I have this amazing ability to dodge pre-release hype on even the biggest games. I did it with BioShock; I did it with Halo 3 and The Orange Box. Hell, I even enjoyed Assassins Creed solely because I had no expectations of the game before I played it. My latest accomplishment has been to avoid just about everything GTA IV related until approximately 12:30 am eastern this morning. Let me just say, I really did myself a favor.
Everything about this game has blown me away. I really expected to see a pretty version of San Andreas with new characters, a few new vehicles and weapons and maybe a new mini game or two. What I have found is a complete overhaul of the series.
The one thing I really wanted from this game was for Rockstar to make its city more believable and lifelike. I think they have succeeded. Itís the little things really. They way Niko smashes in car windows before stealing them, they way pedestrians smoke and carry on conversations on their cell phones while walking. All these little things come together to make me feel more like Iím in NYC, ahem, Liberty City.
The biggest surprise for me came when I was taking a bit of a lunch break from the game. I had noticed that you can watch the TV in Nikoís apartment so I decided to check it out while eating lunch. First was a stand up comic who I think was voiced by the incredibly funny Eddie Izzard. Regardless of if the comedian was Eddie or not, he was funny as hell and is worth seeking out. After this comedy act came some forgettable commercials followed by what was to become my favorite part of the game so far. It is called Republican Space Rangers and itís a cartoon. In my opinion it is the single best parody of the Iraq War ever. It is so freaking funny that you are really doing yourself a disservice by not watching it. In case you are too lazy to seek it out in game, Iíve posted it here for your viewing pleasure:
Republican Space Rangers!
The changes to the driving mechanics are perfect in this gamerís opinion. Views on this seem to be mixed from what Iíve read. However, I have had very little problem adapting to the more realistic style of driving in GTA IV. Also, the Helicopter and boat controls are much improved as well and make flying around the skies or waterways of Liberty City a joy. My girlfriend and I spent hours just cruising last night, she couldnít stop destroying boats and helicopters for anything, but I chalk that up to over excitement, not shoddy vehicle controls.
The combat is where I hit my first stumbling block. I really like the manual aiming in this iteration, they really nailed it. However, the lock on combat still leaves a lot to be desired. When I can even get it to work, it is a pain in the ass to get it to target exactly who I want. Also, Iíve heard you can target specific body parts like in crackdown, however, outside of manually aiming I havenít yet figured out how to do this. I also really hate the melee animations. They look painfully awkward and unfinished to me.
The other area of the game where I feel a slight twinge of disappointment is in the cut scenes. I knew this game would have them but I was really hopping that Rockstar would take the more interactive route found in games like BioShock and Half Life. Also, the animations in these cut scenes arenít always spectacular. I am reminded very much of the last gen GTAs during many of these cut scenes, especially when characters wave their arms about as they speak.
All in all Iím really psyched about this game. I played it until about 5:30 am this morning, feel asleep for seven hours or so then woke up and played it again all the way until I came to work, which is where I am right now. I cannot wait to go home and further my adventures as Niko, until then, I have the portable Liberty City Stories to tide me over.