Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)

I'm pretty sure most people reading this review have a fairly open mind and are used to going against the common view held by most people when needed. Still, I can't help but think this review will draw a lot of backlash from me deciding to "roast a scared cow" that many readers likely hold dear.

Perhaps I missed some of the ideas this game was trying to express, maybe I took the satire too seriously, maybe I missed something insightful along the way, or maybe I just hate the game regardless of its flaws. In any case, if you're still reading and want to see why I gave one of the most famous and beloved games of all time such a low score please read on.

I wanted to enjoy this game and had many high hopes for it after a friend showed me the game that came before it. It seemed off to a fairly good start with the main character Niko arriving in Liberty City to visit his cousin Roman. Niko isn't visiting on vacation, however, and is looking for someone from his past and trying to find them at all costs. As the story progresses Niko runs across several other criminals that have him perform odd jobs for them.

Most of these tasks are fairly short and simple, but the game runs into two major problems in its mission structure. The first is a complete lack of checkpoints during the longer missions which can easily run over twenty minutes in length. Failing a mission means it must be completed from the start along with any driving and resupplying that may require. The game does keep track of all of the spent ammo, money and armor depleted however, so many missions are severely padded by forcing players to repeat several actions every single time they fail.

It is annoying enough that half an hour of progress can be lost to little more than dumb luck, but the second problem this game suffers from makes these features insufferable. Both the driving and shooting controls are sloppy and needlessly complicated in all the wrong ways.

Driving anything but a top of the line car made it seem like the roads were covered in a thin layer of ice and Niko frequently decided to take aim at gunmen across the room instead of the man with a shotgun two feet in front of him. Either of these problems would be bad enough on their own, but when combined they made the game borderline unplayable for me. I finally managed to beat the game in about 25 hours, but I'm pretty sure at least half of that was restarting after a stray truck or bullet ended the mission.


To add insult to injury the game provides an achievement for beating it in 20 hours or less, something that probably relies more on luck than skill. The game could have been a lot more fun, but the broken gameplay and seemingly endless amount of pointless filler just about ruined it for me. It really feels like all of the effort went into the environment and story and the gameplay was an afterthought.

I really wish I had more positive things to say, but there weren't many features I enjoyed enough to check out more than a few times. The game allows players to watch tv, visit comedy clubs, hang out with friends and enjoy a few minigames such as bowling or darts, but most of these are bland enough that I didn't bother. You can invite Niko's friends to play with you, but you'll likely become sick of their constant calls within the first few hours of gameplay.

Don't get me wrong, the game does boast plenty of collectibles and easter eggs along with a fairly large virtual city, but its such a chore to do anything I completely lost interest shortly after beating the game. The writing is pretty good in regards to the story, though there are so many stereotypes embodied by the different characters I honestly can't tell if they were supposed to be a parody or what.

Even if the game didn't put a heavy focus on violent criminals the game still seems to portray men in an extremely unflattering light. Take the McRearery family for example. The men are all violent criminals (and one corrupt cop) and the mother and daughter are complete saints in comparison. One of Niko's friends in the family even calls him over the phone to lament the fact that only the men were criminals while his sister and mother were innocent victims of their deeds.

There are several other cases where female characters get off scott free or are implied to have gotten away with their actions at little cost. The only male characters that really get away are the ones Niko allows to and the game doesn't always give you a choice in the matter. Several men are violently killed off over the course of the game but I can't recall a single women getting anything worse than a slap on the wrist for her actions.

There are several much better games that you can buy besides this one, in terms of both fair male treatment and entertainment. They may not be as pretty, expansive, or well-written maybe, but certainly more enjoyable than sitting through 20+ hours of misandry and boring, frustrating filler. If you'd like a similar game I recommend checking out the Saints Row series. It doesn't have the same production values, but it comes without most of the things that held GTA 4 back. Only buy this game if you have the patience to put up with its many flaws and want the most realistic and gritty experience available in the genre.
                                       - Reviewed by: Midnightundead

Rating: M (Blood, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol)

fair & honest