I’ve been meaning to write up some of my initial thoughts on Grand Theft Auto IV for some time. Before I give you a few thoughts I should note although I am an avid gamer, it is mostly sports games and this is only the second GTA game I’ve played (Liberty City Stories).
Let me start by saying it is almost hard to give specifics cause when I think about this aspect of the game or that aspect of the game I tend to fall into almost a dreamlike trance just thinking about the visuals and textures of the game.
If you thought that previous versions offered a high level of freedom, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. GTA IV is as close to an “open world” as anything you can experience on a PS3 or 360. You have, or at least feel like you have, complete freedom.
It’s not only control through physical space, but you also build relationships, approach missions the way you want to, and even control how the story unfolds. What is most interesting on this level is it isn’t allows clear if you do X then Y happens as in many other games like Mass Effect. It is often only later through trial and error you realize a previous decision caused your downfall.
And as the story unfolds (and I am not close to done) you start to feel connected to Niko Bellic’s life in a way that is hard to put to words, and which I’ve never experienced in another game. It is like that unsavory character in a TV show you know you shouldn’t like, but as episode after episode unfold you find yourself rooting and pulling for him against the “good guys.”
Next to these changes, one of the most interesting I think is the new targeting system. It is remarkable (and I am not a good FPS player). It actually gives you choices. By applying a hard or soft click to the aim trigger, you can switch between free aim and lock-on, a combo that brings a level of control not seen in other games. I expect it is something we’ll see in many games in the not too distant future.
The next most interesting change I found is what you can do in vehicles. And of course this plays a huge role in the game play. Not only can you “jack” cars in array of different manners, the level of detail of the driving experience is greatly improved. And the sheer number of vehicles must total more than 50.
But my far the most compelling aspect of GTA IV, outside of the stunning visuals and open world, is the incredible amount of content that is unexpected. Almost a SIMs level of detail if that is believable. Via your cell phone you can set up meetings, gather information, and build relationship (or destroy them). You can also sit back and watch fake TV shows (even cartoons), attend a comedy show, or lose hours surfing the Web. Heck, you can even do bowling, throw a game of darts, or of course visit a strip club. You are not forced to do X, Y, Z in this exact order or this amount of time. You proceed in the game play at a speed and manner of your choice.
It is just a great game that I am going to sit down and play some more right now.