'll now be thrown over the car and sent rolling on the ground below. If you pull up to them slowly, they'll put their hands out to the car to distance themselves from it. Needless to say, there is an incredible amount of detail in the animations now.

The character models look much better now, and are far less blocky and stiff than in previous GTA games.

The cars in the game have been given a huge visual boost. They no longer possess a generic, boring look and each car is now more personalized. They now come equipped with car-specific emblems and even unique decals. They all look a bit more modern as well, and most cars come with a glossy/reflective finish on them, which looks great and plays well with the lighting.

The visual effects in the game are stunning. The water, for example, now looks like real water. The fire has been greatly improved as well, and the explosions in the game look amazing.

The visual performance in the game is probably one of the most impressive things about it. There is so much going on in Liberty City all at once, yet the framerate rarely drops. When there is a ton of action happening on-screen, such as a big police chase, you may see a bit of slowdown. Keep in mind, there's not nearly as much as there was in previous games. With the massive improvements in graphics, lighting, animations and everything, it really makes you wonder how it's even possible sometimes. The draw distance has been improved as well and although there is still some pop-in, it once again is not nearly as bad as it used to be.

As for the differences between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, it's very minimal but the PS3 does have a slight edge over the Xbox 360. In particular, the anti-aliasing is a bit better on the PS3, giving everything a somewhat smoother look. The framerate also tends to dip a bit more on the Xbox 360 during high-action sequences and the PS3 also suffers from less pop-in. The Xbox 360 on the other hand does have brighter, more vibrant colors while the PS3 looks a bit grittier. Which of those is better comes down to personal opinion. So, are the differences a big deal? Absolutely not. But are they noticeable? Yes.

One of Grand Theft Auto's strong points has always been the audio. The music in particular has always been great. The radio stations offer a huge variety of genres and each one is filled to the brim with top-quality music. GTA games have always had the biggest names grace their radio stations, and Grand Theft Auto IV is no exception. No matter what you're into, you'll find a radio station that fits what you like and you'll be singing along to familiar tunes in no time. You've got The Beat 102.7 for hip hop, LRR 97.8 Liberty Rock Radio for classic rock, Liberty City Hardcore (my personal favorite) for hard rock and punk, Tuff Gong for reggae, etc. There are also talk stations which feature hours upon hours of original talk-radio content.

The voice acting is once again amazing. The thing that has really been improved here is the dialogue, which allows the voice actors to display a lot more emotion with each line. While the voice acting in GTA has always been good, a lot of the characters in previous games have all sounded really over the top. Don't get me wrong, there are still tons of crazy characters here, but a lot of the main ones sound a bit more down to earth than before. The voice actors themselves do a tremendous job. The unique voice of each character is what really brings everyone to life. They all have their own personalities which really come out in the dialogue, and each line delivered has just as much effort put into it. Aside from the main characters and radio personalities, the pedestrians also have a lot more to say now. Everyone has something different to say based on the kind of person they are and what's going on around them. This makes the pedestrians feel much more like real people.

Quit preachin'!

The sound effects are just as great as ever, and they as well have been given a realistic touch. The gunshots have been improved greatly and each gun has its own sense of power which sounds off every time you pull the trigger. The cars have also seen improvements in the audio department, and each engine now has a unique sound to it. Before, the cars all had a pretty generic sound to them, based solely on the size and type. It was nice that sedans sounded different than trucks, and town cars sounded different than racers, but as most people know, there's much more to the sound of a car's engine than just that. Each car now has a distinct sound, and there's more to them than just 'fast or slow' and 'big or small'. Other minor sound effects sound just as good. The smashing of glass and the sound of steel being crushed as cars slam into each other at 100mph is amazing. The overall ambience of Liberty City is greatly improved due to the sounds around you. Everything from sirens going off, to traffic in the background, to people talking on the street corners adds even more to the effect of the living, breathing city.

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto has never been known for its story telling. In the previous games there was a bit of a back story, but only because there had to be. They'd tell you the character's name, why he was where he was, and then they'd send you on your way. Throughout the game you'd kill people, sell drugs, do all kinds of things but overall you'd have no idea why. You never really knew (or cared) about the character you were playing; it was just run around, kill people, and do missions. Fortunately, that's not the case with Grand Theft Auto IV. Rockstar has definitely improved the story, and thankfully it's much better than that of CJ and his dead mama. Hell, compared to San Andreas, the writing in Grand Theft Auto IV is practically Shakespearean.

