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Luke
05 May, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV Review

PS3 Review | Tell your friends to Nikoff, GTA is here.
The Grand Theft Auto franchise needs no introduction, but we'll give it one anyway. Grand Theft Auto I and II (and the London expansion pack) on PS1 and PC were top down action titles, that provided the player with a sense of freedom. With the leap to the PS2, Grand Theft Auto III brought the series into true 3D, and was one of the first games to show what the '128-bit' consoles were capable of. It reviewed well, sold millions of copies and inspired dozens of other open world titles. Rockstar followed GTA III with more expansive sequels set in Vice City and San Andreas, but now, after years of hype, several trailers and even a major delay, Grand Theft Auto IV has launched simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Has Rockstar reinvented the wheel (so to speak) yet again?

Grand Theft Auto IV opens by introducing the game's protagonist, Niko Bellic, an Eastern European who has fled his home country for a fresh start in the New York inspired Liberty City. He soon realises that his cousin Roman has exaggerated his successes in Liberty City, leaving Niko at the bottom of the food chain with no money and no credibility. While the story contains every New York gangster movie cliché there is, it is fantastically written and remains entertaining throughout.

Niko is given a mobile phone by Roman, which acts like a mini-menu for the game. Giving a character a phone in-game has been done before, but not on a scale like this. Missions come in via the phone, text messages are sent to Niko with hints, and it's even possible to call the characters in the game directly. If you're down on cash for example, you may want to call someone to request a job, just to get some extra cash.

We haven't quite been able to pull this off yet.

We haven't quite been able to pull this off yet.
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Initially, Liberty City can be quite staggering in GTA IV. It's a stunning looking game, a stylistic and technical triumph, with masses of well designed geometry and textures and a great draw distance. The city is gigantic, but it isn't just a one block re-textured and repeated, every single street looks different. There are slums, which are more dangerous and have a greater police presence, as well as 'richer' areas, with more well dressed citizens. Not only is the city highly detailed but the citizens on the street are just as unique. They go about their own activities, such as talking on the phone, or even breaking laws themselves. Irrespective of what Niko is doing, the city seems to be going about its business.

Probably the most major non-graphical changes over the game's predecessors are the combat mechanics. Taking cues from dedicated action games like Uncharted and Gears of War Niko can now take cover behind just about any object in the game. There are also several attack buttons so you can punch and kick your enemies, locking onto an enemy is much easier then before, and players are no longer forced to fight against the camera when trying to target an enemy. Firefights are a lot more tactical and and also feel a whole lot fairer. The physics in the game are also absolutely brilliant as well, watching Niko fly through the air or accidentally hitting a pole while on a bike is simply hilarious.

The wanted level system has been reworked for the better. If there a cop near you when committing a crime then you'll automatically get a wanted star, but if you kill in a spot where there isn't a huge police presence you may just get away with the shot. If the cops are after you then the map will light up and actually show where the police are looking for you, if you manage to escape without the police seeing you then you're safe. This isn't too difficult when you're on one star, but as soon as you hit four or five stars police start popping up everywhere and avoiding them is extremely difficult.

The new cover system makes the firefights a lot more tactical... and enjoyable.

The new cover system makes the firefights a lot more tactical... and enjoyable.
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Rockstar has dabbled in multiplayer before in the PSP GTA Stories games, but Grand Theft Auto IV takes it to a whole new level. Accessed via the phone, there are several options on offer. You can play ranked and unranked matches in several modes, such as deathmatch, team deathmatch, 'cops and crooks', 'turf war' and races, and can play in the city as a whole or in smaller areas. Sixteen players in a run and gun kill spree through the whole of Liberty City can be very entertaining. We did occasionaly get matched up in multiplayer with Americans where the lag was a little less tolerable, but for the most part the online multiplayer is a huge addition to the series. The multiplayer does have a few issues at the moment, we did occasionally get session errors during the game and often had trouble connecting to online games, but when it does work the multiplayer is very solid and should have most people coming back to GTA IV long after the single player campaign is finished.

What definitely can be said is that what sets Grand Theft Auto IV apart from other similar games are the details. There are hundreds of little touches in the game that you keep thinking could easily have gone un-noticed. Driving across bridges isn't a free exercise anymore, and players will have to drive up to a toll booth and pay the fee and if they don't then they'll be pursued by the police. If you try to steal a car and shoot the driver, sometimes the driver will fall on the steering wheel and the horn will honk repeatedly. In the grand scheme of things these are small additions, but with so many little details, GTA IV is a game that feels remarkably polished.

