Another leap forward.
Grand Theft Auto is well known and publicised enough for everyone not living under a rock to know the basics of it.
You run/drive around, occasionally doing menial tasks for people for money, in the hope you'll get to work for people higher up the food chain for more cash, and more interesting jobs to do.
Often, if you get bored of this you can do what everyone who has played GTA has done once, and go on a rampage, kill some cops, mount the pavement and watch the bodies squirm on your windscreen, try to avoid the varying degrees of justice, before being eventually taken down.
This, to some people may seem shallow, and repetitive, and to be honest, in past GTA games, it eventually got very saturated and predictable, but now, little tweaks to the gameplay has revitalised this fun past time all people partake in. But first, to the meat and veg of the game. The story.
You play as Niko Bellic, a man from an anonymous place in Eastern Europe. Niko has come to Liberty City for a few reasons, to get away from conflict in the 'old country', to see the empire his cousin, Roman had produced, and finally, to look for that special someone.
Unfortunately, the so called enterprise Niko's cousin had acquired, turns out to be a small time Taxi company, and a grotty flat in the rougher side of Liberty City.
You also soon find out that Roman also has problems keeping hold of money, so being the friendly fellow you are, you help him keep away loan sharks and their cronies.
After these deeds, things escalate steadily, to the point where you're taking out bosses instead of small time crooks.
Things go like that for awhile adding intriguing twists, and genuinely funny and deep characters.
Also, for the first time (for me at least) I actually cared about the protagonist, Niko. He always seems troubled and not so swift to jump just because someone told him to, which is more than you can say for past GTA characters, who'd blow up houses without any question, without a doubt Niko is the best main character in any GTA ever.
The aforementioned sensitiveness about Niko in game too, where at a few points you get to choose whether you'll kill a person or not, usually this changes the story by not very much, and is therefore a moral decision, but sometimes choosing one over the over may get you some sort of bonus.
Its fair to say that this is probably the most serious GTA story, and even though it isn't the most original throughout, there'll be times where you are captivated and just desperate to see what happens next, once again this is my favourite story over the others.
Onto the gameplay now, and this has also had a slight makeover. Probably one of the main things that has been added, is the phone. In other GTAs you carried around a phone, but you had no control over it. People phoned you up, you answered, that was it. Now you have much more control over it, you can choose who to phone, and for what reason. For example if you want to phone Roman to go play bowling, you go into your phonebook, choose Roman, then bowling. And all this is implemented seamlessly into gameplay, no pause screen, then choosing it, its as simple as pressing up on the d-pad.
Another big addition to gameplay is that you can take cover now, Gears Of War style. This is essential since you can't take half as many hits as you could in other GTAs, a few short SMG bursts and you're back to hospital. So its lucky that taking cover is simple, you can even slide or roll into cover if its a low wall or similar, if you press RB while running towards it. No longer will you have to chicken out and jerkily stand around a corner and try to lay a few shots on someone.
Sound, is definitely one of the strong points for me. There's a decent amount of stations with different music played on each, and two which are mostly the much loved talk radio stations. I read someone else's review, who said that most of the stations are rap, this, to be quite honest is a lie. There is 1 rap station and 1 hip hop station, which is borderline rap, that's it. The rest, of the top of my head are: Electro, a soul/funk kinda station, a hardcore rock station, a classic rock station, an ambient station, a station which is mainly new stuff that in my opinion only pretentious morons with crotch killing jeans listen to, and that's all I can remember, I'm fairly sure that there are more but those are the main ones I can think of.
Another great part of the sound, is the overall voice work.
The acting is great, combined with the realistic nature of the faces showcasing their expressions, and the great voice work, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a scene in a blockbuster movie.
But not only are the cut scenes enthusiastically voiced, so are the things you hear in the street, just random lines you hear from the everyday man or woman on the street can make you laugh out loud, for example, I was having a hand to hand fight with a civilian, when I lay down the final punch, a man that was observing said "YEAH! Right in the fucking face!" which is pretty amazing.
For the first time ever, GTA goes online, which I'm happy to say, is mostly great. Me and my friends have often wished that we could all get in a car, cause a riot with the police before making a fast getaway, with the people in the back, keeping the cops back with heavy gunfire. But if that's not you're thing, Rockstar have generously added a few unique modes for you to play. Cops and Crooks is an interesting one, one group of people start of as the crooks and the others, the cops, obviously. The lucky bunch of people starting as the cops get to begin the game in a police car, with a nice SMG. The crooks however start of on foot, with a basic pistol. The idea is to get the crook boss, to a boat with a few other crooks, and drive off. The cops have to stop this, by either killing all the crooks, or cutting to the chase and killing the boss first. It can be an exciting match if you've got the right people playing, but other times it can resort to the cops diving out the car straight away and running to the nearest rocket launcher.
There are several modes such as your basic deathmatch and team deathmatch, race, and GTA race, which allows and even encourages you to get out/off your vehicle, look for weapons, and make camp and wait till someone crosses your path.
There are other things that just add even more to this brilliant game, such as the TV, which has a few programs that you can watch, which are of course, once again hilarious.
There's an ingame internet, which is surprisingly in depth and detailed.
You can customise your phone with new wallpapers and ringtones, which you can get off the in game internet.
There are a fair few amount of side missions and other things to pass the time, such as hunting down the top 10 most wanted criminals in Liberty City.
Another final great thing in this game are the achievements, for the point whores out there, there's a few to keep you busy like making you roll over in a car an amount of times, performing 10 melee counters in a short time, and beating the developers of the game on the online section of the game (or someone who beat someone who beat them). It'd take you a while to get all 1000 points.
There are few things I didn't like about GTA, but the things that weren't too hot, didn't ruin the game one bit.
At a few points, the game will crash, this has happened only twice to me, and that was after playing for over 3 hours straight, but it can be annoying when you've just completed that bastard hard mission, and you're on your way to save.
Although the phone is a great addition, your friends will phone you up to play darts at the most inopportune times, such as when I'm about to start a mission, Roman rings me up and expects me to cross 2 islands back in one game hour, to go to a strip club, maybe later Roman?
The only other main con would be the glitches, they don't spoil the game, but falling through the floor into a dark abyss for no reason is likely to test a saint's patience.
The Bottom Line
GTA IV is a must have for anyone with a 360 or PS3, with a captivating story, fun online, great new gameplay additions and amazing detail, it'd be a crime to not have this in your collection.