There is a reason why there’s so much hype about the violence and mayhem that’s found in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite the fact that much more offensive games like Manhunt have never caused nearly as much ruckus. The fact of the matter is that, quite simply, the Grand Theft Auto games get so much publicity because they’re unbelievably popular.
Because they’re unbelievably fun to play. And not just because they allow players to act out any anti-social, violent tendencies they may have pent up deep in their psyche. The thing that makes the games so fun is that they’re completely open-ended. At any time during gameplay the player can choose to do a hundred different things, to go play other games within the game, to go and kill someone, to go complete a mission, or to go drive a cab for awhile.
At no time has this aspect of the game been better than in Grand Theft Auto IV. The game, which is being lauded by many critics as arguably the best game ever created, has expanded this real-life, open-world, do-whatever-you-want feeling to the point that the game can sometimes be breathtaking.
To begin with, the graphics are intense and wonderful. Every single shot bears a resemblance to reality that is literally stunning. When viewed in actual high definition, with HDMI cable, the game can sometimes almost appear to be a cinematic feature. In fact, oddly enough, the actual gameplay portions of the game have higher visual appeal than the cut scenes do. All in all, though, there hasn’t been a better game, in terms of graphics, made for either the PS3 or XBOX 360.
The gameplay is very familiar, for anyone who has ever played a GTA game, or those who have played knock-offs like Scarface or The Godfather. Essentially, you can run around doing whatever you’d like, with unbelievable interactivity with your surroundings. The one downgrade from the previous versions of the game is the fact that there are many fewer weapons. Die-hard GTA fans will also notice a new focus on making the game more realistic. Cars handle much more realistically, objects act within a ridiculously accurate physics model, and the main character can take much less physical abuse before succumbing to his injuries. In the end, though, all these little tweaks really help to improve the realism of the game environment and make the game even better.
One of the best changes, compared to previous GTA games, is the GTA IV storyline. It is much more involved than its predecessors and also much more realistic. The protagonist is a much more human character and his day-to-day struggles take place on a much more believable scale. For example, a mission which might have netted you $15,000 in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas might only get you a cool $500 in the new game. The characters and their interaction and speech are similarly improved.
In the end, then, Grand Theft Auto IV will likely be the benchmark game by which all new PS3 and XBOX 360 titles will be measured. It has the graphics, the playability, the story, and the fanbase to make it an instant classic. But that is not why you should buy it. You should buy it because it has, at an absolute minimum, 60 hours worth of remarkable gameplay, without once repeating a single action. The game retails for just under $60. That puts you at about $1 per hour at a maximum.
That’s what I call getting your money’s worth for great entertainment.