I know what some of you are thinking -- that I would never write an impressions post about anything before it was released unless I had some inside info, or knew that something bad was about to hit the shelves. So which one is it? Neither. After getting my hands on Grand Theft Auto IV a few weeks back, alongside Nick, I have done a lot of thinking. I really feel like I need to give you the honest perspective of a random broke-ass gamer, and not a lifelong gamer/videogame journalist. Since Nick took the multiplayer route, I am going to play dueling banjos and tell you what I think about the single-player mode.
Some big standards have been set by Rockstar in the past for this genre, and the bar is almost unfair in the expectations for this game by fans of the series. Analysts are yapping back and forth with sales figures and projections across the spectrum, but the spectrum they use is mythical compared to other games. EA's attempted takeover, a massively inflated Take-Two stock price, and even Take-Two's own shareholders fighting to take the offer have put this game into a spotlight that I have never seen. The effect on gaming hasn't been the strongest. But I am going to tell you, the gamer, why you will buy this game, and what will and will not happen after you buy it.
Hit the jump to filter through all of the noise.
I will go straight into it. I see that when Rev. Anthony writes an amazing review, most people scroll straight to the bottom to see his score so they can think of a less-than-witty retort. This is just a post of my impressions about the game. I will save you the trouble of looking for a score.
Single-player "11 out of 10"
I have ADD + Azheimer's + a rapist's wit
First let me give you an insight into how I think, and why I feel the way I do. Before I left to go to New York to play the game, I really have to say that GTA IV had an uphill battle to win me over. I had never been a huge fan of the series, though I completely understand why others were. Things about it just didn't sit right with me.
I didn't like the controls, I thought the animations looked bad, I didn't really care for the graphics overall, and I honestly always thought that the violence, language, and adult overtones of it were gimmicky and what made people play it. I didn't really get drawn in by the story. I have never been a story-driven gamer, but always a button masher. I want action. I don't want to have to obtain the magic sword of f*cking Gandor to unlock a quest. I want to beat people and steal their sword, only so I can use it to beat bigger people and get a bigger sword. What I am trying to say is that I had a high bar set, and I knew that it would be hard for me to like this game no matter how hard I tried to judge it on its own merits and not reflecting back on things I didn't like about the series in the past. This is also why I hate game reviews with a passion. This is also why some franchises will never have honest, unbiased reviews. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So for GTA IV to impress me, it was going to take something special.
...and then she put on the pony costume and handcuffs
The single-player mode of GTA IV is amazing. The reason this game is worth your hard-earned money as a gamer is in single-player alone. In six months when people discuss games that you have to buy for the 360 or PS3, GTA IV will be at the top of the list. I can honestly brand this game with my "11 out of 10" without any cash exchanging hands. I mean it. You can see where and just how much work went into this game. If you step back and view the artwork of the game and realize that no two buildings seem to be the same, you will be blown away. The fact that this game has so much packed into it really made me and Nick both laugh out loud, thinking about Konami's claims that Metal Gear Solid 4 wouldn't fit on one Blu-ray Disc. I have played MGS 4. It's amazing, but not a drop in the bucket compared to THE SCALE of what is going on in GTA IV. I really feel like Rockstar made this game for you, the gamer.
For one dollar I'll guess your weight, your height, or your sex.
The story of GTA IV did something to me that few games could. It made me remember characters and places. I have spent countless hours on games only to forget what the main character's name was a few weeks later. I still have no idea what the voice's name was in Portal and didn't listen to anything she said. I just played an awesome puzzle game. That being said, by some act of God, I am still aware of who Niko is and why he is there, and that he is Roman's cousin. I know, I'm like Rain Man. Whatever. It is just one more thing that shows me what went into making this game great.
Let me make it very clear that I did not finish the game. I did not play through the 30 to 100 hours one would need to see every aspect of the story. I didn't need to. I gave a sh*t about the "who's" and the "what's" in just one day. I want to know more. I usually feel angry about not finishing a game because of achievements, or because I just want to say that I beat the game. This is not what GTA IV does. It made me care more about what was going on and who it involved. It does a great job of making the consequences for your actions feel more realistic, more than anything else I have played in the past.
