GTA IV: The Review You Can Use [tm]!

With this and all subsequent reviews, I’m going to use the system I developed for Godfather and rate how it does on storyline, replayability, and controls. I’ll throw in a handful of other comments. Away we go!

1) Storyline

First of all, kudos to Rockstar for recognizing the depth and breadth of Eastern Europe, albeit in a quite subtle fashion. I was afraid they would portray the protagonist (Niko Bellic) as a Russian, since to the majority of Americans, if you speak with a Russian accent, you’re Russian. However, it is fairly clear to me that Niko is either Serbian or Croat, with a leaning towards the latter. My evidence:

— Niko pronounces his last name “BELL-ick”, not “itch” as a Russian or Serbian would likely pronounce it. He also pronounces other East European names with an American pronounciation; this could be Rockstar not caring, or it could be the way Croats pronounce names like Roman (Ro-MAHN in Russian) or Ivan (E-VAN in Russian).

— He refers to “the war”. He is pretty clearly referring to either the series of wars that resulted in the disintegration of Yugoslavia or the recent war in Kosovo. He could be talking about Chechnya, but given his descriptions of his homeland (with bombs going off around his head), I’m pretty sure it’s not.

–Simply put, when an American calls him Russian, he mutters under his breath “I’m not Russian.”

Niko is a very sympathetic protagonist, although a bit of a emo sort. He’s likable in that he’s not really a criminal but a soldier who starts his way up from the bottom. Roman is extremely entertaining and a great foil to the reserved Niko.

The world, as a whole, is very believable; they save the real over-the-top stuff for the TV shows and radio.

2) Replayability

Dude, it’s GTA. There’s more stuff to do than you can shake a stick at.

3) Controls

After I get done praising them for having not messed with controls too much, Rockstar overhauls the controls for vehicles… and it works. It relies more on the triggers than on the face buttons, but the controls are still pretty responsive and intuitive. You have the option of reverting to GTA Classic controls, but after a bit, I don’t see why you would.

A few notes before we close out.

–On the PS3 there are a few freezing issues; these are all resolved by not being signed into the Playstation Network. I’m not sure how this affects multiplayer, but it does keep you from accessing the leaderboards.

–Speaking of multiplayer, I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve heard good things, but I’m drawn in too much to the story line to try yet.

–The cell phone in game is ridiculously easy to use and a wonderful vehicle for advancing the story line.

–The “friends” system is pretty sweet too; you still take girls out on dates, but you can hang out with the guys too. It’s almost always worth it to maximize interest as you get some good benefits.

–The biggest difference between the 360 and PS3 version is that the former is a bit sharper and the latter has shorter load times (past the initial install).

The verdict is this; if you like GTA, buy the game. If you don’t like GTA, buy it anyway.

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