Review: An Immigrant Story - A Review of Grand Theft Auto IV
Critics of the music industry during the time of the infamous rock band, Led Zeppelin, claimed that the first track of the band's third album, Led Zeppelin III, was a wake up call to America that the British were once again coming to rule the music scene this time with the explosive mixture of blues and thunderous rock. Of course, music critics of the time also had generally negative reviews of the band's albums. Nevertheless, some poor journalist asked Robert Plant, lead singer of the band, if it was true that the band had made a war cry on the American music industry with Immigrant Song. Plant just chuckled and admitted that the song had no meaning and was more of a joke than a declaration of war. So what does Led Zeppelin have to do with Grand Theft Auto IV? Nothing, I just like the song and thought of it as an appropriate theme to talk about the life of the game's protagonist, Niko Bellic, and Liberty City.
Soft, Your Fields So Green
From the moment the very start of the game, players will notice the overwhelming visuals of Grand Theft Auto IV's world. Playing on the PlayStation 3 version, the game packed very smooth and warm colors and displayed minimal pop in. The only problem with the colors come in the form of the lighting, the blacks seemed way too dark almost to the point of not being able to see at all, especially on my larger TV (smaller TV ran the game perfectly). Using 720p as my standard resolution, actually, I guess the game really runs at 690p because it dumps some of the resolution to make the game look smoother, which really does the job well and hardly is noticeable to the untrained eye. Other than that, there is also some drop in frame rate during heavy action scenes.
Coming From the Land of Ice and Snow
Fresh off the boat of some piss infested freighter, Niko Bellic arrives in Liberty City with dreams of riches, women, and a clean conscience. Lured by the far-fetched words of his loser cousin, Roman, Niko has come for his piece of the ?American Dream?. However, the old adage about ?nothing in life is free? rears its ugly head again as Niko quickly learns that his cousin is full of crap and that if he is going to make anything of himself he'll have to reach back to being the detestable cold-blooded killer he was back home. So what else is an immigrant fresh of the boat from the ?land of ice and snow ?to do other than take up a crummy job as chauffer at his cousin's workplace?
Rebuilding All Their Ruins
Since chauffeuring means that Niko has to drive along the mean streets of a foreign city, decoding the twists and turns of roads is done through GPS, so Niko never has to worry about directions. Depending on the car and the speed Niko has to drive, steering actually seems to come naturally to him. Of course, most cops in Liberty City have bigger matters to attend to than stop someone from running a red light or going three times the speed limit? is there even a speed limit in Liberty City? Of course, reckless driving will inevitably leave Liberty City to ?rebuild all their ruins? and arrest Niko, which is the last thing he needs. Since this is the PS3 version, Rockstar had to shoe-in unnecessary SIXAXIS controls. Reloading, steering, and flying can all be accomplished via SIXAXIS, though doing so doesn't make things any easier. Simply shaking the controller will allow Niko to reload or careful precision can steer... it actually felt more difficult to me. Though, for those inclined to try it out, you can access the SIXAXIS tutorial via Niko's cellphone.
Fighting the Hordes
Unfortunately for Niko, getting out of the chauffer business involves him ?fighting the hordes? of endless mobsters, bikers, thieves, liars, and Russians. As each job ends, another one begins, sometimes not as cut and dry as it seems? some people have to die so others can live and become your needy friends. It's not like doing the dirty work doesn't have its advantages? money? women? two things that are the basis for the ?American Dream? Niko Bellic searches after. Unfortunately for the player, the missions Niko has to do missions that often resemble themselves? there is only so much creativity in the mission structure for a game like this and at least Rockstar maxed it out before depending on repetition.
Sweep with the Thrashing Oars
This in turn means that Niko will have to ?sweep with threshing oars? of various weaponry using a somewhat complicated aiming and lock-on system, via Gears of War, to ?calm the tides of war?. Of course with practice, Niko can use his back home army skills to adjust to the complication of the American fighting style and become the ?hammer of gods? to any foe that stands between him, his mission, and his dream.
Land of the Midnight Sun
Of course, even contract killers need a little downtime and sure enough, there is no place like the place the ?land of the midnight sun where the hot springs blow?, Liberty City, to do your unwinding with it's bowling alleys, strip clubs, comedy theaters, cabaret shows, pool halls, and internet cafes. What better way for Niko to build a friendship then by taking someone out for a show and a bite to eat so they stop calling him every five seconds and hey, if he hates his friends and wants some other form of ?company?, there are plenty of ladies of the night and there even may some unlucky gal for Niko to build a relationship with and help him take his mind off things. Then again, maybe Niko is a moody, bitter bastard and just wants to drive around the city listening to his favorite type of tunes or here some washed-up shock jock yammer on, well Niko, this is America so ?sing and cry? all you want. While Niko might not know this, earlier players of the GTA series might think that the song choice in the previous integrations are better than this one's, but that doesn't mean that over time you will not be able to get accustomed to the tracks.
Drive Our Ships to New Lands
Something that Grand Theft Auto fans have longed for is some good, havoc creating multiplayer action. Its why hacks of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
exist where players can play online; one apparently, is pretty popular as a sort of MMO. Besides, Rockstar knows better than to release a next-gen game without any online support? especially one that is going to be on the 360. So Grand Theft Auto IV features two handfuls of modes for online freaks (up to 16 players) to salivate over. Using a customized character, which players can outfit using funds gained in the single player mode, players can team up and compete in the normal Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Team Mafia, Cops n' Crooks, and Turf War
Team Mafia has players basically playing the types of single player missions (stealing, escorting, and robbing) in a more competitive manner. Cops n' Crooks pits teams of cops and criminals against each other and features two modes of play, All for One or One for All. The basic idea is that the cop team has to eliminate the criminal team before they make it to an extraction point. The two modes of play determine whether or not the cops have to kill just one criminal, the ?boss? character, or kill all of the criminals before they reach said point. Turf War is just what it sounds like, two teams compete to control of certain areas and hold them for as long as possible.
Of course, being a GTA game means there are going to be racing modes as well, kind of similar to the ones in Grand Theft Auto II
. You have your traditional race mode and the more, combat-oriented mode. Of course, if players would rather not fight with each other, they can do one of three co-op modes. Hangman's Noose
pits players against the cops in a race to yet another extraction point before the cops fill the co-op players with lead. Deal Breaker
, is straight from the single player mission with Playboy X where you shot up the construction yard, except this time you have a friend helping you. Then there is Bomb da
Base which has you clear out a ship and blown it smithereens. The best for last is Free Mode, where players can explore the city and create their own type of multiplayer games.
After trying all the modes, I have to admit that Free mode, Cops n' Crooks and Turf War are above all my favorite modes to play. But hey, the important thing is that Rockstar put in something for everyone and finding your own favorite mode is easy to do.