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"Grand Theft Auto IV - "Welcome to America""

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Sat 23/05/09 at 14:55
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
Welcome to America, the land of dreams. Do whatever you want, be who ever you want to be. America, where freedom lurks on every corner, that is if freedom comes in the form of a 45 year old prostitute, standing next to a tramp with cardboard shoes.

Believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto IV is the 13th game to be released in the GTA series (including expansion packs). The Grand Theft Auto series began 12 years ago, back in 1997, developed by DMA Design (which is today is Rockstar North) and also Tarantula Studios. It was set in Liberty City, Vice City and also San Andreas (all of which would later get their own games). The camera was from a birds eye view, and the freedom was completely limited compared to modern games, although the game was a great success at its time. But that was back in 1997, when the GTA series was born.

In 2009, Grand Theft Auto 4 puts us back in Liberty City, following illegal immigrant and war veteran Niko Bellic. Niko leaves eastern Europe to join his brother Roman, who came to America years before, and joins him in pursuit of the American dream. Of course things don't run smoothly for the pair, despite plans that sounded good. You get involved inevitably with the crime world, and you find that your situation gets worse and worse, well it does for quite awhile anyway.

You might be able to compare Liberty City to New York a lot easier in this game, as it is based a lot more on New York than previous games. You have the Empire State Building, in form of the Rotterdam Tower, the Statue of Happiness, which literally looks like the Statue of Liberty, and many other landmarks which are a bit harder to compare. Copied from New York or not, the surroundings are superb. When you walk the streets, you actually feel as though you could be in America. The whole ‘lets make everybody looks the same’ civilian job exists no more. You do get people who look exactly the same, but it is no where near as frequent as previous titles. Experience rush hour traffic, with millions (not literally), of yellow cabs queuing up as you ram through them all with your Banshee aswell.

Car choices in the game may seem similar to previous titles. You’ve got the Banshee and Comet, cars which I remember in Vice City as the best. You’ve also got the Gran Turismo, my favourite car of the game, although currently I’ve got a gold Comet parked outside my safe house. Safe houses are pretty much the same as previous titles, except that unlike San Andreas, you don’t have to walk into some yellow arrow, and wait for your console to load some room that is tiny in comparison to the rest of the map, you can simply walk through the door. You then have the option to save your game by sleeping 6 hours, or you can change your clothes.

Clothes stores aren’t as diverse as San Andreas, although they are more preferable. You don’t go to a small closet with infinite space for this big list of clothes that you’ve got to choose from, where you just choose the things that sound good because you’ve no idea what anything looks like. You just walk into the store, go up to a rack with clothes that you think look nice, try them on, and buy them if you want. It’s a lot easier to get that perfect outfit, although at the start of the game, the only clothes store you can buy from is the Russian Shop, which is not very good to be honest. Later on though you unlock a clothes store on the next island (Algonquin) called Perseus, who sell suits and shiny shoes, although you do get some help choosing clothes from a ‘camp’ shop assistant who either compliments you, or tells you what’s wrong with your outfit. Of course with great clothes comes a not so great price. A suit will cost you a hefty $2000, which is a mission or two’s work near the beginning.

Don’t be blowing all that money on nice suits straight away though, you need to get yourself some respect, and the best way is the American way; with a piece (or a gun in normal language). Guns are even more useful than previous games. If you don’t have one in GTA 4, you won’t last long, because believe me, a lot of other people will have them. In San Andreas, it was particularly easy to take someone out who has a gun with your bare fists. Completely unrealistic. Upset a cop in this game (even running into them by accident can set some cops off their head), and you'll have your hands above your head. Try and run, and the cops will shoot to kill. Even if you do get away, the police are smarter than they’ve ever been. No longer will you be able to just outrun a police car in a fast car; they will catch up. Police manoeuvres are still in operation, they will try to ram the backside of your vehicle until your spin out and then they’ll continually ram you until you blow up presumably, or they’ll even try and get a car infront of you, and behind you, and bring you to a stop. Of course, we all know what happens when you do get Busted or Wasted, you’ll lose any of those precious weapons you had, and also suffer money loss. So, although this may seem like strange advice for a GTA game, try and stay out of trouble, because once you’re in it, it’s a pain to get out of it, and you’re bank balance will slowly deplete.

If you do find yourself low on money from free roaming around the city, get involved in the main story, which is very fun. There is not one set story like previous titles, there are loads of different characters who each have their own story. Missions, to me personally, feel like little odd jobs instead of another level done for the whole story, like in the other games. You actually feel like you’re doing the character a favour, which is rewarding in it’s own strange way. Although with some characters who you start to respect and like (and not to give too much away), they will turn on you, or others, once, maybe even twice, and will soon be a target for you to chase, but that’s getting into the story too much, so back to the game play.