But it's not a game without flaws. There are a few technical issues; the frame rate does drop at times when things get hectic and there is some very noticeable pop-in when you're driving through the city. There are also a few glitches (such as body parts clipping into vehicles) - nowhere near as many glitches as in previous Grand Theft Auto titles, but given the production values they stick out much more. The lack of mid-mission checkpoints is disappointing as well, and really should have been fixed for the new generation. Internal environments can also be a bit of a problem at times, as they can be small and often the camera plays up when trying to navigate indoors.

This is going to a shootout.

This is going to a shootout.
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It is worth mentioning that the Australian version of Grand Theft Auto IV has been edited. Although Rockstar hasn’t commented on what is missing from the local version, we do know that when Niko picks up a prostitute the camera pans to the back of the car, rather than moving around, but that's all we currently know about the cuts. There is still plenty of swearing, violence and drug and sexual references, so Australians shouldn't feel like they have missed out on too much of the 'mature' content.

As previously mentioned, it's a very impressive looking game. Liberty City itself looks absolutely amazing at times, particularly when one of the atmospheric weather effects are going, such as rain. Sound effects are also spot-on, guns and cars sound great, the background noise gives areas a great 'buzz', and the voice acting is fantastic. The soundtrack is just as stellar, with several radio stations playing all sorts of music, as well as the now-standard hilarious talkback stations

Simply put, Grand Theft Auto IV is the best game ever released in its genre, and is the new standard to which other open-world titles will be measured. Age permitting, this is a game everyone should have in their collection. It's by no means perfect, but it's addictive, entertaining, often awe inspiring, and will be remembered for years to come.
The Score
A sensational game that lives up to the pre release excitement. There are a few flaws, but anyone of-age picking up this game is bound to have a lot of fun.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Grand Theft Auto IV Content

GTA IV receives multiplayer focused patch
24 Jun, 2008 Exploits and connectivity issues targeted.
GTA IV sells 8.5 million
06 Jun, 2008 That's a lot of copies in about six weeks.
GTA IV cut details emerge
24 May, 2008 So, what's missing from our version?
86 Comments
5 years ago
omglol lowest review so far

*wink*
5 years ago
A well deserved 9.5. Im glad to see that PALGN arn't sheep and trow down 10 like many others have. The game has a number of flaws and dose not derver a perfect score.
5 years ago
Thank you for not giving it 10!!!!

As awesome as the game is 9 to 9.5 is all it deserves.

I think some of the graphical errors, occasional bugs and some of the features from the previous games that havent carried over sort of proove that this isnt a 10 out of 10 game.

Having said that I love this game to death.
5 years ago
Agreed. Seeing this game get 100% scores from so many places has really hurt my faith in the ability of reviewers to be critical of a game. Nice to see someone give it a _real_ score, and not bowing down to to the pressure of the hype.

Is it a good game? Yeah. Great? Sure. Best game ever? Not by a long shot.

Yay for PALGN.
5 years ago
Wow those screenshots look amazing compared to what mine looks like, I really need a HDTV!

I agree with the score, unfortunately there are too many little things that bother me for it to warrant a 10, but a well deserved 9.5 nonetheless.
5 years ago
While my opinion of GTA is different to the review's... I must say that it is the best review of Luke's I can remember reading. Well done Luke.
5 years ago
Maybe I'm missing the significance of GTAIV getting a 9.5 instead of a 10 score - has PALGN leveled up in street cred now or something? I think the game is fantastic, and I thought it was a good review, but is the score honestly that exciting?

*confused*
5 years ago
Great review, it pretty much says what I feel about the game. The small details always amaze me, and while others might look at them and say 'so what', I'm just blown away by the amount of thought put into every tiny detail.

It has its flaws, in fact it has many flaws. But the game is just so jam-packed with great content that it's hard not to strongly recommend it. I disagree with the myriad of '10' scores and reviews with minimal criticism of the game doing the rounds on other sites, however I find myself ranking it amongst my top ten games of all time.

