Collective hysteria broke out among the fans of the GTA game series. Each info and each news was discussed extensively across all forums of the Internet. Then it finally happened, on April 29th there was the worldwide release of GTA IV and the first reviews on the internet overturned with praise and top marks.
In the meantime, a few weeks have passed, and we have also taken a close look at GTA IV in several hours of play and report in this test whether the whole hype was justified and whether the game goes down as a milestone in video game history.
|Title||Grand Theft Auto IV|
|Platform(s)||PS3, Xbox 360, PC|
|Release||29 April 2008|
|MATURE - Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.|
GTA IV Full Walkthrough
Niko Bellic, the main character in GTA IV, is a criminal and not a friendly fellow. One you’d instead not meet in dark alleys and best avoid.
Niko comes by ship from Europe to visit his cousin Roman, who apparently made it to Liberty City. Roman left Europe years ago and told Niko again and again how great this land of unlimited possibilities is. But disillusionment soon follows. Roman drives a shabby taxi instead of a hot speedster as a taxi operator. He has no villa. But an old barrack for accommodation and nowhere half-naked women!
Niko’s pretty upset, especially with Roman having mob problems. He needs Niko’s help in this matter, and he can be persuaded to do so. But this is not the only task Niko has to accomplish in the course of the game. In addition to several other entanglements, there is also a particular mission: “the special one” as Niko says.
Not Niko but Liberty City is the real star in GTA IV. Even before, Rockstar’s programmers tried to more or less copy the town on the east coast, but with Liberty City, they now came very close to reality. Some landmarks and districts exist in fact.
The best known of course is the Statue of Liberty, but instead of a torch, it holds a coffee cup against the sky. Besides the recognition value, the player immediately notices city’s pulsating life.
Just like in real life, the sun rises in the morning in Liberty City. The inhabitants are then on their way to work, and the streets are soon bustling. But not only on the roads with the cars but also on foot people are on the way, and everyone is unique in his clothes, appearance, and activity.
For example, one gets a call and makes an appointment with his therapist, another doesn’t get the car started and curses the day, or someone is being run over by a car on the street while a few moments later the rescue team is racing up with the siren to look after the injured person.
A few hours later (five real-time minutes at PS3 are about 60 GTA minutes) you see clouds thickening in the sky and suddenly a heavy rain shower comes up. As soon as the first raindrops come down, the inhabitants unpack their umbrellas and hurry on their way. The roads are slippery, and car lawn in this weather can quickly end up in the hospital. Someday it’s going to be night in Liberty City. The darkness embraces the city and thousands of lights light up the night.
The road traffic becomes less and sweet and slows it becomes empty on the streets of Liberty City. At one or the other corner, you will meet women of the horizontal trade, who are waiting for customers. In the outskirts – where there are no tourists – you can also see sinister journeymen who are messing around or often beggars, bums, and antisocial people.
Just the madness of what’s happening on the streets of Liberty City, and there’s more. You have to look carefully and take your time. Then you can see social behavior like never before in any other game.
Gameplay: Police and Criminal Hunt
New York is considered one of the safest cities in the USA. So it is no wonder that the police can be found everywhere in Liberty City. Of course, we do not remain unrecognized for long, because the first missions are already bringing us into conflict with the guardians of the law.
When Roman gives Niko often tasks, which of course are not entirely lawful. So Niko goes again and again with one of Roman’s taxis to various jobs. Besides a mobile vehicle, there is also a mobile phone to stay in touch with Roman in case the Mafia shows up to collect his debts. It doesn’t take long before they show up. Niko quickly pulls out his cell phone and calls Roman to warn him before the Mafia arrives.
Roman and Niko can barely escape with one of the taxis, and the somewhat unfamiliar steering of the numerous wheeled vehicles becomes apparent. The cars steer quite spongy so that the cornering is a bit strange and one only too often drives beside the road into a wall or lantern.
However, there are significant differences between the vehicles: A sports car can be steered quite well through corners despite primary control difficulties and drifts also work better than with an SUV or classic vehicle, where the cornering behavior is somewhat tricky, and the braking distances become incredibly long.
These differences which also prove to be a challenge in pursuit hunts, this area is a big point of criticism which has already pissed off all GTA predecessors. But after several miles of driving you to get used to the handling and don’t look too disturbing anymore. But before a mission, you should consider which car to choose because in police search level 3 or 4 and rainy weather an escape with an old cart is not very recommendable.
The steering of the vehicles is therefore not physically correct, but the damage to them, the dents and dents, the bursting of car tires after cops have shot them, or the driving over passers-by, causing bloodstains to appear on the car. A lot of things with incredible detail, realism, and dedication. A lot of attention to detail you can see in the elaborately modeled vehicles, which are not licensed but look deceptively similar to their originals.