You play as Niko Bellic, a Serbian immigrant who comes to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream. When you arrive in the U.S. your cousin Roman is there to greet you, and right away you find that he hasn't been quite honest with you about his tales of living the good life in America. Niko decides that he's not going to let that stop him, and he's going to make it any way possible. That's the basic story and before, that's where it would end. The great thing about Grand Theft Auto IV is that the amazingness of the story is all in the details. Reading over the plotline or even watching a few trailers for the game may leave you thinking, “Oh, so Niko is just another typical GTA 'badass' who cares about nothing but money”. That's certainly what I thought at first, but believe me that's not the case. As the story progresses you'll learn that there is far more to Niko than just committing crimes and making money. Everything he does has an effect on him, and he's not going to remain a soulless robot like previous characters have. For once, we have a character with emotions and actual stories to tell. He's really a person you're going to be able to connect with and he becomes a very likeable guy who you'll find yourself empathizing with throughout the game.

One day, things will be better.

One of the amazing things is that this can even be said about some of the minor characters. There are people you'll see maybe one or two times throughout the entire game, yet their character is just as flushed out as any other. In past games there would be characters that you'd do countless jobs for, yet you'd know nothing more than their names. They'd act a certain way and you couldn't help but wonder who they were and why they felt how they felt. Every single character in this game is unique and you're no longer being fed cardboard cutouts with nothing more to them than crazy dialogue.

The individual stories of each character that you'll hear throughout the different missions are all interesting and will leave you wanting more. Niko will have many different relationships, and different feelings towards each and every character. The relationship between him and some of the most minor characters will develop right in front of you.

Even if the missions weren't as great as they are, the story that takes place across all of them is more than enough to keep you playing. In previous games, I'd do a couple missions and although I'd be having fun, I'd get bored with the story and end up just messing around. I've never sat through a Grand Theft Auto game and played mission after mission, never getting sick of seeing what happens next.

Of course, no GTA story would be complete without its own series of twists and turns. The difference now is that they aren't stupid and predictable. There will be several times throughout the game where you'll stop and think “whoa, did that really just happen?” Everything that takes place throughout the game is handled so well, and the whole thing plays out better than 90% of action movies I've seen. There's in-depth character development, top quality writing, and countless twists and turns that will constantly leave you wondering what will happen next. Pair that with the incredible voice acting and you've got one of the best stories ever seen in a video game.

Liberty City, je t'aime

The gameplay in Grand Theft Auto IV has been improved from past titles in almost every way imaginable. GTA has always been a ton of fun to play, however up until now the gameplay has been shallow, and flawed in more ways than one. Before, both the combat and driving were overly simple, and a lot of the time frustrating. Fortunately, Rockstar decided to overhaul the entire gameplay experience, making for more fun than I've had with a game in a long time.

The combat system has always been pretty flimsy, and while it was a lot of fun to mess around with the guns and get into fights, it was never quite as functional as I would've hoped. The aiming and lock-on system was weak, there was almost no way of evading enemy fire other than running around in circles, and the hit detection just plain sucked. All these problems and more have been solved with Grand Theft Auto IV.

The shooting mechanics are great, and some major improvements have really made it a whole new experience. The biggest change comes with the addition of a cover system (and a great one at that). There are plenty of missions that will require you to pull out a gun and take down a number of enemies, and now you've got a new cover system to employ throughout all of them. Now in close quarters battle, you can run up to almost anything and use it as cover from enemy fire. You can then target the enemies while still in cover, and proceed to pop out and blast them. It works just as well (if not better) than it does in other cover-based games, such as Gears of War (Xbox 360, PC) or Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3). The targeting system is another huge improvement. If you're using the default control scheme (which I highly recommend doing), holding down the left or right trigger half way will allow you to free aim and then pulling the right trigger all the way down will fire. Holding the left trigger all the way down will lock on to an enemy. The good thing about the new lock-on system is that it now lets you move the aiming reticule around on the person's body, allowing you to shoot them wherever you want. Yet another great change is the ability to shoot in any direction while driving. Before, you only had the option to look left or right and shoot. Now you can bust out the window and fire in any direction you want. This makes chasing people down and killing them much less frustrating. The weapon variety is still great and each weapon feels truly unique, and with its own sense of enjoyment. With the new physics engine, people will also react realistically to the shots. Pulling out the shotgun and blowing someone away will never get old. These improvements, along with other things such as increased accuracy and hit detection have now made the guns much more than just something to mess around with.

"Today... ain't yo' day."

Hand-to-hand combat has also been improved. The fighting is still not quite as free as it is in games like The Warriors (PS2, Xbox) or Bully (PS2, Xbox 360, Wii) but it's so much better than it was before and it is a lot of fun to use now. It takes the basic idea that San Andreas had, about different moves and fighting styles, and expands upon it. You'll now have separate buttons for 'Punch', 'Kick' and 'Special' ('special' being a different sort of jab attack, in most cases). A gun is always preferable but the fighting is actually enjoyable, as well as usable now. Weapons such as bats and knives once again come into play, and they work pretty much the same as they did before. The difference is that the new physics once again allow the enemies to react completely realistically when they're stabbed or hit with something, making for even more enjoyable beatings.

One of the cool things about the combat now is that you don't have to kill someone to take them out of commission. You can now shoot someone just enough to hurt them and bring them to the ground. When you fight someone, they usually will not die from a beating alone. They'll no longer be rendered a threat, but instead of dying they'll kind of roll around on the ground in pain and groan in agony. That is, unless you feel like finishing them off by pulling out a gun or bashing their head in with a bat. Yeah, the game can get pretty brutal, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

There is also a brand new wanted system in place, which works much better than it did in the past. In previous games, getting a wanted level meant either tracking down a pay-and-spray or getting lucky enough to find one of the very few "floating wanted stars", which would reduce your wanted level by one. Now, it's a much simpler system that isn't quite as realistic unfortunately, but makes committing crimes a far less frustrating experience. When you get a wanted level now, you'll be enclosed in a circular radius which I'll refer to as the "wanted zone". What you have to do to get rid of your wanted level is escape that area and then keep a low profile. The overall size of the radius is determined by the amount of wanted stars you have. The more stars you have, the more cops will be after you and the harder it will be to evade them. Committing minor crimes is no longer a big deal, as you usually only have to flee one cop, which is pretty simple. Getting more stars or committing crimes in heavily populated areas will be a bit more of a challenge, as there are cops on every corner when you're downtown and they'll all be after you. A nice addition is that if you'd rather just get it over with quickly, you can give yourself up without taking the usual required beatdown. If you want to end it all though, it's usually best to just die as being sent to the hospital will no longer mean losing your guns.

Along with the new physics engine comes new driving mechanics. You're now going to have to actually drive the car. You can't just hold down the gas and maneuver around anymore. It's not Gran Turismo or Forza or anything, but you're no longer going to be whipping around corners at 100 miles per hour. Don't get me wrong, you're still going to go fast, you're just going to have to handle things more realistically and slow down while turning or passing other cars. It does take a bit of getting used to, and keeping up during some of the races and high speed chases (no rhyme intended) may be a bit difficult at first. The controls have also seen a bit of a change; at least for PlayStation gamers. Those who played past GTA games on the Xbox however, will feel right at home. When using the default controls (which again, I recommend doing), the gas and brake are now handled with the triggers. This does come in handy as you're not going to be able to just floor it at all times anymore, or you'll most certainly wreck. Once you get used to all the changes with the driving, you'll be glad they were made. It's a more fun and rewarding system and it keeps you in the realistic experience.

Cruisin' in style.

Sometimes it's worth it to crash your car though, just to see the incredible new damage system. It's so much more detailed now, and you're actually going to see exactly where the car has been damaged. If you slam into something head on, your windshield will break and the front end will be crushed in by a certain amount, based on how hard you hit. If you hit a car from the side, you're going to see different sized dents again based on how hard you hit it. A long overdue change is that when a car is damaged to the point of no return or flipped upside down, you're not going to blow up. If it flips, you get out of the car and that's that. If you damage the engine, you'll start to hear it degrade. If you totally wreck it, the car will shut off and you'll try to get it started again, to no avail. Another nice addition is that you can actually be hurt while in the car now. This goes for both you and other drivers. If you're going fast enough and you slam into something, you're going to go flying head first through the windshield. If you hit another driver hard enough, it can sometimes be enough to kill them while they're still in the car.

