Wednesday, December 5

Grand Theft Auto IV Review

Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Price: Varies second-hand
I played on: PS3
Notes: Although I didn’t play through on PC I have played the PC version of this game on my old computer and there are a few issues with Games for Windows Live so look into that before picking it up. Also, Mods are amazing.

Welcome to Liberty city, the worst place in America.

This game has so much polish and so many little details to see while driving around that it blows my mind a little. Early in the morning, there’ll be less traffic, rubbish trucks driving around, car radios can be heard through their windows while walking past them, the police will engage with any criminals around you and people will talk on phones, hail cabs and more. This is one of the most detailed and realistic cities I have ever explored in all my year’s gaming. The presentation is some of the most impressive of the PS3 console generation. Even next to GTA V this world feels more real and alive. I play games as a form of escapism so exploring other worlds is very much my thing and GTA IV is perfect for that, or rather it would be if not for the story and writing.

The story while not bad in itself includes a lot of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and misogynist language. Most the time this is not the game being offensive but the game portraying offensive people which is a little uncomfortable but not an issue in itself. What is an issue is how the game displays women, immigrants and members of the LGBT community. Every non-American character is shown to be violent besides your cousin Roman who is shown to repeatedly cheat on his partner. The only gay character you deal with is an over feminine stereotype played up for “comedic” value. Lastly, women are always portrayed as objects to use by or for men, every female character exists in relation to a more fleshed out male character. This is where my love for this game suffers, just as I’m falling in love with Liberty City and GTA IV itself I hear the radio presenter use the T-slur or see a woman being used for her image and nothing more.

Outside of this, the story follows Niko Bellic, a Serbian refugee who moves to Liberty City to be with his rich cousin Roman. As a young boy Niko was pulled into a war he didn’t believe in and lost a lot of friends, he is haunted by his past. Upon arriving in Liberty City he finds his cousin is not rich instead he’s in debt to a loan shark. The two cousins are quickly dragged into the world of crime. We follow Niko as he learns the violence of his past is not as behind him as he would like. I love this story, the characters are neither good nor bad and instead are portrayed as shades of grey.

This is not to say there are not parts I hated for example at one point you have to kidnap a young woman and ransom her off to her mobster father. This had me feeling genuinely uncomfortable as a young woman myself. This is one of the many awful experiences I have when playing seemingly any Grand Theft Auto game and I really wish they would stop it. Having to shoot up the gay bar in Vice city stories, blackmail trans woman Martha (Alex) Shrub in Vice City and more are all gross horrible missions throughout GTA history that show a little too much of what the writers at Rockstar really think.

The gameplay in GTA IV is amazing, the driving has a lot more weight than in other GTA’s including GTA V but once you get used to it then it feels amazing. The shooting is much improved from the 3D era on PS2 with the ability to use cover, blind fire, lock on and more. The A.I throughout the game is very impressive using cover or running to safety. I also love little details like bullets not being lethal unless you get a kill shot with the survivors after a firefight begging for their lives or trying to move to safety.

If you can look past the offensive nature of the game then there is a lot to love but there is also a lot to look past. This game is kinda like a beautiful garden filled with flowers of every type, smell and colour imported from all across the world but on a very cold and foggy day. You know the beauty is there but it’s hard to see and you’re feeling a little uncomfortable.

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10.

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