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Grand Theft Auto IV on Game and Player

Grand Theft Auto IV

Matthew Theroux  //  May 9, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV's success is all about immersion.


bout seven years ago I got an odd call from my regular rental place telling me that my copy of Grand Theft Auto III had not been returned yet. Having entrusted my friends to return the game for me I was curious as to why they had not done so. A quick phone call led to the following conversation:

Me: Mike, it's Matt. Funny story. I just got a call from Video Headquarters and they're telling me that Grand Theft Auto wasn't returned. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?
Mike: Uhhhhhhhh — here's Mark.
Me: Mark, funny story. I just got a call from VHQ and they told me that Grand Theft Auto is late. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?
Mark: Uhhhhhhhh — here's Justin.
Me: Justin, funny story. I just got a call saying that Grand Theft Auto wasn't returned. Would you know anything about that?
Justin: Uhhhhhhhh — here's Mike.
Me: Mike, funny story. I just got a call from the video store saying that Grand Theft Auto wasn't returned. Would you know anything about that?
Mike: Uhhhhhhhh
Me: Look. I can hear you guys playing it. I can hear police sirens in the background.
Mike: Yeah — we didn't return it. It's already late, now, so you may as well come over and play it tonight, and return it tomorrow.

Seven years later Rockstar has made a game that is even more addictive and entertaining than when this series first entered three dimensions.

The key to the entertainment value of GTA IV is how it immerses the player in the game world. Liberty City is an incredibly detailed environment that just oozes polish, and plenty of care and attention. It is quite easy to lose yourself in this kind of detail, which became very apparent after I had accidentally hit a light post during the first mission. The post started to shower sparks from where it had been severed from the ground; then more sparks followed once the light itself hit the ground. Each city block feels and looks unique, like a real urban center — landmarks make finding your way around Liberty City much easier. NPC residents are equally memorable. I could just walk the streets and listen to their banter, and I have yet to hear the same conversation occur twice.

Liberty City just oozes polish.
The GTA series' latest entry has some new features. The most prominent one is the cell phone. Previous titles provided the main character with a cell phone but it wasn't used to the extent that it is in GTA IV. In GTA IV, it's used to interact with the many people you will be encountering through the game. This mostly amounts to checking up on friends or establishing missions but can be used to arrange dates or get-togethers with friends, as well as to enter the multiplayer. The dating and hangout mini-missions are a fully realized expansion of the dating mini-games in GTA: San Andreas. Engaging with friends and girlfriends is entirely optional but as with most things in GTA, the more you pursue these activities the better the end result. By developing strong relationships you can gain special abilities from each of your friends, such as free cab rides or cheaper weapons. While not vital to play through the game, spending some time on this will make your time in Liberty City a bit easier.

A more practical addition is the ability to hail cabs to travel to wherever you want in Liberty City; previously, cabs were for returning from failed missions. There is now a pathfinding trail that will appear on the map, particularly useful for finding your way around town. Of course, if you prefer to do things the way they were in past GTA games, you can turn the map trails off.

How does a mission end?
Sometimes it's up to you.
Notable changes and improvements have been made since the last release. The auto-aim system is much better than it was in San Andreas. Holding the left trigger will automatically aim your weapon at the closest enemy or, if there are none, the closest civilian. Flicking the right stick left or right will change targets; moving it will allow you to move the reticule around on whomever you're targeting. Slightly depressing the left trigger will allow you to enter free-aim mode. The new system is fairly effective and works much better than the last one — though there are still times when the auto-aim doesn't switch to the target you want, or won't allow you to change targets unless you leave and reactivate the auto-aim. Auto-aim is no longer possible while in vehicles.

Another change is in some of the side missions. There are no longer paramedic or fire truck side missions. Vigilante missions have changed so that they now more closely resemble the kind of system that was in Crackdown, where you can hunt down a gang of criminals and kill them all.

Multiplayer confirms what PC playing GTA players have known for years: that GTA multiplayer is amazingly fun. As many players know, there are 15 multiplayer modes, each one customizable. You have your standard death matches, races and several objective gametypes like the popular jailbreak elimination, Cops 'n' Crooks. Most people will generally spend most of their time in Free Mode, which allows players to cruise Liberty City with friends and a wide variety of weapons. Unfortunately, some players have experienced problem joining games online, myself included. This is most likely a result of the sheer amount of people who are — this popularity suggests that the focus of the popularity of GTA is indeed a social one.

GTA IV's single-player is massive — despite hours and hours of play I hadn't finished before I wrote this review. There is simply so much to do in the game. The main story takes a little while to get going, but once it does it is very engaging. The characters that you meet are well developed, which makes interacting and listening to them quite enjoyable. Protagonist Niko Belvic was an excellent choice. Having a foreigner being your eyes and ears to the game world makes GTA IV more understandable as you learn about the city and the way that Rockstar has decided to portray their twist of the world.

Mission structure is fairly basic, consisting of going from Point A to Point B and eliminating certain targets. Despite this simplicity, Rockstar has managed to make each mission unique and enjoyable. As I was going through the missions I quickly found them becoming more and more fun due the stories behind them — and Niko Belvic's motivations. Difficulty obviously increases as the game progresses, but only makes passage more rewarding. A few missions end differently based on a player's decisions, and while most have no effect on the main story, one major mission does have a profound effect. For those with no interest in multiplayer, single-player is rewarding enough to justify getting this game.

In spite of the strong story and addictive multiplayer there are some issues with the game. The biggest one for me is the car's camera. It doesn't pan with the player as Niko takes corners, but instead waits until the turn is mostly done. Because the camera is located behind the driver, perspective is slightly off-center. It's very distracting and initially makes driving more difficult than it should be, particularly for people who are used to driving in GTA titles.

There are also issues with pop-up. While not too distracting, it can have an impact on gameplay. For example while trying to evade police on a bike I ended up flying from my bike after I crashed into a picnic table that hadn't yet been drawn into the game. There also are some minor frame rate slowdowns.

The game does lack some variety seen in San Andreas. There are fewer weapons and fewer options for flying vehicles. This reduction is understandable — but I can't help but to feel a little shortchanged by losing some options.

GTA IV's success is all about immersion. There are so many things contributing to the immersion, I don't have space to list the ones that wouldn't spoil the game for you. All of these elements are individually impressive and many are brand new to sandbox games. Each player will have their own unique memories of playing: for me, watching a friend land a Hummer on top of a police car moments after I gave him the controller; or watching an NPC crash his car and go flying from the fiery explosion. It is creating and sharing these experiences that makes Grand Theft Auto IV so enjoyable, and ultimately will make this game memorable for years to come.

osvaldo // April 18, 2011 // 8:26 PM

i wont to play gta san andres

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Grand Theft Auto IV



Rockstar North


Rockstar Games

NA Release

April 29, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Strong, engaging story
  • Immersive city
  • Wide variety of multiplayer options


  • Annoying driving camera

G&P Rating

Articles by Matthew Theroux

July 29, 2009

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July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

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