Like previous games, you have a cell phone, which wasn’t that important really, you’d occasionally have to answer it for a mission. In GTA IV, you need your cell phone, or you won’t get anywhere. The cell phone can still be used for missions, you can call friends or girlfriends to ask if they want to go bowling, or go to a bar (my particular favourite with Roman as both of you end up staggering down the street) or you can even get ringtones of the internet, by using an internet café. Although these ringtones are $100 each. That means 20 ringtones is equivalent to an expensive suit. Don’t ask me how it works. With your phone, you can also phone up ambulances if you get injured, of course this comes at a cost. You can also prank call aswell, asking a police officer to come out to you (or a peacekeeper as they're referred to), but he won't be keeping peace for long when you jack his car, speeding down the road, sirens ablazing. You also have the ability to take pictures with your phone (you get a new phone from the one you start with once you complete a mission for Playboy X).

The mini games, such as bowling, pool and darts are a great way to take a break from shooting people in the face all the time. Darts is particularly easy, since you just have to aim using a reticule that will wobble slightly, but it’s not hard to get a couple of 180’s. Pool is a lot harder, as it obviously involves a lot more tactics than dart. Bowling is not too difficult. You just line yourself up and press the direction you want to throw, adding a slight curl if you want, just as you throw.

After your game, you can still access restaurants, some familiar such as the Cluckin’ Bell, and diners such as The 69th Street Diner (particularly good pie in there). As I’ve mentioned, go to a bar and you’ll be given a particularly drunken Niko afterwards, who’s vision is blurred (the camera will move about quite a lot) and who can’t stand up properly. Beware though, you will fall over and you can lose health if you fall badly, and although this sounds silly, you can get ‘Wasted’ (no pun intended) from being drunk and end up in the hospital. If drinking isn’t your thing, try a Strip Club. You have the usual pole dancers as you enter, and have the option to take a dancer into the back room and receive a personal dance for $50 (that means 2 dances from a stripper is equivalent to a ringtone. I don’t get it either). You can have a total of 3 dances in the back. The first dance will be a normal waving about infront of you dance. If you choose to have another one, the dancer will become a lot more intimate. A third dance, and she’ll get a friend in to help her get intimate with you. I’d say that was better than 1 or 2 ringtones.

You do of course get the standard prostitutes as well. Drive up to one of these street angels, honk your horn, and if you’re lucky, she’ll get in. Then just take her to a private place, like an empty back alley. Unlike San Andreas, where the prostitute and CJ just sat there, and the car moved, you actually see (not graphically) the prostitute and Niko moving, so all you hormonal gamers out there, you get to see abit more of the action. That’s what I call service.

Speaking of services, Pay n Spray is still in business in Liberty City. Drive your car into there for a brand new engine and paint job, whether it be to look cool, or to get away from the cops. If you don’t like the colour, just drive back in, and they’ll spray your car again until the colour looks right. I preferred the San Andreas MOD garages. I didn’t like the whole ‘make a pimp mobile’ thing, where you could put spoilers on your wing mirrors, and stereos in your windscreen, but I liked the way you could choose what colours you could have. It would be a very simple feature, but it would save you having to keep riding in and out of the Pay n Spray until the game chooses the colour you want.

Another thing that I have to complain about in this game is the ‘rag-doll’ physics. Although they’re pretty realistic visually (to a point; sometimes Niko just keeps on rolling down the road, when in real life, he probably would’ve stopped ages ago), the effects are ridiculous. You’ve just been launched through your windscreen at 140 MPH, rolling down the road, until eventually your corpse comes to the inevitable stop.

This is when we start phoning funeral directors and… oh wait! No, he’s fine; he’s just got up and is now carjacking a defenceless women whilst shooting cops in the head. Who would’ve thought it? I think I’ve made my point…

During this 140 MPH drive down the road, you’ll be able to enjoy some music or chat from a variety of radio stations. You’ve got everything from Hip Hop to Rock, from Phone-ins to Jazz (JNR-Jazz Nation Radio is my particular favourite, although it appears there is only about 9 tracks). You still get humorous adverts in between songs, usually emphasising an idea around a stupid scenario.

One thing i was confused about while driving is that if you skid at all using the handbrake, or reverse out, everyone around you seems to go mad and runs away, like you've committed a crime. You can't even reverse out your own driveway...

I've had a few interactions with Liberty City citizens. One memorable one wassome guy who was going on about how he was better than everyone else, and how he wasn't a dog, but a lion. It's great sometimes to just stand there, listen to the poor guy preach, and then out comes the AK-47 to end his troubles.

I like the fact that you can still swim, like in San Andreas (unlike the other previous titles), but you can't dive anymore which i'm happy about, as diving didn't actually add anything to San Andreas, it would've been better to have a mission say where you have to save a gangster boss from a car that's sunk before he drowns, or something along those lines, but no it was a pointless feature, you couldn't even escape helicopter or boat fire by diving deep down, infact you probably had more chance of being hit underwater. So i'm glad that has been removed.

A probably not noticeable or rememorable feature that's been removed/added is the way cars blow up. GTA is famous for car explosions. In the earlier titles, driving a car into water would get you killed, even jumping into the water would ("Sleep with the fishes" if you remember). San Andreas would let you crash into water, and then the car would blow up and sink, but at least you had time to get out. The cars also seemed to have a habit of alighting at the front and then inevitably blowing up a couple of seconds later. In GTA IV, your car will set alight by the wheels sometimes, and then the body will catch fire, and then it will blow up. Of course, firing an RPG at a car will blow it up instantly, but you won't get too many RPG's fired at you, but RPG's will no doubt be fired by you. You can then watch the beatiful, and i mean beautiful, explosion. Cars have also changed in that you can lose your tyres and end updriving on metal, or you can pop your tyres. You can smash any windows on it, and lose all the standard parts that usually come off (bonnet, boot hatch, doors).

It seems particularly easy for you to be shot while in your vehicle. I've gotten into a vehicle many times after a mission, trying to get away from the 4 star wanted level i've just gotten from doing said mission, and just as i pull away, a cop just so happens to get me perfectly in the head, and thus ends my getaway run. This isn't just a case of a lucky shot by the officer in question, it's happened many times, and it's very annoying. I'm in a car! I'm indestructable surely?!

A unincluded feature I was happy about, which a lot of people may disagree with, was that there are no player controllable planes in the game. You can still be crushed by the wheels of one at the airport, but thankfully, you can't control these sky rats. You do however have 3 helicopters to choose from though, 1 of which has miniguns. I didn’t like the inclusion of planes in San Andreas, as all you had to do was fly over the airbase (which just happened to be right next to your safe house airbase where you could pick up your Hydra), and then you’d have about 3 guided missles heading straight for you, before you parachute out, into the FBI truck waiting for you on the street below.

I have to say, I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of San Andreas. I don’t like the way the game was took into ‘the hood’, and it was all about gang warfare. I was glad to hear that the whole getting tattoos thing wasn’t included in GTA 4, but I was abit disappointed to learn there was no barber, as a different hairstyle can help you define your image (although you could one minute have a shaved head, and the next minute the barber could magically give you a pink afro with full beard. Don’t ask me how that worked either).

You still get in game ‘annoyances’ as I call them. In San Andreas, these annoyances came for me in the form of ‘Gang Wars’. You’d be enjoying trying to set up a huge explosion, or doing a super hard bike stunt, until a little box popped up. “Our area is under attack!” To be honest, I couldn’t care less about how much ‘area’ the green guys ‘owned’. In GTA 4, the annoyances come in the form of people ringing you up, asking if you want to do an activity with them. If you decline, they get all annoyed and you lose abit of friendship with them. If you agree, you have to get there in an hour (which is annoying as you could well be at the other end of the city). If you agree and you don’t turn up, they ring back thanking you sarcastically for not turning up. I’m in the middle of the hardest mission of the game! I couldn’t care less for your sarcasm! Luckily, you can just turn your phone onto sleep mode, although you may block any calls or texts relating to the main story.

Down to the important stuff. Weaponry. Guns plays a vital role in American life. “Guns don’t kill people, people do” says the American Rifle Association. Somehow, I think the gun helps. As Eddie Izzard says, “Just standing there and going ‘BANG!’ isn’t going to kill too many people. You’d have to be abit dodgy in the heart.” You get your standard pistol, which is not very good, but it does the job, slowly but surely. Weapons range from Uzis to RPG’s, depending on the job in hand. The sniper rifle for example is obviously used to take targets out from far away, or you maybe choose the RPG to blow up a target’s car. It’s completely up to you how you use your weaponry, but some weapons are more suited to particular jobs.

When you've got your weapon of choice, you might be glad to hear there is now a proper cover system. I wouldn't call it Gears of War standard, but it's useful, if you can get to grips with it straight away. Unfortunately, the cover system doesn't seem to like me, and it causes me more bother than it's worth. What i mean by this is that Niko for example will just throw himself against a wall, even when no one is firing at him, or even worse, he'll cover on the wrong side of the wall, and be blown to smitherines. This could be the same for everyone, but it's probably a russian vendetta against me personally, or perhaps i've got bad controlling skills, so i wouldn't worry about it too much.

