GTA IV BradyGames Strategy Guide Review - 15/05/2008

Brady are pretty much accepted as the kings of strategy guides, but for the game of the year, possibly even the generation, does the guide live up to the subject matter?

In most areas, certainly. We all know by now that GTA IV is a very high quality, long-lasting and feature-full game. If there's one product that's ever deserved a strategy guide, then GTA IV is probably it. And on that subject, we'll have a full review of it online shortly!

The guide weighs in at a hefty 288 pages, all glossy and colourful, yet resilient. It's a heavy thing to lug around, but is a great and well presented read as a result. However, it does have its downsides. This is by no means an essential guide, at least not in the same way that Oblivion or even Pro Evolution Soccer ones were. There are very few tips to physically see your ability improve, minimal reccommendations for multiplayer, and not enough little secrets that you may have come to expect from such guides. For example, where's the list of phone numbers you can use in the game? A list of weapons with number of bullets to kill a target or destroy a certain vehicle? Cars and their top speeds? None of that's there; what you do get is outlined below, and may well still fit the bill for many of the GTA die-hards out there.

Pretty much straightaway you're onto the first mission of the game, and about 95% of the guide is taken up with outlines of the single player levels. Basic plot details are given, sometimes advice on what level of armour or weaponry you'll need for it, and tips on how to get to the target destination or take out the enemies as per the mission guidelines. Perhaps the most useful implementation however is the pass/fail points. Thinking of outsmarting the developer by blocking the route you think (or know if you're retrying) the enemy you're chasing are taking? A quick check of the appropriate page in the guide will save you an otherwise uninfomed mission failure.

It's testament to the well written nature of the mission section of the guide that you'll want to read it after completing each section in game. While I personally don't use guides unless I'm stuck, this was a great read on the loo or on the train to check out the missions coming up, fill in some gaps from cutscenes where the voice audio was down too low to hear or just to check out the recommended way of doing each mission I'd botched in the past. There are plenty of opportunities where a target takes flight in a vehicle, or the police get involved in dramatic fashion, and you can see whether all this was actually scripted with a read of the guide. On the occasions I was stuck, or felt myself facing unbearable odds (I have paused in the middle of a firefight for guide-based advice), it was a pretty faultless companion to the game.

It's a good looking guide!

The question you need to ask yourself is, do you get a guide to help you through the single player missions, or to unearth the treasures, glitches, and secrets hidden within, or to get tips on how to pwn in the multiplayer? There are some parts of this guide which lend towards the latter, but not enough. Detailed maps make up most of the remaining 5% of the guide, especially in the form of a nifty fold out reversible poster/map, and these give you body armour, weapon, event and flying rat/achievment based target locations. This is pretty indespensible for completionists. You also get guides to all the side-missions, such as the vigilante events for example.

Perhaps the most important feature in a guide for a game where certain scripted decisions affect the rest of the story is that the consequences of choice based actions are always given. This is one of the best features of the guide in question.

The multiplayer component is very underused in the guide. There are very few tips or nuggets of advice on how to be the best at it. What you get is an account of the game modes, the basics of gameplay, and weapon summaries. It's not too bad, but despite the 288 pages you still feel as if more could have been put in to the guide. I suppose most of the missing stuff you can get off the internet, or even in the GTA IV instruction manual.

The GTA IV Official Guide is beautifully presented, stays true to the ethos of the game and its series, and is a nice, but by no means necessary, accompanyment to the Grand Theft Auto IV experience.

- Mike Hazleton

Final Score: