Grand Theft Auto IV - 28/05/2008

Months of hype; months of controversy; has it lived up to it? You bet it has. Everyone before the dramatic release date of GTA IV was expecting it to hit the spot and it hasn't disappointed. In fact, sales of Grand Theft Auto in the first week topped $500m in the United States, dismissing pathetic attempts to ridicule the game for its violence.

So I bet you're all wondering what makes this game majestic enough to attract so many people towards it. Well previous games in the series have already captivated gamers through its originality of pure free roaming action in the wondrous, but crime ridden states of America. Obviously, this is complimented perfectly by the missions that Rockstar have provided for us to dig in to and give the experience of what it's like to be able to work in the undercover, illegal world of New York City. It's good to be bad. Note however, world leaders, this is not why smuggling, drug dealing and gun/knife crime is increasing; it's simply because many 16 year old parents are calling their children 'Hayden,' 'Chastity' and 'Satan,' whilst wearing Lonsdale and watching Jeremy Kyle. Now we've got that cleared up lets concentrate on the in depth characteristics of the game.

You start Grand Theft Auto IV arriving in America on a boat as Niko Bellic (an Eastern European male) who was involved in conflict in war torn Yugoslavia. You are looking for refuge and looking forward to what the great U.S.A can offer in search of the American dream. The first cut scene is illustrated magnificently and it's here where you can get really excited about what is to come. This is followed by Niko arriving at his cousin's (Roman) apartment. It is here where the main character realises that America is not all that it was meant to be. From then on Niko gets caught up in a whirlwind of crime; meeting and working for many different characters and earning much needed money to perversely reach their (Niko and Roman's) goal of cash and peace. Already sounding like an enthralling plot? It gets better. The further progression of a story in GTA4 differs vastly from other versions of the game, as you feel empathy with the character of Niko and his troubled past. This is enhanced by other characters in the game, where you also get stronger glimpses into their background and can gain a real sense of what this modern multi-cultural Liberty City is like.

The graphics have had a moody upgrade, but it has still got that GTA charm.

Obviously, with great characters comes great dialogue and there is no lack of that here. The speech in Grand Theft Auto makes the game that extra bit special and ultimately more humorous. I found myself laughing quite a bit in the first scene when Niko is first introduced into Romans apartment; the names they were calling each other and the blatant swearing were brilliantly timed. For example, Niko calling his cousin a 'fat prick', because he's fallen asleep. It also helps that the characters have classic eastern European accents, which makes the verbal abuse sound all the more magic.

Now, concentrating on what you can do whilst out and about on the streets of Liberty City. Vehicles have improved greatly in the fourth episode of the Grand Theft Auto series and the range of cars has also been enhanced. Examples of supercars on offer: the Turismo; (my personal favourite) the Comet; the Infernus and the Super GT. You also have your NRG motorbike, your Jetmax speedboat and your Annihilator chopper. You can find these vehicles all around Liberty City, even though these particular specimens will be slightly harder to find. However, you can use a cheats to produce these vehicles right next to you with just the push of a few buttons on your mobile (or cell). These vehicles are easier to find on multiplayer, which is great when you're playing with your mates online, as you can quickly hop in a chopper whilst your friend speeds below you in an Infernus. Despite the joys of being able to enjoy the city faster and higher in a helicopter, choppers that allow you to fire don't let you target, hence you can never accurately shoot anyone or anything which casts quite a bit of a downer over that privilege. You also have to turn 90 degrees to fire downwards and even then you can't see what you're shooting and if it's producing any kind of effect. However, you can land on your opposition with your chopper in multiplayer or when you're just free roaming, which disturbingly never gets boring. Furthermore, you can land on the statue of happiness: Grand Theft Auto's replacement to the statue of liberty, but holding a coffee instead of a flame, which is quite a nifty addition. Shooting in other vehicles is mostly a doddle, but you can't target upwards, which is a bit of pain when you want to exterminate foes on higher ground. You can also only hold smaller hand guns, but I can live with that as it would be quite tricky holding an RPG and driving at the same time!

The flame and smoke effects seriously rival Call of Duty's.

The advanced radio station system included in previous games allows you to search through different stations easily and find absolute belters of tunes like 'One vision', Queen. There are also hilarious chat shows, like for example 'The Richard Bastion show' on WKTT, a typical American loving chat show host completely ignorant to moral views. However, you have to listen to it to really appreciate the humour of it; the creative department at Rockstar did an amazing job on the radio stations. There's also a fictional company in the game called 'ZIT' that spot out a song for you that you've been listening and loving on the many stations that GTA IV has to offer, so you can download it illegally on Limewire. No I mean iTunes, of course iTunes!

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Rockstar Games
Rockstar North
PS3 - 360