ScreenCritics Groot takes a look back at Grand Theft Auto IV – arguably the most divisive of Rockstar’s hugely popular gaming series.
It’s seems that when ever Rockstar is mentioned today, people associate the gaming company with its most greatest product, and really can you blame them. It also seems that what ever Rockstar touches turns to gold and that every next installment in their franchises is better than the previous one. That being said, there is a reason why they are still one of the strongest companies, simple because they are good at what they are doing. There most strongest franchise was the groundbreaking open-world shooter, Grand Theft Auto and to this day is still going strong with its head up high. So while these days everybody talks about the best games in the series, I will take a look back at one underrated title that is criminally neglected, Grand Theft Auto IV.
After GTA San Andreas, Rockstar shipped us off to the shores of Liberty City. Gamers are put in the shoes of Niko Belic, an immigrant from Yugoslavia who came to Liberty City for unknown reasons. When Niko arrives he is welcomed by his cousin Roman, who is one of the main characters of the game and will be the cause of most of Niko’s problems. The two settle in together in a small apartment and from the start it appears that our protagonist just wants to start a new life. However, he soon gets involved with multiple criminal organizations and families in order to find a man who has betrayed him in the army and killed off his friends and family, which turns out to be his primary motive for coming to the city. Working as a hired gun, Niko gets sucked in more and more into the criminal world and gets into more trouble then he wanted, all in the name of revenge.
The game play doesn’t stray far from the norm that was established in previous games. The game is still an open-world, third person shooter with all those elements such as car steeling, extreme violence and more that all of us by this time are well acquainted with. A few new features were added to this installment, while some of them, that were featured in earlier games, were dropped and this might just be the reason why the game is underrated. The ability to customize your character by changing your hair style or getting a tattoo was not longer an option, while the clothes were also downgraded. The ability to fully customize your vehicle was also dropped from the final product, and this is one of the main reasons why it was neglected by gamers.
Besides these changes, one of the things that were alternated for the better was the weapon system. Even though there were only a few weapons in the players arsenal, they all controlled differently and were more realistic than in previous titles. Not to mention that one of the better aspects was the addition of ability to cover from enemy fire, which made gun play all the more satisfying and realistic. It’s obvious and safe to say that the developers were going exactly for that, more realism in terms of game play then the other games in which it was easy to shoot like hell everywhere and take in as much bullets as possible without dying. The mobile phone, for the first time, is also fully usable in GTA IV, as you can call, text, and access other stuff from it, even the cheats. So just as it has some negative aspect, GTA IV also has some positive sides to its story and it’s game play. The developers weren’t afraid to take a huge leap of faith and experiment with this installment and in the end it still paid off as it was a well done experiment, with a few minor setbacks.
One of the most interesting key elements of the game are its characters and the choice system that was incorporated for the first time. The players can now, besides completing their missions, spend time with different characters from Liberty City. Every character has something special that can help the player, such as lowering your wanted level, healing you and even provide a free ride to a designated location. However this is only available if the protagonist spends time frequently with the characters and is friendly with them. Every time the players goes out they are scored with positive or negative points based on the performance of the hangout. This also applies to dating, as the character can date multiple girls throughout the city, and if he gets lucky the player might even be asked to come in for some coffee. The choice system was also added and allows the player in certain situations to take one of the two given paths.
These paths also affect the protagonists ending and was one of the better features of the game. It gave the option to kill or spare some people, to side with or decline some criminal families and many more. The choice always falls upon you whether it is in a serious situation or if it with your friends, we just advise one thing, be wise when talking to Roman about bowling.
Another aspect The fictional Liberty City felt so alive, brimming with all kind of peoples, different races, religion and nationality. Every corner of the city, even the alleyways made you feel as if you were really a part of it and that you were just one tiny person in a giant environment. Some new locals were also accessible and the player will most likely come across them in various missions.
The variety of radio stations is also something to mention, as there are over 100 songs from real life famous artists such as The Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, Iggy Pop and more. All in all this game isn’t bad, far from it, it is amazing, I recently played it for this retrospective and I had a tone of fun. But I can see way it was underrated in comparison to Grand Theft Auto V and San Andreas, cause it lacks features that made the game so interesting. The developers took this as an experiment to try and show to the gaming public the realism and the visuals, and they succeeded, and later thanks to this success they made Grand Theft Auto V who was excellent in both game play and visuals.
Overview: Grand Theft Auto IV is a great game and can easily be said that it’s one of the best open world games out there, but in the series it’s not the best. I still had a lot of fun playing this title and I was mostly drawn to the characters that were all done so well, that might be because I come from the same place as the main protagonist and I feel sympathy in his struggle. Every thing in the game had its own personality and that’s the reason why this game is so good and deserves your attention, not to mention the mods that can be added. For all of the players out there that can’t run the newest installment in the series, don’t neglect this one, give it a shoot and you will surely enjoy it. Even though it lacks in content it still provides memorable missions and a great experience worthy of the title Grand Theft Auto.