With Grand Theft Auto 5 on its way, many of us are excited, which we should be. We are long overdue for another GTA game. So to prepare for this upcoming game, I recently played through the previous game in the series, Grand Theft Auto 4. The first time I played through this game on the Xbox 360, I was not as blown away as I was when I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. However, nostalgia has a way of helping anybody to appreciate a game much more. The question is: does GTA 4 hold up to today’s standards? Lets roll up our windows and take a trip back to Liberty City and find out!
You play as a Russian by the name of Niko Belic. Niko has come to Liberty City to escape from his problems back home in Russia. He meets up with his cousin Roman Belic and it seems as if Niko may get the chance at a new life. However, things go sour really fast for Niko as he discovers that Roman has a serious financial problem with the wrong people. One thing leads to another and Niko soon finds himself mixed up in a life of crime just to help him and Roman survive. Meanwhile, Niko is searching for a man who betrayed him during the war. This plot point seems rather pointless because we are not even shown a flashback scene as to what happened during the war. Without seeing what happened to make Niko want to kill this guy, we cannot understand what Niko is going through. Therefore, we cannot feel Niko’s pain and it makes it difficult to care about this revenge plot.
Later in the story, Niko seeks revenge against another man. I will not give away the details but with this particular revenge plot, we know what happened and it’s much easier to see why Niko wants this person dead. The previous revenge plot seems out of place and is very forgettable. The rest of the story can be forgettable as well. Niko basically goes through different employers, does jobs, and makes money. That’s the whole game in a nutshell. To be fair, however, the characters and dialogue are both very entertaining. Niko has a lot of moments where he says something funny, which makes him a fun protagonist to play as. Most of the other characters are also memorable. The conversations that we hear throughout this game are all very interesting and hard not to pay attention to. While the story lacks direction, the characters and dialogue more than make up for it.
GTA 4 leans more toward realism than previous GTA games. Some may say that GTA 4 is a little too realistic. You have a cell phone, just like in other GTA games. The only difference is that in GTA 4, you can call other people to progress in the story, or to do activities with them. These activities include shooting pool, bowling, drinking, eating, and many more. People may also call you to arrange an activity to do. This can be annoying at times, especially when you’re trying to progress in the game, then Roman calls you up wanting to bowl or something.
The most frustrating thing about GTA 4 has to be the control. The control feels extremely heavy. This makes gunfights in the game more difficult than they should be. Granted, GTA 4 does have a duck and cover mechanic, but it even this can be frustrating to use during a tight situation. Niko moves like he’s being weighed down by 200 pounds worth of items or something. It takes too long to turn around to look behind you, so if somebody starts shooting you with a shotgun when you’re not looking, you’re basically dead. This is not real life. Most of us do not take forever to make a 180 degree turn!
The control on foot is bad, but it is nowhere near as bad as the vehicle control. The vehicle control in this game is atrocious! Driving a car in GTA 4 feels like driving a big truck. It’s heavy, it makes wide turns, and it’s easy to flip over! Again, the difficult vehicle control is supposed to be part of the realism of this game. Even though I am sure that most of us do not have difficulties turning a corner without sliding or flipping the damn vehicle over! The worst part about the horrible vehicle handling in GTA 4 is that a majority of the missions that you do, involve you chasing somebody down in a vehicle. Until you adapt to the way that the vehicles handle, you’re going to fail these missions constantly by crashing into things and falling behind.
Speaking of the missions, there is hardly any variety in the missions that you do. You are either going to be eliminating a target, picking somebody up, retrieving an item, or for the most part: chasing a vehicle! I suppose it would not be a GTA game without a chasing mission. I can only assume that Rockstar wanted to make GTA 4 the best in the series by having a chase mission after every other mission! Other than the annoying missions where you chase down vehicles, there is not a whole lot to say. Most of the missions are predicable and offer no surprises.
The activities can be surprisingly entertaining. It seems like I have had much more fun playing pool than I have had playing most of the missions. My favorite activity in GTA 4 was definitely catching a show at the comedy club or the cabaret club. The stand-up comedians at the comedy club were hilarious and the cabaret club had humorous performances as well. Both of these were put together very well.
Another feature in GTA 4 is the ability to surf the internet. Not the actual internet, but the internet in the GTA world. You can check your email, reply to messages, meet women to date, and even look at the latest news in Liberty City. It is also interesting using the internet to access the police databases. These databases contain the criminal records of just about every character in GTA 4 and it is very amusing to look at the records of some of these characters.
As for the multiplayer modes, they can be a lot of fun if you’re partied up with the right people. The multiplayer modes include death match, team death match, cops and crooks, free mode, and more. The multiplayer seems more worthwhile than the actual single player mode does. If you’re teamed up with a lot of your friends, free mode can be a blast! I find it incredibly fun to go on an all out rampage with all of my friends, just to see who all can make it out in one piece. Rockstar made a smart choice when they put multiplayer in GTA 4.
The audio in GTA 4 is very well done, just like the other GTA games. You can hear the characters and the radio loud and clear, as you would expect in a GTA game. Some of the guns still have the misfortune of sounding unrealistic, but overall, the gun noise in GTA 4 is an improvement over previous GTA games.
In my opinion, the soundtrack could have been better. Coming off of San Andreas, I was expecting to be blown away by the soundtrack in GTA 4, just like I was in San Andreas. However, GTA 4 does not have a decent rock or metal radio station. I have always been disappointed with the soundtrack in GTA games that took place in Liberty City, and GTA 4 is no exception. Granted, the commercials are still hilarious to listen to just like in previous GTA games. In fact, the commercials are my favorite part of listening to the radio stations in GTA 4.
The voice-acting is also very well done. There were some moments where it was easy to tell that the voice-actors were pouring their hearts into the characters that they were voicing. Because of this, GTA 4 felt like a movie at times. The excellent voice-acting made the characters seem like real people and it was easy to connect with them.
GTA 4 is a good game, but it does not leave a lasting impression like its predecessors. Liberty City itself looks incredibly dull and makes the entire atmosphere seem boring. Playing this game today, I still had as much fun as I did when it was first released, but I hope that Rockstar takes a different approach when developing GTA 5. My final score for GTA 4 is a 6/10. I find it disappointing giving any open world game such a low score, but other than the memorable characters and seeing what happens at the end of the story, I feel no urge to continue playing the single player mode of GTA 4. If you’re a fan of the GTA series, I would still recommend it. It is only 20 dollars now, which is a good deal for any open world game. However, if you do not like games that focus too much on realism, there are plenty of other open world games to play that are more deserving of your time.