A really useful addition to the cars is a GPS navigation system. What this is is a turn-by-turn navigation system which shows up on the mini-map. It's a very welcomed feature as it will now show you, with a directional line, exactly where to go. Some cars will even voice the directions to you. You'll no longer have to stop every couple minutes to look at the map when you're trying to get somewhere that is unfamiliar to you. Another great thing about this is that this can be used with the map marker, so you can get directions to anywhere you might like to go, mission related or not.

Of course, if you don't feel like driving you can now take a taxi to get where you want to go. All you have to do is press the left shoulder button to flag down a taxi and then hold (instead of press) Y or triangle to get in as a passenger. You can then select a number of preset destinations (including those that are mission related) or you can choose to travel to wherever you've placed your map marker. You can then watch the entire cab ride, or tell the driver to get there faster which definitely results in some laughs as he plows down pedestrians and slams into police vehicles. Or, you can simply skip the entire thing, making it basically a fast travel system. It's a very nice addition, and saves you a lot of unnecessary driving and let's you get into the action without so much downtime in between/during missions.

You're still not going to be limited to cars to get around though. If you don't feel like driving, you can catch a ride from trains or taxis. You can also hijack helicopters and boats and take a spin off-land. They both handle the same as before with only minor improvements, but that's not a bad thing. The Six Axis implementation on the PlayStation 3 version is actually pretty good. I've never been much for motion controls but they work well here. They're obviously not going to give you much of an advantage but they can be fun and they're definitely worth trying at least once. Motorcycles make an appearance again, and they're even better than before. During high speed chases, I actually preferred motorcycles because they're easier to maneuver through traffic and they're a lot faster than most cars as well. Just be careful not to hit anything, because you've got nothing holding you down.

The missions have always been a pretty big part of Grand Theft Auto, although I've never considered them to be amazing or anything. Every single aspect of the mission system has been reworked for an entirely new single-player experience. The problem before was that the missions weren't the most in-depth and they could get repetitive pretty early on. Thankfully, every single mission in Grand Theft Auto IV has been given its own touch and each mission is a ton of fun. Things will be pretty slow to start, as is the case with basically every game. You'll start off doing some basic driving missions (delivering things, driving people around, etc.) and other introductory tasks. When the game sets in, it's full speed ahead until the end. The mission quality has been improved drastically and it's not going to be the same crap over and over like before. Each mission is clearly well thought out and will have you doing something new and exciting every time. This is one GTA game where you really can't wait to get to the next mission. The amazing story will certainly hold your attention and keep you playing, but the enjoyment you get out of each mission will no doubt keep you on track as well. Take it from me, you'll do far less messing around than you did before. At least until you've complete the story anyway.

There are also a couple noticeable changes that take place when you complete or fail a mission, both of which make things much more convenient. If you fail a mission, you’ll immediately receive a message on your phone which will let you do an instant retry. And I really do mean instant. This isn’t like the ‘taxi’ system from previous games. When you complete a mission successfully, there’s now a nice autosave feature that comes into play. Now you’ll no longer have to hike back to your safehouse after each mission to ensure that your progress is saved.

The way you actually get to the missions has been changed around as well. Before, you would kind of meet someone at random and then you'd continuously return to them for no real reason and do mission after mission for them. This time each mission will actually be activated before you can get started on them. That means a phone call/text message/email from a person asking you to do a certain job. You're also only going to be doing a couple missions (sometimes as little as one) for each person before moving on, which keeps things interesting and keeps the story moving.

Hangin' with Playboy X.

There are also a wide variety of side missions such as delivering drugs, doing races, etc. They’re not as flushed out as the full-fledged missions, but they’re fun and a good way to get some extra cash. Then there are things like police missions, which have also been changed up a bit. Instead of just getting radioed about a crime, you’ll now use the in-car computer to search for crimes that are currently taking place. You’ll then get a marker placed on your GPS and you’ll have to track down the criminals and take them out for a cash reward. It’s actually pretty fun and provides for a different way to make money. The police car computer will actually come into play during regular missions as well. Every once in a while you’ll need to use it to search for a person you’re trying to track down. You do this by simply typing in their name and you’ll then be given their personal information and current location. It’s a pretty cool feature.

I mentioned before that you'll now be getting phone calls, texts and emails to activate the different missions. That's because just about everything now is handled via your cell phone. That includes accessing the multiplayer. It's a great design and really makes sense when trying to make the game feel as modern and streamlined as possible. You'll start off with a pretty basic phone which can't do much besides perform basic tasks, and eventually you'll upgrade to a nicer one which can handle themes and ringtones, which you'll download from the in-game computer. The in-game computer is another fully thought out idea, which makes you feel more like an every day person when you're not killing people and selling drugs. You'll get emails from family seeing how you are, and you'll also get emails about different missions. You can also browse tons of different websites, most of which are just there for comedic purposes. It's still cool nonetheless. You will also be able to browse a dating site, which is where you'll be able to acquire other girlfriends.

The cell phone is used for more than just missions. You'll now receive texts or phone calls from other characters just wondering how you're doing. They'll also invite you (or you can invite them) to go do an activity. This brings me to the character relationship system. This was sort of attempted in San Andreas with the whole “girlfriend” thing. You'll still be able to have girlfriends who you can take out on dates and “get lucky” with (I already know what you're thinking, and the answer is no), but now you'll also have regular friendships as well. They'll call you from time to time, like I said before, to see how you're doing or to make plans to hang out. You'll be able to go do activities such as bowling, playing darts, shooting pool, etc. These are all pretty decent and offer a bit of fun the first few times. You also have the option to go hang out at a strip club or go to a bar to get drunk. If you choose to go to the bar, you're going to have to deal with a drunken Niko afterwards. You'll stumble out of the bar and trip over yourself on the way to the car. You'll then have to catch a cab, or drive if you're feeling brave. Just like in real life, the latter option is not such a good one. Your vision will be blurred and you'll have a very tough time controlling the car. You'll also get the cops after you and you'll usually wind up in an accident or in jail. Like I said, this is a very realistic game, and just like in real life, driving drunk has its consequences. Now, In order to keep up a friendship with someone you'll need to hang out with them from time to time. It's a pretty cool feature, but I will admit that it sometimes got annoying when you were in the middle of something. Every once in a while I'd find myself on the way to a mission only to have someone call me up from the other side of the island wanting to hang out. My choices then are say yes and completely derail what I was doing, or say no and lose points with that person.

The character customization is pretty good, and throughout the game you'll be able to change Niko's clothes to suit your taste. One good thing that was removed from the game is the character stats system. You won't have to eat or work out anymore in order to stay healthy. The system was a decent attempt at getting more in depth with the character, but that was one thing about San Andreas that constantly annoyed me.

The AI has also seen some nice improvements, most noticeably with the pedestrians. Like I said before, the pedestrians will actually have a lot more to say now and they'll speak as if they're real people. San Andreas introduced pedestrian conversations, and Grand Theft Auto IV perfects it. They'll now have realistic conversations with one another and shout things out that are actually relevant to what is going on. There's also a huge amount of dialogue for all the different pedestrians. Besides speaking more, pedestrians also act more realistically and will do every day things that real people would do. You'll see people sweeping the sidewalks, performing road work, leaning on buildings smoking cigarettes, etc. A lot of the time you'll be driving around and you'll actually see things such as people being pulled over by the police or people with their hood open because their car has broken down. They are no longer perfect drivers and you'll witness several car accidents, which you have nothing to do with. The amazing thing is that when something like that happens, the pedestrians will get out of their cars and converse with one another about the situation. This happens to you as well. If you hit another car, the person will get out and confront you (sometimes physically). If they accidentally hit your car, they'll get out and check the situation. If you run out into the middle of the street, you'll quite likely be struck by a passing car. They no longer have split second reaction time and they're not going to stop on a dime for you anymore. If they do hit you, they once again will stop and make sure everything is ok. All this together makes such a huge difference in the way you feel about Liberty City. It truly does feel like a real city, populated with real people.

Should've taken the bus, pal.

The whole open world aspect has always been the most incredible part of the Grand Theft Auto series. The world of San Andreas was the biggest and most diverse open game world that has ever been seen. The world of Liberty City is not quite as big as San Andreas, but thanks to Rockstar's careful attention to detail it feels much more like a real city. Like I said before, everyone is doing their own thing and the entire city is happening around you. People are living their lives whether or not you're there to witness them. That's how it feels anyway. No corners have been cut in the design either, and not a single part of the city feels artificial. Not only that, the extremely minimal load times make the whole world almost completely seamless. There's one load towards the beginning that will last a couple minutes, and that's about it. When you wake up in the apartment, the whole city is there with you. You just walk outside and go about your business, without a single load screen in sight. For every indoor location such as stores or other random buildings, you can just walk right in, explore the place and then leave, no waiting. The same goes when crossing over to new islands or starting missions. To be honest, I'm completely stumped as to how Rockstar pulled this off, but I'm glad they were able to do it. It has to be the best load system in any game, ever. This has really never been done before and it will constantly amaze you.