GTA IV is really a good example of why scores are pointless in reviews.. a perfect 10 implies just that, the game is perfect and will be the best game ever to everyone that plays it, regardless of their favourite genre. So Super Mario Galaxy got 10 on PALGN, and this got 9.5, does that really make Super Mario Galaxy a better game?
5 years ago
are those screen shots in review taken from the ps3 version???
great review luke...

passa, reviews are at heart a subjective thing, of course there are the elements of graphics, sound etc, but in terms of giving you a fantastic experience both this and mario galaxy were right up there but they are up there for different reasons, its like comparing chalk and cheese...

fun would score 10/10 for me on this game once you stop looking for what little flaws there are and get stuck into liberty city get pissed a few times, shoot some pigeons and generally cause some sort of a ruckus.
5 years ago
Passa wrote
So Super Mario Galaxy got 10 on PALGN, and this got 9.5, does that really make Super Mario Galaxy a better game?
Yes. icon_cool.gif

Seriously though, I totally agree with you. Review scores are tricky to interpret because they mean something different to everybody, and are the embodiment of one person's opinion. Some people will agree that the game deserves a 10, while others will say it deserves an 8. I feel the best way to take reviews is to look at them as a whole. Seeing the average score of every review out there is a good summary, as is making notes of the things that are being praised, and those that are being criticised, and deciding if the game is for you (forget everyone else, you're the one who matters).
5 years ago
And you were worried that there'd be a backlash because you didn't fall in line with every other games outlet. icon_wink.gif

Look a 9.0 or a 9.5 is definitely warranted for this title, no doubt it is a great game and pretty much sets the standard for any other game attempting to reach the same level of greatness but there are no doubts issues in the game which strip it of some of it's lustre. As I've said before the grenade system they've currently got is ridiculous, the controls do feel a bit clunky at points and there are graphical issues here and there aside from that the game is brilliant.
Without exaggeration Luke has probably delivered probably one of the best reviews of the game I've read to date. Without panning towards developers or powering the hype train I think publishing a review after the dust has settled so to speak does wonders for the site's creditability.

[Sorry to be a suck-up about it but so many reviews of the game have shit me to tears with some of the dumb crap they say. When the game was released I wouldn't be surprised if they cried themselves to sleep with the whole lack of a second coming of Jesus in the form of a videogame.]


Blasphemy is fun! icon_lol.gif
5 years ago
Passa wrote
GTA IV is really a good example of why scores are pointless in reviews.. a perfect 10 implies just that, the game is perfect and will be the best game ever to everyone that plays it, regardless of their favourite genre. So Super Mario Galaxy got 10 on PALGN, and this got 9.5, does that really make Super Mario Galaxy a better game?
Generally speaking, for a game to recieve a 10 from PALGN, there needs to be some sort of mutual agreement between writing admins.

The issue with SMG though, was that Chris Sell had done an early review on the Japanese version. As it was still a number weeks away from an Australian release and even an American release, there was no real measuring stick in terms of other comparative review scores.

Since none of the admins had played it, the only person's word who had any substance was Chris'. So, we ran with that score. Whether or not this was the right thing, whether or not GTAIV is better, we'll leave that to you to decide.

Also:

Quote
10: The absolute best. A score only one or two games a generation will receive.
Our criteria for a game getting "10" mentions nothing about a game being perfect icon_wink.gif
5 years ago
Jeremy wrote
Also:

Quote
10: The absolute best. A score only one or two games a generation will receive.
Our criteria for a game getting "10" mentions nothing about a game being perfect icon_wink.gif
Whether you mean it to or not, awarding anything a 100% (or full) score implies perfection. Like getting 100% in an exam, it doesn't mean that you are the best in the class, it means you fulfilled the criteria perfectly.

Anyway, I think the point is that GTA4 has clearly shown how hype and pressure can affect a reviewer's ability to be critical. Also how until some kind of uniform criteria is put together, scores will be too subjective and even differ from case to case.

But then maybe that's just me D:
5 years ago
Maybe it's implied, but it's definitely not true on our scoring scale, which is easy for anyone to see.

Scores should not be compared cross-platform though.
5 years ago
^ that is an extremely interesting article about the ratings system etc. I think it also goes into account who is reveiwing it, as you see on the highest review thing the only two 10's have been given out by Chris, and no offense to him but that mean he scales scores slightly higher than other reveiwers, and vice versa with lowest... Elf Bowling!!

and to anyone who hasnt read the elf bowling reveiw it is pure gold!

let me quote....