The only thing missing is the brand emblem. Besides cars of all variants, there are motorcycles, trucks, garbage trucks, tanker trains, but also helicopters and boats!
Flying a helicopter isn’t that easy, but it’s fun after a short familiarization phase. Motorcycles are tricky because Niko is very vulnerable. But the acceleration is excellent and with it the chance of escaping the police very high. Also, Niko’s control of combat behavior is sometimes difficult.
Sometimes the target system doesn’t want the way you want it to, and sometimes Niko doesn’t move where you want it. Even worse, Niko sometimes gets stuck, such as between the wall and the vehicle and can be shot down during it.
In total, you complete about 90 missions, each of which shows a short prologue and provides a lot of entertainment. If you like, you can, of course, skip the cutscenes with the push of a button, but you will miss many beautiful, Hollywood ripe moments full of sarcasm, allusions to American society and deep black humor.
The missions you play are primary and secondary missions. In the course of time, Niko gets more and more popularity. Contacts with organized crime are thus increasing. Soon it becomes clear, however, that friendly clients become dangerous enemies. Often you have to liquidate specific people.
Sometimes there are also decision questions for Niko, where you can choose whether a target should live or die. Many missions you don’t play alone but with people, and of course with friends like Little Jacob. There is, for example, a helicopter mission in which Niko has to fly a helicopter, and Little Jacob flies with a bazooka. You must follow another aircraft through the skyline of Liberty City to the open sea.
As already mentioned the control is not easy, because you are still under time pressure in this mission (if you are too slow the mission has failed). But as so often: With a little practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Once you reach the enemy helicopter at the same altitude, Little Jacob shoots out of his bazooka. A beautiful little intermediate sequence shows an explosion in the night sky of Liberty City. Mission accomplished.
This mission, for example, is a nice change from the numerous house fights and car missions. Sometimes there are combinations of both, such as first looking for the victim in a building and then moving the scene outside, where a car chase begins, killing the target from the moving car.
This “shooting from the car” is a bit tricky and can be sometimes frustrating. Besides, it can often happen that the police get in the way. If you are too slow or stopped by the cops, the mission is of course over. But you can repeat it by SMS. Sometimes some tasks only become clear after the second time. For example, on tasks where there will be chases, later on, a correspondingly fast car has to be organized.
If you choose an old stern catapult, the successful completion of the mission is difficult to achieve. The same applies to missions in which many enemies occur, and there are correspondingly many exchanges of shots. A full state of health and a protective vest is often mandatory before starting a mission. Unfortunately, it is a little tricky to organize everything from the beginning again if a mission fails.
During the side missions, you need to do smaller tasks for friends or supposed friends. There are courier services, surveillance of persons, car thefts, car races, fistfights and much more that makes the criminal heart beat faster. But there are also tasks that are all about good things, namely police missions. Niko goes there and fights for once.
Should you still get bored – which is hard to imagine – you can try the numerous mini-games, such as billiards, bowling, darts or merely watch TV in hiding. It is more varied to arrange a meeting with friends and to move the houses. A helicopter tour over Liberty City or a boat trip with Brucie is available.
But real crooks prefer to spend their hard-assed money on the strip joint because you can’t buy cars. In addition to the primary and secondary missions, there are also tasks and duties regarding Niko’s social behavior.
Just like in real life, you need to cultivate friendships and love affairs. If Niko, e.g., rarely calls his cousin Roman then he can write a text message whimsically why one so sporadically announces oneself.
When dissatisfied, the sympathy value decreases, which can cause disadvantages in one situation or another: for example, if Niko needs a taxi from Roman but does not let one come because he is dissatisfied. So to get a taxi again, Niko has to raise the sympathy value by calling him and having a drink with him, e.g., in a pub or playing a round of billiards.
Of course, each friend has his or her preferences and aversions whose consideration has an impact on the sympathy value again. It gets even more difficult with the ladies. These are all different in type and sometimes quite bitchy. Michelle, the girlfriend of Roman’s queen of hearts. She prefers bowling to going to a bar.
Kikki, a lady from an internet contact exchange, on the other hand, likes it when Niko is elegantly dressed and drives sleek sports cars. After three successful dates, Niko can try his luck and spend a hot night of love. Niko is then privileged to call Kikki during a police chase.
Since it has good relations with the city administration, the police will suddenly withdraw. So it has many advantages to keep the sympathy value of friends and acquaintances high at all times. It makes life in Liberty City a lot easier.
Interface, Mobile, and Internet
The interface is classic, despite a significant update. Next, to the overview map, there is still the minimap with hotspots. So far, so familiar. The significant innovation is the navigation system that Niko has in every car. But it doesn’t always show you the fastest way to your goal.