One thing which people seem to have a problem with in this game is the vehicle handling. It is completely different to previous titles, where you could easily slide round a corner using the handbrake, and be off again. This is what makes car chases, or particularly when being chased by the cops, a lot harder. I don’t hate the car control, I actually think it’s a lot more realistic. It’s more of a challenge, as it’s so easy so spin out when taking a corner at speed, and I like this element, that no matter how far ahead you are of the cops, or how close behind someone you’re chasing, you could lose it at any moment, maybe steering to wildly and skidding out, or colliding with a taxi as you run a red light. It’s up to personal preference, but I prefer it.

There is better interaction with the environment in this game. Like San Andreas, you can climb over fences, by grasping onto them, and chucking yourself over. A new feature in the GTA series, is full on contact with civilians. You don’t just shoot these innocent bystanders anymore, you can push them into oncoming traffic, or even, and this is abit silly, walk them into walls, and eventually they will die from this. If you see a guy holding a cup of coffee, and you don’t like the look of him, or his coffee, then walk into him and he’ll drop it. Beware, as some characters will only take too much and then retaliate, where as some will keep apologising, until they die from being walked into a wall. Cops particularly are a minefield, as some will get you a wanted level just from walking into them, and some will repeatedly get up from you pushing
them over.

One thing you will suffer from, which is also new to GTA, is discrimination. Being an illegal immigrant, I’m sure you can understand why. You’ll get called Russian scum, and various other names. The only plus point is that you can kill your oppressors in a variety of ways. Good times.

Cheats. These are very common in all GTA games. They are done using a cell phone in this game, ringing a particular number magically getting you a super bike, or an arsenal of weapons that would make Hitler blush. Beware though, for Xbox gamers, using one cheat in the game will stop you from receiving the 100% completion achievement, so it’s your choice. Cheap thrills straight off from the beginning, or complete the game and then have your fun. I would, for the first time in GTA games, complete the game, as it is so much more appealing.

I’ve only played a couple of multiplayer matches. Some modes are more popular than others. Team Deathmatch seems to be the most common. Simply kill the other team. My favourite mode, although I haven’t played a ‘proper’ game of it yet, is Cops N Robbers, where the robbers have to get their ‘boss’ to a location and the police have to stop them. A lot of people seem to leave mid game, and I’ve seen a lot of other people lag, such as being a mile infront of you one second, and behind you with an uzi pointing at your noggin’ the next. I would prefer the single player game to the multiplayer although one mode I haven’t fully experienced, which seems to be the best, is free roam. You can invite your mates into a free roam game, where you simply just run around Liberty City doing whatever you want. You’re given an arsenal of weapons and cars, and also helicopters, to mess around with. And unlike San Andreas, you don’t have to stay within a certain vicinity of each others characters, you can just go wherever you please.

In conclusion, this game was predicted to be a flop in the GTA series, when it’s actually proven to be the best. The story mode is fantastic, and completely different to other titles in that you feel alot more involved and as though anything could happen, instead of a set script to follow. You’ve also still got little extra missions to complete aswell. Multiplayer is ok, depending on what mode you play. Graphically, the game is superb. The physics are abit dodgy, mainly the ‘rag-doll’ characteristics, but hitting lamp posts triggers sparks of electricity which is pretty cool, and hitting fire hydrants results in a powerful jet of water springing from the ground. Sounds are great, honking horns to swearing tramps to your favourite radio station (again, I recommend JNR for great jazz tunes). Characters are realistic and believable, so much that you get to like some characters a lot, and have a real vendetta against others. You have a variety of choice, not just for clothes, food, or leisure time, but in the missions themselves, different decisions can affect how your game is played, although unlike Fable II, you don’t sprout horns for killing everyone when you get the chance. I rate this among the best games I’ve ever played, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in Liberty City. Now if you’ll excuse me, much like this game, I’ve got a 5 star wanted level, so I better skidaddle.

Game Rating: 9/10
Tue 26/05/09 at 16:36
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
Wow, extremely happy here! Thanks :D As some people have said, this is more of an essay than a review. I did spend alot of time on it, but i'm gonna be referring back to my first reviews, and keep them shorter, but alot more informative ;D Thanks again.
Tue 26/05/09 at 15:53
Staff Moderator
"Freeola Ltd"
Posts: 3,299
Grats on the win ;)
Mon 25/05/09 at 19:22
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
It was a mixture of having too much to say, and getting carried away. Once i get started, I'm a reviewing steam engine, impossible to stop (obviously unless you built a brick wall or something along those lines)

Hehe, dya get it? Along those lines? Railway Lines?

My talent is wasted... ;P
Mon 25/05/09 at 15:24
Regular
"THFC"
Posts: 4,488
Yea good review, again it was long but at least it shows you were passionate about it lol.
Mon 25/05/09 at 12:28
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
Saw it as a challenge eh? "I must read it all!". Thanks for the tips guys. I'll try and keep my next review informative, yet short (obviously not like a paragraph, but less than 4100 words ;D)
Mon 25/05/09 at 12:04
Staff Moderator
"Freeola Ltd"
Posts: 3,299
It did have more of an essay feel :P

Whenever I write them I try and find a balance between short and seet and covering all the bases. Not easy but too long and you lose people halfway through.

I liked the review however and actually read it all because it was long :D
Mon 25/05/09 at 11:48
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
There's that much to talk about, i just wanted to get it all in. I probably get carried away with writing once i start.
Mon 25/05/09 at 11:02
Moderator
"possibly impossible"
Posts: 24,985
Good review AntiChris, I think it covers all the bases.

I'd say it was a little long for a review, though it did cover pretty much everything!
Sat 23/05/09 at 23:25
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
Again, as usual, any suggestions welcome, and PLEASE point out any spelling mistakes as they're quite hard to find. Thanks :)
Sat 23/05/09 at 14:55
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
Welcome to America, the land of dreams. Do whatever you want, be who ever you want to be. America, where freedom lurks on every corner, that is if freedom comes in the form of a 45 year old prostitute, standing next to a tramp with cardboard shoes.

Believe it or not, Grand Theft Auto IV is the 13th game to be released in the GTA series (including expansion packs). The Grand Theft Auto series began 12 years ago, back in 1997, developed by DMA Design (which is today is Rockstar North) and also Tarantula Studios. It was set in Liberty City, Vice City and also San Andreas (all of which would later get their own games). The camera was from a birds eye view, and the freedom was completely limited compared to modern games, although the game was a great success at its time. But that was back in 1997, when the GTA series was born.

In 2009, Grand Theft Auto 4 puts us back in Liberty City, following illegal immigrant and war veteran Niko Bellic. Niko leaves eastern Europe to join his brother Roman, who came to America years before, and joins him in pursuit of the American dream. Of course things don't run smoothly for the pair, despite plans that sounded good. You get involved inevitably with the crime world, and you find that your situation gets worse and worse, well it does for quite awhile anyway.

You might be able to compare Liberty City to New York a lot easier in this game, as it is based a lot more on New York than previous games. You have the Empire State Building, in form of the Rotterdam Tower, the Statue of Happiness, which literally looks like the Statue of Liberty, and many other landmarks which are a bit harder to compare. Copied from New York or not, the surroundings are superb. When you walk the streets, you actually feel as though you could be in America. The whole ‘lets make everybody looks the same’ civilian job exists no more. You do get people who look exactly the same, but it is no where near as frequent as previous titles. Experience rush hour traffic, with millions (not literally), of yellow cabs queuing up as you ram through them all with your Banshee aswell.

Car choices in the game may seem similar to previous titles. You’ve got the Banshee and Comet, cars which I remember in Vice City as the best. You’ve also got the Gran Turismo, my favourite car of the game, although currently I’ve got a gold Comet parked outside my safe house. Safe houses are pretty much the same as previous titles, except that unlike San Andreas, you don’t have to walk into some yellow arrow, and wait for your console to load some room that is tiny in comparison to the rest of the map, you can simply walk through the door. You then have the option to save your game by sleeping 6 hours, or you can change your clothes.

Clothes stores aren’t as diverse as San Andreas, although they are more preferable. You don’t go to a small closet with infinite space for this big list of clothes that you’ve got to choose from, where you just choose the things that sound good because you’ve no idea what anything looks like. You just walk into the store, go up to a rack with clothes that you think look nice, try them on, and buy them if you want. It’s a lot easier to get that perfect outfit, although at the start of the game, the only clothes store you can buy from is the Russian Shop, which is not very good to be honest. Later on though you unlock a clothes store on the next island (Algonquin) called Perseus, who sell suits and shiny shoes, although you do get some help choosing clothes from a ‘camp’ shop assistant who either compliments you, or tells you what’s wrong with your outfit. Of course with great clothes comes a not so great price. A suit will cost you a hefty $2000, which is a mission or two’s work near the beginning.

Don’t be blowing all that money on nice suits straight away though, you need to get yourself some respect, and the best way is the American way; with a piece (or a gun in normal language). Guns are even more useful than previous games. If you don’t have one in GTA 4, you won’t last long, because believe me, a lot of other people will have them. In San Andreas, it was particularly easy to take someone out who has a gun with your bare fists. Completely unrealistic. Upset a cop in this game (even running into them by accident can set some cops off their head), and you'll have your hands above your head. Try and run, and the cops will shoot to kill. Even if you do get away, the police are smarter than they’ve ever been. No longer will you be able to just outrun a police car in a fast car; they will catch up. Police manoeuvres are still in operation, they will try to ram the backside of your vehicle until your spin out and then they’ll continually ram you until you blow up presumably, or they’ll even try and get a car infront of you, and behind you, and bring you to a stop. Of course, we all know what happens when you do get Busted or Wasted, you’ll lose any of those precious weapons you had, and also suffer money loss. So, although this may seem like strange advice for a GTA game, try and stay out of trouble, because once you’re in it, it’s a pain to get out of it, and you’re bank balance will slowly deplete.

If you do find yourself low on money from free roaming around the city, get involved in the main story, which is very fun. There is not one set story like previous titles, there are loads of different characters who each have their own story. Missions, to me personally, feel like little odd jobs instead of another level done for the whole story, like in the other games. You actually feel like you’re doing the character a favour, which is rewarding in it’s own strange way. Although with some characters who you start to respect and like (and not to give too much away), they will turn on you, or others, once, maybe even twice, and will soon be a target for you to chase, but that’s getting into the story too much, so back to the game play.

Like previous games, you have a cell phone, which wasn’t that important really, you’d occasionally have to answer it for a mission. In GTA IV, you need your cell phone, or you won’t get anywhere. The cell phone can still be used for missions, you can call friends or girlfriends to ask if they want to go bowling, or go to a bar (my particular favourite with Roman as both of you end up staggering down the street) or you can even get ringtones of the internet, by using an internet café. Although these ringtones are $100 each. That means 20 ringtones is equivalent to an expensive suit. Don’t ask me how it works. With your phone, you can also phone up ambulances if you get injured, of course this comes at a cost. You can also prank call aswell, asking a police officer to come out to you (or a peacekeeper as they're referred to), but he won't be keeping peace for long when you jack his car, speeding down the road, sirens ablazing. You also have the ability to take pictures with your phone (you get a new phone from the one you start with once you complete a mission for Playboy X).

The mini games, such as bowling, pool and darts are a great way to take a break from shooting people in the face all the time. Darts is particularly easy, since you just have to aim using a reticule that will wobble slightly, but it’s not hard to get a couple of 180’s. Pool is a lot harder, as it obviously involves a lot more tactics than dart. Bowling is not too difficult. You just line yourself up and press the direction you want to throw, adding a slight curl if you want, just as you throw.

After your game, you can still access restaurants, some familiar such as the Cluckin’ Bell, and diners such as The 69th Street Diner (particularly good pie in there). As I’ve mentioned, go to a bar and you’ll be given a particularly drunken Niko afterwards, who’s vision is blurred (the camera will move about quite a lot) and who can’t stand up properly. Beware though, you will fall over and you can lose health if you fall badly, and although this sounds silly, you can get ‘Wasted’ (no pun intended) from being drunk and end up in the hospital. If drinking isn’t your thing, try a Strip Club. You have the usual pole dancers as you enter, and have the option to take a dancer into the back room and receive a personal dance for $50 (that means 2 dances from a stripper is equivalent to a ringtone. I don’t get it either). You can have a total of 3 dances in the back. The first dance will be a normal waving about infront of you dance. If you choose to have another one, the dancer will become a lot more intimate. A third dance, and she’ll get a friend in to help her get intimate with you. I’d say that was better than 1 or 2 ringtones.

You do of course get the standard prostitutes as well. Drive up to one of these street angels, honk your horn, and if you’re lucky, she’ll get in. Then just take her to a private place, like an empty back alley. Unlike San Andreas, where the prostitute and CJ just sat there, and the car moved, you actually see (not graphically) the prostitute and Niko moving, so all you hormonal gamers out there, you get to see abit more of the action. That’s what I call service.

Speaking of services, Pay n Spray is still in business in Liberty City. Drive your car into there for a brand new engine and paint job, whether it be to look cool, or to get away from the cops. If you don’t like the colour, just drive back in, and they’ll spray your car again until the colour looks right. I preferred the San Andreas MOD garages. I didn’t like the whole ‘make a pimp mobile’ thing, where you could put spoilers on your wing mirrors, and stereos in your windscreen, but I liked the way you could choose what colours you could have. It would be a very simple feature, but it would save you having to keep riding in and out of the Pay n Spray until the game chooses the colour you want.

Another thing that I have to complain about in this game is the ‘rag-doll’ physics. Although they’re pretty realistic visually (to a point; sometimes Niko just keeps on rolling down the road, when in real life, he probably would’ve stopped ages ago), the effects are ridiculous. You’ve just been launched through your windscreen at 140 MPH, rolling down the road, until eventually your corpse comes to the inevitable stop.

