Grand Theft Auto IV Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
Grand Theft Auto IV box art
System: X360, PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Rockstar North 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Rockstar Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Apr. 29, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (16 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

The gameplay itself stays fairly similar to past GTA titles, but with almost every aspect being greatly improved upon. The biggest improvement that fans of the series have been waiting years for is the game's gunplay. While you are still given the option of the classic camera locked shooting with the full pulling of a trigger, you will also be able to enter a free aiming mode by only half depressing the same trigger. It does take a little time to get used to but it really makes a world of difference. Players will also be able to use the right analog stick while locked on, much like in the Godfather game, to target specific areas on your enemy. Becoming skilled at both of these new mechanics isn't completely necessary to victory, but it does make it much easier. Unlike in previous games, one or two well-placed shots can end a firefight.

Grand Theft Auto IV screenshot

The use of firearms is further improved by GTA IV's new cover mechanic. Instead of just standing in the open and firing a gun like a madman trying not to die, Niko can find shelter behind virtually anything in the game. This allows you to fight much more realistically and intelligently. With the click of a shoulder button you will take cover, using an analog stick to maneuver behind it. You then have the choice of blind firing or pulling a trigger to peak out for a more accurate shot. This mechanic utterly changes how you think about and complete firefights, all for the better.

Melee combat has also been greatly improved. In previous GTA titles, melee combat was very one-dimensional and almost a complete afterthought. Niko is given several different melee attacks including dodging and disarming your foes. The mechanics of melee fighting are quite simple and easy to learn, providing a much deeper combat system without really making the player painstakingly relearn how to throw down.

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Physics also play a very large part in conveying realism in this new title. They effect everything from the way your car handles to the way your character moves. Niko has an odd weight about him, making you feel as though you are actually maneuvering a real human who has momentum and is governed by gravity. Vehicles also handle more realistically, which can sometimes have them feeling somewhat uncontrollable. Again this is something that may take a few minutes to get used to but is well worth the realism that it brings to the title. Also, if you hit a pedestrian they will no longer perform the same canned animation that we all recognize from previous GTA titles. Instead, they will flail realistically depending on how they are struck and how fast the vehicle is going. There are so many little things like this that will make you raise your eyebrows while you are playing that it is impossible to list them all. Rest assured however, they are all fantastic and add an astounding sense of realism to the game.

Grand Theft Auto IV screenshot

Besides all of the other vast improvements made by GTA IV in the gameplay department, several things have been reworked that make the game more accessible to the player. No longer will you randomly get killed while trying to return to you safe house to save your game after an insanely difficult mission. Finally, the game will automatically save your progress immediately upon successfully completing a mission. If you happen to fail a mission, not to worry, you can just open up your cell phone and open the text message you will receive to restart your mission.

Niko's cell phone is at the heart of much of this game's improved accessibility. You can use this cell phone to do everything from setting up a date with your lady to play a game of pool to calling the police when you are being outgunned. Using the phone is quite simple, just a few presses of the D-pad, but it really opens up a lot of possibilities that didn't previously exist. Perhaps the most important feature of your cell phone is its link that lets you jump straight into one of the game's many online modes.

Grand Theft Auto IV screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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