The system only recognizes the official road routes. It does not understand abbreviations over traffic islands, house corners, etc. It is also not precisely sensible to rely on the navigation device during a police chase.
New is the mobile phone, the central means of communication in GTA IV alongside the Internet. As already mentioned, Roman gives the cell phone to warn him about the Mafia. Of course, after Niko Roman has freed Roman from the mafia debts, the mobile phone is left to you. All people Niko meets during his adventure are automatically in the phone book.
These people often call Niko when they have a job to do. Niko sometimes has to invite himself to make appointments. Besides the phone book, there is an SMS function, in which Niko receives more or less exciting information over and over again.
Later there are missions where the camera of the mobile phone has to be used to identify different people, for example. In addition to the phone book, SMS and the Handycam, there is an options menu for ringtones, mobile phone images, text size and other gadgets.
The Multiplayer Mode via Mobile Phone
The phone is an excellent feature in GTA IV and additionally increases the degree of realism. Another great innovation is the Liberty City Internet. During the game, there is access to an internet cafe, where you can log in for a small fee to check emails, make dates with women in the contact exchange or click your way through the numerous hilarious websites.
There are about 100 different websites, but almost all of them are not significant to the game. However, the emails you receive again and again are essential. There, new orders are placed, which you must confirm with a reply letter. Now and then you get mail from Roman or Niko’s mom from Serbia. And women from the contact exchange also write Niko to make out a real date. Later Niko receives the opportunity to go online with his laptop so that there are no more fees.
GTA – Grandiose freedom
GTA has practically invented the genre of Open World games. The example of GTA IV shows what extraordinary liberties you have. Although at the beginning of the story only one island is navigable, you already have total control over the interaction with the environment. Not only can missions be selected in any order (unless there is only one client at the moment), the social component now also plays a significant role.
Graphics & Sound
Game concept and design can convince almost all along the line. However, the graphics are less convincing. For a next-gen game, the graphics are only mediocre, and you notice that Rockstar has entirely concentrated on the game concept, the mission design, the multiplayer and the numerous gimmicks. A competitor to Uncharted: Drake’s Deception or Fable II is undoubtedly not a GTA IV.
Of course, the design of the city is beautiful Liberty City illuminates thousands of lights at night. You are in the business district, where numerous billboards attract attention. The stunning weather effects when a shower of rain comes up. The bright midday sun disappears behind the clouds, and it suddenly pours like from buckets. It all looks perfect.
Also the numerous car models you can drive look beautiful. The interior has been modeled down to the smallest detail. You can see those details when opening the car door: door handle, armrest, and even loudspeakers! The character models look excellent regarding facial expressions and gestures, and the motion capture is by and large Hollywood-ready!
Only the textures used for the figures are blurred and look washed-out, and even the spatial environment cannot impress. Another point of criticism concerns the frame rate. In certain situations, when police pursuit Niko by many police cars.
Besides frame rate problems there are some pop-ups of graphics. Whether this is disturbing and the play fun impaired must decide everyone. In my opinion, one can turn a blind eye and is not very important.
The sound is as always top class! There are many radio stations, each with its style. From rock, techno, jazz to classical and many others, everything is there for music lovers to enjoy. You can even listen to Karl Lagerfeld’s favorite music – on “K109 The Studio” he is DJ!
There are always great dialogues of the radio speakers, but also people Niko knows have guest appearances. And in the news, current events are brought, which Niko employs, e.g., in his numerous missions, as a bank raid or an assassination of a lawyer.
The voice output is exclusively in English, and the lip-sync is very well tuned. Think a localization in the individual languages would have been quite complicated since a lot of people are involved in the game. The English voices are compelling, believable and in slang!
It becomes difficult only if you drive with the car and Niko has a co-driver, who tells exciting things. Concentrating on traffic and reading subtitles is then a tough task! Knowledge of English is necessary for the numerous radio broadcasts. Of course, the radio speakers are with subtitles. Therefore, English language skills are recommended to get the ultimate gaming experience.
Waiting for Grand Theft Auto IV has paid off, even though nothing exceptional about the gameplay has changed. New and well implemented is the mobile phone function as well as the possibility to surf the Internet – which provides additional hours of play. The game duration for the story mode is about 25-30 hours, but with all side missions and bonuses, this can undoubtedly increase to 70 hours. You never get bored with GTA IV!
The player has to master an unbelievable amount of variety and challenges, and after the story mode, the multiplayer mode is still available. Besides the numerous different possibilities, what you can do, the gripping story and the great characters inspired me very much.
But also the presentation of the city, the weather effects, the different inhabitants who follow their activities – that social behavior including causality, the numerous cars, but above all the sarcasm towards the American culture, which runs through the whole game – merely terrific! So far, GTA IV is indeed a milestone in video game history and indeed the title contender for the Game of the Year 2008.