Talky talk talk
The dialog is well written and well voiced. It may be crude, but compare it to an episode of The Sopranos. Clearly, you will not be buying this game for your grandkids. GTA IV is for adults and is intended to stay for adults. Parts of it may make some of you die laughing and others cringe. It takes many paths bordering on racism, sexism, homophobia, and yes, it even picks on nationalities (often confused with racism). Why didn't it bother me? The same reason that The Sopranos doesn't. It was an escape from the confines of what we deem acceptable, and it was downright f*cking entertaining. I forgot to mention... It's a f*cking videogame, and if it can realistically do that, then it has done its job. If you allow the story to get under your skin, it will take hold and stay there. If it can do this for a mindless gamer like me, it can probably do the same for all of you. Basically, if you read Destructoid, you won't be too offended, I promise.
The graphics and animation do something that I didn't know was possible. Everything feels familiar but isn't a copy-paste from another place on the map. Every building looks different. Every part of the city feels more like a real city than ever before. Chain stores all look a little different. It is just amazing how much artwork went into this game. The characters' facial gestures and actions add a realism that I just haven't seen in anything before. It just f*cking works on a par that I didn't see happening for a few years. At one point I looked at Nick and said something like, "This game makes me want to go to Bethesda and punch people in the face for making me accept the way Oblivion looked." I know that comparing Oblivion to GTA IV is not the best choice, but I can't really understand why not. The size and scale are a safe comparison, so why aren't the graphics? I know that Oblivion is a few years old, but I looked at GTA IV like there was a ten-year gap in between them. Hell, it makes me want to punch people at Rockstar for the way Vice City looked, but I won't. The soundtrack was badass and kept me singing Flock of Seagulls for weeks. Ugg. Did I just admit that?
Nothing cute here. I'm looking at bewbs.
What a great segue into the soundtrack. Rockstar asked us nicely to stay away from discussing who and what you will hear. What I can say is that it won't be the bargin bin soundtrack from Dollar Tree. The game has a soundtrack that should suit damn near everyone. The bonus is that you can even download and purchase it DRM-free. The radio commercials and chatter are entertaining and fun, and do include celebrity voices that you will recognize instantly. Rockstar spent some money here and it shows. I didn't hear every song or every radio station all the way through. I heard enough to know it was entertaining. I'm not saying that after 100 hours of gameplay, you won't hear the same things ten times. I'm saying it works, and it seemed like a large array of music for a large audience.
I'm gonna buy you a diamond so big it's gonna make you puke
One more thing that I really liked about the game was the non-invasive HUD. I like having the option of seeing what I want to see when I need to see it. Only one little circle covers the bottom left part of your screen for your GPS, health, and armor. If you get into a fight, your weapons and ammo fade in at the top right. If the cops catch on to your antics, stars fade in at the top right and your GPS reacts accordingly. It's simple and it works. The fact that it can be less than the old HUD found in previous games but can be even more effective really made me enjoy what was happening in the game without having to concentrate on things that I didn't need to bother with all of the time. I can also see people making machinima videos in the future because of how open your screen is to take the environment in.
Now that I'm done virtually blowing Rockstar and GTA IV, I am going to virtually blow them again, but refuse to give them a reach-around. I am going to tell you and them what to expect in terms of sales for the opening week as well as impress the hell out of you all or make you laugh hysterically in May. If you aren't into sales figures and cock fights, stop reading now and leave your comment telling me that I am a genius (I swear I accidentally misspelled genius at first) or telling me that I don't know sh*t because you know more than me by trolling forums.
Good Lord -- I've heard about this -- cat juggling!
Gaming analyst Mike Hickey is reporting that after looking over the pre-sales for GTA IV, he expects it to hit 5.8 million sales in one week. I will be reminding Mike of this in May. It won't happen. Even though Halo holds the current record for weekly sales, you have to keep in mind that GTA IV hits the Xbox 360 and the PS3 at the same time. 5.8 million, though? Granted, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City sold over 17.5 million, GTA 3 over 14.5 million, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over 12 million, but they had an install base to support those ridiculous numbers. Take a game like Call of Duty 4, which had a simultaneous 360 and PS3 worldwide release. It sold over 7 million in about 3 months' time. That is a phenomenal number. Granted, it doesn't have the pre-sales that GTA IV has, but I am only using it to give you a gauge for measurement. GTA IV being a very adult-oriented game, much more than Halo 3 or COD 4, is also something that further limits the reach it can have on the current-gen install base.
