Grand Theft Auto IV: the biggest and the best
The most eagerly awaited game of the year is finally here. Nick Cowen goes for a stroll through Liberty City
This is a video game that offers such a degree of depth, it dwarfs the effort of all of its peers and predecessors.
The animation is superb: gone are the lobster hands and expressionless faces of the past – every single individual has fingers and skin tone.
The city itself is gorgeously rendered - with realistic light and textures, reflections in windows and windscreens – complete with its own weather system, and multi-cultural population.
You play Niko Bellic, a new arrival from an unnamed Eastern European “old country” with the American dream firmly in mind. It's never quite specified which country it is Niko hails from – except that it's not Russia.
Niko talks of a war and witnessing atrocities, but these only serve to highlight how different America is compared to where he's from.
This being the fourth (or eighth depending on how you look at it) instalment in the GTA series, the designers are evidently confident they can hold your attention as they develop the story.
Even the New York Times lavished praise of a sort on the video game from Take-Two Interactive’s Rockstar studio: “‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun.”
Though the vast majority of gamer blogs were even more emphatic in their love of the game, there were bound to be many naysayers if only because “GTA” deals with such edgy content, in this case an Eastern European immigrant who runs drugs, shoots cops and beats up prostitutes. The Parents Television Council thinks retailers shouldn’t carry the game according to Variety magazine.
The “Grand Theft Auto” series of open-world action games drill deeper into mainstream culture with each installment. The violent, stylized portrayal of thug life has earned “GTA” poster child status among political watchdogs for all that’s evil in video games.
It will be a great shame if the inevitable hubbub overshadows the epic, revolutionary nature of “GTA IV.” The developers, Rockstar Games, have crafted a wildly ambitious game world complete with an engrossing story of an immigrant's rise to power, unforgettable characters and expertly honed gameplay. It will be weeks, if not months, before I get my fill of “GTA IV.”