Choosing between Elf Bowling 1 & 2 is like picking between a punch in the face or a kick to the nuts
5 years ago
^^ I don't know why I just plussed you for a quote but oh well.
5 years ago
Luke wrote
Maybe it's implied, but it's definitely not true on our scoring scale, which is easy for anyone to see.

Scores should not be compared cross-platform though.
It's just the the scoring system is so vague, and a lot of it is left to interpretation. Like what differentiates 'best of the best' @ 9.5 to 'absolute best' @ 10? They sound fairly equivalent to me.

In the end I think the body of the review, or at least a small summary of the review, is more indicative of how good the game is.

I'm just fussy because being a poor Uni student means very little money for game purchases >_<;; so they need to be good. Luckily GTA was worth the monies.
5 years ago
rufati wrote
Jeremy wrote
Also:

Quote
10: The absolute best. A score only one or two games a generation will receive.
Our criteria for a game getting "10" mentions nothing about a game being perfect icon_wink.gif
Whether you mean it to or not, awarding anything a 100% (or full) score implies perfection. Like getting 100% in an exam, it doesn't mean that you are the best in the class, it means you fulfilled the criteria perfectly.
Whether you mean it to or not, your analogy totally supported what Jeremy said...

same guy wrote
It's just the the scoring system is so vague, and a lot of it is left to interpretation. Like what differentiates 'best of the best' @ 9.5 to 'absolute best' @ 10? They sound fairly equivalent to me.
Reviews aren't supposed to be strict numerical processes, they're the opinions and impressions of the reviewer. If you're worried about the semantics of 'best of the best' and 'absolute best', you're taking reviews far too seriously.

Blink wrote
he only two 10's have been given out by Chris, and no offense to him but that mean he scales scores slightly higher than other reveiwers, and vice versa with lowest... Elf Bowling!!
That's a damn good thing, and the reason why Chris is (was? icon_sad.gif) one of PALGN's best reviewers. There are so few reviewers out there (PALGN seems to house an above average proportion though) that actually use a 1-10 scale. We all know sites like IGN rate games on a 6-10 scale. An average game should be a 5, and PALGN generally (although less-so these days) rates them accordingly.
5 years ago
Chris is still with PALGN.
5 years ago
He hasn't posted, let alone written, since November icon_sad.gif.
5 years ago
He is working on content right now.
5 years ago
Great review, I agree with the pros (especially the audio, which does set a precedent not seen before, in both width and depth), and the cons.

The main issue I have is the lack of mid-mission checkpoints/savability - if a patch came out allowing the player to save their game whenever they wanted, I'd actually have to date this as my favorite game to date, excluding Portal. But the fact is that missions are easy to mess up the first time, and doing them all over again gets VERY boring VERY fast. Additionally, I hate going to one end of the city to play around, knowing that when I load my game I'll have to do it all again unless I can be bothered traipsing back home to save.

Aside from that, it's a beautiful creature. Fusion FM FTW. icon_biggrin.gif
5 years ago
Spanca wrote
Blink wrote
he only two 10's have been given out by Chris, and no offense to him but that mean he scales scores slightly higher than other reveiwers, and vice versa with lowest... Elf Bowling!!
That's a damn good thing, and the reason why Chris is (was? icon_sad.gif) one of PALGN's best reviewers. There are so few reviewers out there (PALGN seems to house an above average proportion though) that actually use a 1-10 scale. We all know sites like IGN rate games on a 6-10 scale. An average game should be a 5, and PALGN generally (although less-so these days) rates them accordingly.
I dont totally understand this statement. You say that Chris was on of the best reveiwers... Then that an average games rating should be a five... yet when you look at Chris' reveiws his very lowest score was a four with average being >7. Now dont get me wrong here his reveiwes were and still are fantastic but they dont really mesh with what you think an average game should be?
5 years ago
A reviewers average shouldn't necessarily be 5, though, since theres a good chance you could have a skewed population. Chris's average is higher than 5 because he happened to review a lot of above average games. Someone else's average might be lower if they were constantly given shit games to review.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  29/04/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $119.95 AU
Publisher:
  Rockstar Games
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2007

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