Monday, November 3, 2008


Now I know that almost everybody in the world has heard of this game, even if you have been living under a rock, chances are you’re familiar with at least one of the installments in the Grand Theft Auto series. If not, you may at least be aware of the controversy surrounding the crime glorifying plot of the series. But if you still don't know what the hell I'm talking about, then checkout this link:


I’ll be honest and admit that the gratuitous violence of the GTA series was all that intrigued me about the earlier titles in the Rockstar Game series. At the time, Vice City was vastly different from the games I was used to, and was one of the first games on the new age series of game consoles- that emerged at the time of its release- that I actually played. I’ll also admit that I never really got into the earlier games (Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto II), not up until the release of GTA III. But, even then there was just something about the game that put me off. Now, I liked the fact that the sandbox styled game allowed you to roam freely around the city and basically steal any car you wanted or shoot anyone whose face you didn’t like (and no, I’m not psychotic.), but I have always been a more story-orientated gamer. Sure, game play matters, but there was always something about the flow of the game, like for instance in the case of Vice City and San Andreas, that made it so that I eventually found myself lost on unending stints of maniacal gun blasting and havoc wreaking rampages, rather than bothering with the progression of the game’s storyline. It was even worse (for me) with the San Andreas version of the game, as the game developers (Rockstar North.) added a sort of leveling system, where your character's skill with weapons and piloting certain vehicles, only improved the more you used them. Naturally, rampaging and havoc wreaking was one of the fastest and more fun ways of doing this, and so led to endless hours of car chases, Rambo styled massacres and needless explosions. All good and fun, I know.

But then, came GTA IV and I finally figured out what- in my opinion- the series was sorely lacking. Now, I know that in many circles, GTA IV is still basically considered to be a “shooter”, but for me, the latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto series is closer to the ultimate modern day RPG, and probably the only one of its kind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s the best Role Playing Game in recent times or that it 's even an actual RPG, but only that, no other game comes even close to putting you in the shoes of a modern day (and highly believable) personality like the immigrant, former Ukrainian military man turned criminal, named Niko Bellic, who along with his trouble prone cousin Roman and the host of colorful and memorable characters you meet throughout the span of the game, immerse you in a world of drugs, alcohol, sex and gun tooting violence. Even in spite of the fact that GTA IV's game environment is the smallest in scale of all in the GTA series, the depth and detail is far superior to any of the others, owing in no small amount to the power of the consoles it was made for, I know. But the brilliant design of the mini games within GTA IV’s environment, means that players can take a break from the often dangerous criminal life of Niko Bellic and simply hang out with a friend, playing pool or bowling or have a night out at a strip club or even getting shitfaced with your cousin Roman, all the while, trying not to get caught by the cops for drinking and driving. Or you may even decide to take a leisurely cab ride around town and listen to a host of radio shows and music stations, one of which is hosted by Nigeria’s very own Femi Kuti. Or Journey to the top of a replica Empire State building (If you can find it, that is) and take a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking scope and detail of Liberty City, or go on a boat cruise or helicopter ride with your steroid junky friend Bruce, or you could simply have a quiet night in, watching a number of hilarious T.V shows on the tube. There are a host of hidden missions too, like killing the 200 or so pigeons randomly placed throughout the city, or finding the heart of the city- which is an actual heart by the way- or even finding friends around the city who send you on bonus missions. The truth is, in many ways, GTA IV is almost flawless, with brilliantly witty- even if sometimes explicit- dialogue.

Like the other games in the series, your actions often decide the path your character will follow, but unlike the other games, I found the story of Niko Bellic, an infectious enough one for me to play the damn thing all over again, just so I could find out what would happen if I made different choices from the one’s I made the first time.

SUMMARY: Rockstar games: GTA IV is by far the best game I’ve played so far this year and I vehemently recommend it to every ardent gamer out there. (If you haven’t already played it, that is.)

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