I have my temporary driver's license -- and -- my astronaut application form...
So this is where I stretch my Matlocking skills out and talk about sales. Michael Pachter is a guy that I have always enjoyed talking with; I love hearing about his thoughts on the future of gaming, and he is a pretty talented analyst in his own right. He made some bold statements concerning EA's takeover bid of Take-Two by claiming that if, and it's a big IF, the buyout was to take place, that EA could further delay the release of GTA IV to make it more or less an even stronger seller later in the year. Let me explain why this will not happen for two different reasons.
The simple reason: modest estimates indicate Take-Two will make between 500 and 620 million dollars in the next quarter. Yes, a half a billion dollars or more. So, for all of the time, hard work and money that they have put in, the reward is coming soon. Giving a chunk of that to EA after this long road is not what Take-Two or Rockstar seem to be about. Yes, the bottom line is always cash in some way, but you feel a passion in these people like we have here at Dtoid. I just can't see that happening without a tooth-and-nail battle royale, and the worst PR following it that you have ever seen. Do I even need to mention how batsh*t insane the Internet will go over delayed pre-orders again?
My second reason that Michael is a little off-base... I am going to get in sh*t over this I am sure. OK. GTA IV will dominate in sales overall by releasing now, and then later in the year, when the addition of DLC comes, re-releasing a "Game of the Year"-type version with the DLC included. I have nothing to back this up except my Godlike common sense. Even the prettiest cows need be milked to feed the family.
He hates these cans!
I know that some of you think that Halo 3 sold 5 million copies in its first week. It did sell around $300 million worth, but it isn't as simple as basic division. Armchair analysts would take 300 million and divide it by 60 bucks. Makes perfect sense if you are a f*cking moron. Multiple prices, multiple incentives, bla bla bla. Simple division doesn't cut it. But GTA IV will outsell the golden cow that is Halo 3. It will, even though it is a horrible comparison, beat Pirates of the Caribbean's $400 million dollar first week haul in the theaters. I know it is entertainment, but a purchased video game can be compared to movie ticket sales. Whatever. People need comparisons.
Pachter is much closer on the sales figures than Hickey could ever dream to be, and they are still record-breaking. This game will create a new measuring stick for next-gen game sales. My guess -- it's really worthless -- but even being conservative, by my research, 4 to 4.3 million copies in the first week is attainable. It is really a tough one to gauge. I wrote this at the beginning of April and the fever is making me think 4.7 million already. Wait until you see the average Metacritic score hit 9.6 and then you will see this the way I do. First week sales won't matter for this game long term. It is a solid reason to be a next-gen gamer. Enjoy it.
Paris Hilton is a
This is just how I feel about a game, and I wanted to talk to you as if you were asking me personally why you, the gamer, should pump out cash to buy it. Don't ask me if you should buy the 360 version or the PS3 version. That is your call. The games are identical for the most part. If you are an achievement junkie and like how LIVE works, then the choice seems easy. If you like balanced and not offset analog sticks and... umm... Talladega Nights? Then buy the PS3 version.
[Note: This was written, like I indicated, in early April with only pictures and a few things added. No numbers were changed. If you don't agree with how I feel about this game, then please look through this for grammar and spelling errors so that you can prove I am wrong. Dickwads.]
[Dickwad clarification #1: About my comment "The fact that this game has so much packed into it really made me and Nick both laugh out loud, thinking about Konami's claims that Metal Gear Solid 4 wouldn't fit on one Blu-ray Disc. I have played MGS 4. It's amazing, but not a drop in the bucket compared to what is going on in GTA IV." I was talking about the sheer amount of audio data, textures, cutscenes, dialog, etc. I did not mean that one game is better than the other. They are not even worth comparing as they are very different games. Also, that really was said and it really is HOW I FEEL. Notice the giant PS3 banner at the top of this post before you bitch and moan. Fanboys are one thing, idiots are another.]