This is when we start phoning funeral directors and… oh wait! No, he’s fine; he’s just got up and is now carjacking a defenceless women whilst shooting cops in the head. Who would’ve thought it? I think I’ve made my point…

During this 140 MPH drive down the road, you’ll be able to enjoy some music or chat from a variety of radio stations. You’ve got everything from Hip Hop to Rock, from Phone-ins to Jazz (JNR-Jazz Nation Radio is my particular favourite, although it appears there is only about 9 tracks). You still get humorous adverts in between songs, usually emphasising an idea around a stupid scenario.

One thing i was confused about while driving is that if you skid at all using the handbrake, or reverse out, everyone around you seems to go mad and runs away, like you've committed a crime. You can't even reverse out your own driveway...

I've had a few interactions with Liberty City citizens. One memorable one wassome guy who was going on about how he was better than everyone else, and how he wasn't a dog, but a lion. It's great sometimes to just stand there, listen to the poor guy preach, and then out comes the AK-47 to end his troubles.

I like the fact that you can still swim, like in San Andreas (unlike the other previous titles), but you can't dive anymore which i'm happy about, as diving didn't actually add anything to San Andreas, it would've been better to have a mission say where you have to save a gangster boss from a car that's sunk before he drowns, or something along those lines, but no it was a pointless feature, you couldn't even escape helicopter or boat fire by diving deep down, infact you probably had more chance of being hit underwater. So i'm glad that has been removed.

A probably not noticeable or rememorable feature that's been removed/added is the way cars blow up. GTA is famous for car explosions. In the earlier titles, driving a car into water would get you killed, even jumping into the water would ("Sleep with the fishes" if you remember). San Andreas would let you crash into water, and then the car would blow up and sink, but at least you had time to get out. The cars also seemed to have a habit of alighting at the front and then inevitably blowing up a couple of seconds later. In GTA IV, your car will set alight by the wheels sometimes, and then the body will catch fire, and then it will blow up. Of course, firing an RPG at a car will blow it up instantly, but you won't get too many RPG's fired at you, but RPG's will no doubt be fired by you. You can then watch the beatiful, and i mean beautiful, explosion. Cars have also changed in that you can lose your tyres and end updriving on metal, or you can pop your tyres. You can smash any windows on it, and lose all the standard parts that usually come off (bonnet, boot hatch, doors).

It seems particularly easy for you to be shot while in your vehicle. I've gotten into a vehicle many times after a mission, trying to get away from the 4 star wanted level i've just gotten from doing said mission, and just as i pull away, a cop just so happens to get me perfectly in the head, and thus ends my getaway run. This isn't just a case of a lucky shot by the officer in question, it's happened many times, and it's very annoying. I'm in a car! I'm indestructable surely?!

A unincluded feature I was happy about, which a lot of people may disagree with, was that there are no player controllable planes in the game. You can still be crushed by the wheels of one at the airport, but thankfully, you can't control these sky rats. You do however have 3 helicopters to choose from though, 1 of which has miniguns. I didn’t like the inclusion of planes in San Andreas, as all you had to do was fly over the airbase (which just happened to be right next to your safe house airbase where you could pick up your Hydra), and then you’d have about 3 guided missles heading straight for you, before you parachute out, into the FBI truck waiting for you on the street below.

I have to say, I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of San Andreas. I don’t like the way the game was took into ‘the hood’, and it was all about gang warfare. I was glad to hear that the whole getting tattoos thing wasn’t included in GTA 4, but I was abit disappointed to learn there was no barber, as a different hairstyle can help you define your image (although you could one minute have a shaved head, and the next minute the barber could magically give you a pink afro with full beard. Don’t ask me how that worked either).

You still get in game ‘annoyances’ as I call them. In San Andreas, these annoyances came for me in the form of ‘Gang Wars’. You’d be enjoying trying to set up a huge explosion, or doing a super hard bike stunt, until a little box popped up. “Our area is under attack!” To be honest, I couldn’t care less about how much ‘area’ the green guys ‘owned’. In GTA 4, the annoyances come in the form of people ringing you up, asking if you want to do an activity with them. If you decline, they get all annoyed and you lose abit of friendship with them. If you agree, you have to get there in an hour (which is annoying as you could well be at the other end of the city). If you agree and you don’t turn up, they ring back thanking you sarcastically for not turning up. I’m in the middle of the hardest mission of the game! I couldn’t care less for your sarcasm! Luckily, you can just turn your phone onto sleep mode, although you may block any calls or texts relating to the main story.

Down to the important stuff. Weaponry. Guns plays a vital role in American life. “Guns don’t kill people, people do” says the American Rifle Association. Somehow, I think the gun helps. As Eddie Izzard says, “Just standing there and going ‘BANG!’ isn’t going to kill too many people. You’d have to be abit dodgy in the heart.” You get your standard pistol, which is not very good, but it does the job, slowly but surely. Weapons range from Uzis to RPG’s, depending on the job in hand. The sniper rifle for example is obviously used to take targets out from far away, or you maybe choose the RPG to blow up a target’s car. It’s completely up to you how you use your weaponry, but some weapons are more suited to particular jobs.