One thing I noticed is that the loads that are there do go by a bit quicker on the PS3, thanks to the disk caching. This does mean sitting through a 5 minute install towards the beginning, but it's all worth it. Even without disk caching though, the 360 still handles everything amazingly well.

The multiplayer is a huge addition to the game, and although I had my doubts, it offers a ton of fun. The multiplayer is handled via the cell phone, like I said before, and all you do to get in and out is pull it up and select ‘multiplayer'. Simple. The invite system is nice and you'll be able to arrange a party with all of your friends. The party leader can then select from a multitude of different games, such as death match, racing and other objective-based games. Each game offers something totally new and every one of them is just as much fun. Some you'll be competing against other players to do things such as deliver drugs, and others you'll compete with other players to pull off a series of hijackings and bombings. Getting kills or performing jobs will get you cash, which allows you to rank up. Ranking up will get you new outfits and stuff for your character, which for once is actually worth playing for. Then there's free roam, where you can basically just hang out and explore Liberty City with your friends. By that I really do mean the entire city. Full traffic, full pedestrians, full police and every key single player feature is there, and with virtually no lag. It really has to be seen to be believed. Grand Theft Auto IV is by far one of the best multiplayer experiences out there, and while it may not be as in depth as Call of Duty 4 or Rainbow Six Vegas, it's every bit as fun.

Entertainment Value
Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the few games out there that is worth every penny of the sixty dollars you'll spend on it. There is so much to do with Grand Theft Auto IV that it belongs in the category of games that are worth far more than what you'll get them for. I'm talking about games such as Oblivion or The Orange Box, where you've got countless hours of fun to be had. The story mode is quite lengthy and will last you a good 40 hours or so. The good thing about that now is that you're actually going to want to play through all of it because of the dramatically improved mission system. As everyone knows, the game doesn't end with the story. There are tons of side missions and other little things to do, that will easily last you hundreds of hours if you want to get through all of them. On top of that, Grand Theft Auto IV is the type of game that you're going to keep coming back to just to mess around, simply because of the fact that it's so fun to just explore the world and get into trouble. The multiplayer has added even more, and although it's not quite as focused as games like Call of Duty 4, it's just as fun to play. You've got the entire world of Liberty City open to you and your friends, and you're not going to get tired of that very quickly.

Now, the big question is which version should you buy, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360? The answer is simple, buy the version your friends are getting. That's where you're going to see the biggest difference. The PS3 has slight technical advantages, but they're not a big deal and being able to play the multiplayer with your friends far outweighs any cosmetic differences the versions may have.

Overall, Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the best gaming experiences you'll ever have. No game is perfect, but this is as close as it's ever come. If you're a gamer, you have absolutely no reason not to pick this game up right now. Believe me, you'll be happy you did.

Liberty City awaits you.

Visuals: 10 - Amazing graphics. Every piece of the city has been uniquely designed. Unbelievable visual performance when you consider all that is going on. Minimal slowdown and virtually no load times make this the most technologically and visually impressive game I've ever seen.
Audio: 10 - Hundreds of top-notch music tracks available. Phenomenal voice acting for every character, which really brings them all to life. Some of the best sound effects I've ever heard. The sounds of the city give it an extremely realistic ambience.
Story: 10 - One of the best video game stories ever, featuring one of the best video game characters ever. Amazing dialogue and character development throughout. Twists and turns will keep you guessing until the end.
Gameplay: 10 - Everything has been redesigned from the ground up and so many improvements and additions have made this a completely new game altogether. Not only that, it's probably the most fun I've had with a game since Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Entertainment Value: 10 - So much to do that you will probably never be done with this game for good. The story mode is a good 40 hours and there's another couple hundred hours for everything else. Then there's multiplayer which adds even more. You and 15 friends in the entire world of Liberty City makes for one of the best multiplayer experiences out there.
Overall: 10 - Masterpiece

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