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Grand Theft Auto IV

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Written by DM on Monday, April 28 2008

I am appending a prologue of sorts to this review, and it is something I hope to never have to do again. Grand Theft Auto IV, as you well know, has been getting a lot of perfect review scores from various sources. What this has forced people like me to do who are not planning to give the game a perfect score is, in effect, defend myself. People will automatically claim I am giving the game a lower score just to buck the system and be negative. Well, that is just not so, and now I must explain why. To me, if a game receives 100% of its possible score, then that means there are no issues in the game which can be pointed out as “flawed” or “unfinished. “ It does not mean that the game has so many outstanding points, that the downsides have to be overlooked. My job as a reviewer is to bring you the information on all aspects of the game – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as it were. The actual review score is a “quick reference” gauge, if you will, that lets the reader know just how much the developer got right, and how much could have been improved. This makes it even more important to have a score that reflects the true state of the game. If there are parts of a game that can be improved upon, however few they may be, and however small they may be, then that game, at best, warrants a 9.9 score. In my opinion, if you overlook minor flaws and give something a perfect score, then what is the point of having a review scale with 9.9 or 9.8 or 9.7? We might as well just start rounding up review scores to the next nearest half or whole. Yes, some websites are actually shifting to this method, to be honest, using the letter grade system, or using a word-based scoring method. In fact, the way this generation is going, I might even switch us here at GR. Until that day happens though, rest assured that I will bring you the truth about games in my review. GTAIV is not the second coming of the messiah, nor is it the game by which all others should be measured. What Grand Theft Auto IV is, and you can skip the rest of the review if you like, is a fantastic game, one of the top to grace our consoles this generation, without question. It is just not a perfect, flawless, 10, and no measure of hype or public pressure will sway me from doing what reviewers are supposed to do – bring you, the reader, as much of the facts about a game as I possibly can, whether or not they are good or bad. I’ve had the game for days now, so let’s get to it then, shall we?

Let me say this right off the bat, Grand Theft Auto IV was one of the hardest reviews I ever had to write. It has so many nooks and crannies, if you will, that it was near impossible to compare it to the previous games. In fact, it just feels like the entire franchise has taken a step sideways and now focuses on game play and storyline, rather than weapons, vehicles, and items. Folks, Grand Theft Auto IV is not your grandmothers GTA game, this is GTA all grown up.

Usually with a sequel, it is easy to compare the game to the last installment in the series. I can talk about what has been added or taken out, what has been tweaked, and what has remained the same. I could do this for GTAIV, but it would totally paint the wrong picture. The game, brace yourself, has less weapons and vehicles than the previous games. No more can you hijack a boat or a go-kart, and you will not be running around barbequing people with that flamethrower. In fact, you do not even get a handgun for a time. The cars you can pull people out of are also less exotic, no more can you hijack a Ferrari equivalent at every corner.

So, you see, if I took that route, you would get the wrong idea for sure. You have to consider the “why,” when discussing why these subtractions were made. The reason is simple. Grand Theft Auto IV is just about the most realistic and utterly believable fictional world ever put to disc. The little details are just amazing -- the grittiness, the way NPCs react, the weather, the lighting, even the dialogue is what you might find if Liberty City existed. The size of Liberty City alone is comparable to any fantasy game (Oblivion comes to mind), and no matter which out of the way back alley you end up at, or which main thoroughfare you jack a car from, you will never feel like you are not really living and breathing in Liberty City. Kudos to Rockstar for really taking the time to figure out what makes a city a city.

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