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CVG
108 Reviews

Grand Theft Auto IV

Review: This gen's biggest game - rated

After going in fresh and experiencing GTA IV's treasure trove of surprises for many months now, we can't bring ourselves to ruin it for you. So don't worry, spoilers will be kept to a minimum, which is bloody hard. We've got all these awesome tales and secrets to tell.

Update: Grand Theft Auto 5 is now official.

As an experience, especially a cinematic one, GTA IV is incredible. Story-wise, Rockstar's usual mix of crime, betrayal and truckloads of piss-taking is at full force in an event-filled plotline. It's easily our favourite narrative since Vice City.

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This is mostly down to the charismatic and infinitely likeable protagonist. Unlike the silent anti-hero of III, or CJ's custom canvas, Niko Bellic has tons to say and a shady past to uncover.

Yes he's a cold hearted killer, but unlike the robots of previous offerings, there are points in the story where his conscience boils to the surface. Underneath he even shows real emotion.

When put with a difficult decision, he'll struggle with the choice. One minute he'll be an accomplice in a robbery with only cash in mind, but another time he'll help a friend in need.

The conscience-testing plot is played out during GTA IV's campaign, and when put to a difficult decision, we too found ourselves pacing alongside Niko (there are plenty of endings to be discovered). It's nice to finally have a GTA where we give a sod about the protagonist.

But it doesn't end with Niko. In the past the series has pumped out plenty of flat, one-liner NPCs to help push the story along. But now we're finally seeing some characters with actual depth.

Russian Mikhail Faustin, for example, has clearly been messed up by drink and drugs - and you can tell. Scenes where he does little more than hold his head in his hands, ready to explode, inject real suspense and emotion - something we're not used to in this series.

Voice acting, as always, is fantastic. Non-player characters have plenty to say - especially on car rides to objectives. And they'll never say the same thing twice (unless you replay a mission).

As always, the piss-taking, politically incorrect side of Rockstar's script is alive, actually more so than ever. IV will have you chuckling more than any other game this year, I reckon.

The biggest star of the game though is of course the the city. And Rockstar has succeeded in creating one of the most believable environments we've ever seen.

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In scope and scale, Liberty City is utterly unmatched. There's seamless integration of interior and exterior (indoors doesn't look like blurry boxes anymore) which is IV's most significant jump over San Andreas.

Coupled with a gorgeous lighting system, Liberty City at times comes across with a set of its own emotions. When the streets are overcast and soaked with rain, you'll feel the sombre mood of the streets. 30 minutes later, when you're screaming past the sun-lit backdrop of the Algonquin skyscrapers, Liberty City feels like the happiest place on Earth.

But how does it play? Compared to San Andreas, number IV's game systems have been improved in a lot of areas. Vehicle handling has been tweaked to feel more realistic (though don't get too rowdy - it's not PGR or GT) and the pure thrill of driving around town is more present than ever.

The difference between a tank-like old banger and sports car this time around is massive. Each motor feels unique, making every car in Liberty City relevant.

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