In spite of all praise and worship, there are also dark sides, such as only above-average graphics – especially the cutscenes don’t look so great – but with subtle weather effects, the far-sightedness is unfortunately not very big, pop-ups often appear and above all the frame rate sometimes breaks down considerably. You also have to criticize the gameplay, especially the control of the vehicles is much too spongy and unrealistic.
Missions are occasionally nerve-wracking, as the player only gets to know how to complete a mission after a try and error procedure. The constant new preparation of a mission after one has died or arrested is also strenuous.
Better memory management would have been advantageous but would have pushed the level of difficulty down. Despite these criticisms, this game has met the expectations and demands of millions of players. Graphical and technical weaknesses and frustrating moments in mission design are not as dangerous as they appear in this video game review.
GTA IV is a real next-gen game that a passionate action-adventure players should not miss!
The Multiplayer Mode
Now we come to the multiplayer mode of GTA IV, which was almost as exciting as the story mode. Online it is possible to make Liberty City unsafe with a total of 16 players. It’s easy to get started with your mobile phone.
Once you have selected ‘Multiplayer’ in the menu, you can either play through a tutorial or go straight into the game. For beginners, it makes sense to use the tutorial. Everything is very well explained, and you can take some interesting things into the online game.
A nice feature is the creation of your character. You can choose between a female or male figure. You can dress characters differently and send them into the game. There is a wide range of clothing, from trousers and jackets to shoes, hats, caps, and sunglasses.
By collecting money, you climb up the ranks and unlock additional clothing or accessories to create your character. There is a unique Rockstar character, which only wears FlipFlops and yellow Rockstar swimming trunks. It is a zombie and makes similar noises.
If you now select ‘Fast Game,’ you will be taken directly to the selection of game modes, which we will discuss in more detail in a moment. There are 14 different online modes, with various tasks and goals. In some modes, the goal is to collect as much money as possible by shooting.
In others, to complete a Coop mission with the help of other online players or to be the first to finish a race through the city. If you now select an online mode, you immediately find yourself in a lobby with other players. In the different online modes, it is also possible to switch the police on or off.
So you don’t only fight against your online opponents but are also hunted by the police. The size of the map is in the hands of the captain. This way you can unlock the city altogether, but also only small parts or even single islands.
The GTA IV Game Modes in Detail
Here it’s every man against man. The goal is to collect as much money as possible by shooting to have the most money in his account at the end of the time.
The same procedure as in the Deathmatch, however, you play here in teams. There can be up to 8 teams with two members each. The team with the most money at the end of the round wins.
Several marked cars with dots on the map. The goal here is to be the fastest to get a car and get it to its destination without destroying it too much. The purpose of the other opponents is to take out the driver and hand in the car.
Team Car Jacker
The process is the same as in single mode. The goal of a team is to bring a car to the finish line. If the other side was faster, they have to follow the car and get it back to finish the lap themselves.
Cops and Gangsters
Here you play in two teams. One team is the gangsters. The other side is the cops. The goal of the gangsters is to accompany and protect the boss determined by their team to the target point on the map before each round. The cops aim to kill the gangster boss. A change of teams from cops to gangsters takes place before the start of each round.
Kenny Petrovic gives orders to online players via the mobile phone during each round. For example, killing certain online opponents or meeting computer-controlled characters. Whoever does the job first gets the money.
Team Mafia Jobs
The goal here is to get the orders Petrovic places faster than the opposing team.
The captain determines a given route and vehicle class. Each player makes the selection of unique models and colors. You drive the same car to your destination.
Same procedure as at the ‘race,’ to be fastest. You can start this mode also on foot. You can change cars and use weapons as a tool.
Secure one base after the other on the map. The one with the most bases won at the end of the round.
Anything is possible in free mode. Drive around town with others or do whatever you want. No tasks and goals – no money to win.
The first Coop mission: A drug deal goes down, and you’re in the middle of it. Drop the deal and get out of here with the money.
The second Coop mission: Protect a gangster chased by a Swat team.
The third Coop mission: Bring a vehicle loaded with explosives to the target and then blow up a ship on the other side of Liberty City.
The multiplayer mode of GTA IV is something extraordinary. The developers have managed to provide an excellent online mode in addition to the long and detailed story mode, which lets the long-term motivation grow even more. A total of 14 different modes encourage players to play GTA over and over again. It’s great fun to drive around Liberty City with others and accomplish tasks alone or together.
The game fun is superb. You have a lot of variety through the different modes. Not only alone with others but also together in a team or even in Coop missions, you have fun without end. With GTA IV, Rockstar has managed to bring out an absolute top title, for which the purchase is almost only worthwhile because of the enormous online mode.