677th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Xbox 360/Playstation 3/PC
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar games

The Grand Theft Auto series feels like it’s been a constant companion. There are ten of them on the list, we’ve been doing them every 100 nearish to the end and when it came up randomly this time, it felt it fit.

Of course the series as we played it now came into being with Grand Theft Auto 3 (and Body Harvest), but with the next numbered installation, we can expect the series to take a step up.

Our Thoughts

GTA IV sets you up as Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant chasing the American dream while helped, initially, by his cousin who’s supposedly succesful from when he moved. He meets a larger cast of character, several of whom want Niko to travel out on usually criminal acts, following the pattern established previously in the series.

The game does this well, building on previous entries, using the improvements from, especially, San Andreas to keep the storytelling going better. We’re no longer limited to the static scenes of the third game to introduce a mission, instead explaining as you go on, and everything flows naturally into each other. You get longer interactions in the car, but they also extend further beyond the missions. The world feels more alive, helped by small missions you can pick up as you move around and interactions outside the missions, where you socialize with your friends, including possible romances, and can go out on a drink, play games and more.

It’s this world that’s the most interesting, but a lot of other things are improved – driving feels a bit better, combat a lot more, and escaping the police feels a bit less exploitable and more natural – if harder at times. I didn’t quite get there, but it didn’t feel like as much of a struggle as it was before. The only comment I have is that saving could be easier. Auto saves are limited to certain moments, but otherwise you have to retreat to a safehouse that might not always be easy to reach, and which are still scarce at this point. Checkpoints within the missions would be useful as well, as they can go on for a while and missing at a late stage and having to redo everything – including the drive there – gets pretty frustrating. I guess it changes the balance of the game, but considering how punishing death can be, I’d always want to restart anyway so I don’t have to collect everything again.

Final Thoughts

Grand Theft Auto IV feels like another step in the genre. There’s issues with the series that come out more as they continue, but even so here the world is interesting, the missions engaging and the gameplay itself is fun. The remaining games are all built on top of this base and I have a good feeling about that.