When you've got your weapon of choice, you might be glad to hear there is now a proper cover system. I wouldn't call it Gears of War standard, but it's useful, if you can get to grips with it straight away. Unfortunately, the cover system doesn't seem to like me, and it causes me more bother than it's worth. What i mean by this is that Niko for example will just throw himself against a wall, even when no one is firing at him, or even worse, he'll cover on the wrong side of the wall, and be blown to smitherines. This could be the same for everyone, but it's probably a russian vendetta against me personally, or perhaps i've got bad controlling skills, so i wouldn't worry about it too much.

One thing which people seem to have a problem with in this game is the vehicle handling. It is completely different to previous titles, where you could easily slide round a corner using the handbrake, and be off again. This is what makes car chases, or particularly when being chased by the cops, a lot harder. I don’t hate the car control, I actually think it’s a lot more realistic. It’s more of a challenge, as it’s so easy so spin out when taking a corner at speed, and I like this element, that no matter how far ahead you are of the cops, or how close behind someone you’re chasing, you could lose it at any moment, maybe steering to wildly and skidding out, or colliding with a taxi as you run a red light. It’s up to personal preference, but I prefer it.

There is better interaction with the environment in this game. Like San Andreas, you can climb over fences, by grasping onto them, and chucking yourself over. A new feature in the GTA series, is full on contact with civilians. You don’t just shoot these innocent bystanders anymore, you can push them into oncoming traffic, or even, and this is abit silly, walk them into walls, and eventually they will die from this. If you see a guy holding a cup of coffee, and you don’t like the look of him, or his coffee, then walk into him and he’ll drop it. Beware, as some characters will only take too much and then retaliate, where as some will keep apologising, until they die from being walked into a wall. Cops particularly are a minefield, as some will get you a wanted level just from walking into them, and some will repeatedly get up from you pushing
them over.

One thing you will suffer from, which is also new to GTA, is discrimination. Being an illegal immigrant, I’m sure you can understand why. You’ll get called Russian scum, and various other names. The only plus point is that you can kill your oppressors in a variety of ways. Good times.

Cheats. These are very common in all GTA games. They are done using a cell phone in this game, ringing a particular number magically getting you a super bike, or an arsenal of weapons that would make Hitler blush. Beware though, for Xbox gamers, using one cheat in the game will stop you from receiving the 100% completion achievement, so it’s your choice. Cheap thrills straight off from the beginning, or complete the game and then have your fun. I would, for the first time in GTA games, complete the game, as it is so much more appealing.

I’ve only played a couple of multiplayer matches. Some modes are more popular than others. Team Deathmatch seems to be the most common. Simply kill the other team. My favourite mode, although I haven’t played a ‘proper’ game of it yet, is Cops N Robbers, where the robbers have to get their ‘boss’ to a location and the police have to stop them. A lot of people seem to leave mid game, and I’ve seen a lot of other people lag, such as being a mile infront of you one second, and behind you with an uzi pointing at your noggin’ the next. I would prefer the single player game to the multiplayer although one mode I haven’t fully experienced, which seems to be the best, is free roam. You can invite your mates into a free roam game, where you simply just run around Liberty City doing whatever you want. You’re given an arsenal of weapons and cars, and also helicopters, to mess around with. And unlike San Andreas, you don’t have to stay within a certain vicinity of each others characters, you can just go wherever you please.

In conclusion, this game was predicted to be a flop in the GTA series, when it’s actually proven to be the best. The story mode is fantastic, and completely different to other titles in that you feel alot more involved and as though anything could happen, instead of a set script to follow. You’ve also still got little extra missions to complete aswell. Multiplayer is ok, depending on what mode you play. Graphically, the game is superb. The physics are abit dodgy, mainly the ‘rag-doll’ characteristics, but hitting lamp posts triggers sparks of electricity which is pretty cool, and hitting fire hydrants results in a powerful jet of water springing from the ground. Sounds are great, honking horns to swearing tramps to your favourite radio station (again, I recommend JNR for great jazz tunes). Characters are realistic and believable, so much that you get to like some characters a lot, and have a real vendetta against others. You have a variety of choice, not just for clothes, food, or leisure time, but in the missions themselves, different decisions can affect how your game is played, although unlike Fable II, you don’t sprout horns for killing everyone when you get the chance. I rate this among the best games I’ve ever played, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in Liberty City. Now if you’ll excuse me, much like this game, I’ve got a 5 star wanted level, so I better skidaddle.

Game Rating: 9/10

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