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Social life and moral choices in GTA IV


Picking revenge means backing out on the deal with the Mafia and going after Dimitri yourself, while choosing to deal results in you being betrayed again by Dimitri but escaping with the money anyway. Shortly after the mission you are called by Roman and invited to his wedding which plays out differently depending on your recent decision; picking revenge earned you the wrath of Pegorino, whose deal you ruined by going after Rascalov – and who now crashes the wedding with a hail of gunfire, taking out your friend Kate. Choosing the deal means that Dimitri sends a hitman after you who kills your cousin at his own wedding.

The final mission sees you taking revenge on either Pegorino or Rascalov and plays almost identically in both cases with the exception of the final chase. At first glance it might seem like the choice is irrelevant, with a tragedy occurring in both cases (given real significance by the fact that both potential victims were friends who you got to know over the course of the game) but the choice system was put to great effect in the finale as whatever happened, you felt responsible for it adding even greater significance to the subsequent retaliation. By choosing revenge you bring Pegorino to the wedding – their deaths are your fault. As a result the final mission and Niko's final act of vengeance are more satisfying than anything that preceded them:

This use of the choice system is hardly revolutionary and its impact pales in comparison to the previous one, but it is used to far greater effect than in the rest of the game and the choices you make have real impact on characters you care about – something the game seemed unwilling to do until now.

The social life system also suffers from the issues that Bioshock's audio diary based storytelling faced in that it is almost entirely optional; it is conceivable that a player could loose out on the emotional impact of the wedding tragedy if they had invested little time in either of the victims of the tragedy.

Ultimately, I'm torn over these systems. Their implementation is mixed and the real pay-offs don't come until the finale of the 30+ hour story and while I still think their uses in the final missions represent a huge step forward for GTA IV I could still make the case for removing or improving their implementation earlier in the game. To quote Yahtzee again in regards to the social life mechanic: “I'm not sure what, if anything it is in aid of”. Does this damage the mechanic and even the game as a whole or is the payoff worth the lengthy investment it entails?

Minor edit: Original videos were removed from YouTube, so I had to replace them with shitty handcam videos
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About jesusofwalesone of us since 10:19 AM on 08.16.2007

I'm a long time lurker currently studying Computer Science in Wales.

I rarely comment, but have plenty of thoughts that I hope to elaborate on in future blog posts. Eventually.

The first console I owned was the PSOne and the first two games I played were Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII. Now I'm an avid gamer with a penchant RPGs, stealth and narrative driven games. Go figure.

I currently own a gaming PC, a PS3 and a Wii. I'll buy a 360 the second they stop it Red-Ringing.

Favourite things (in no particular order):

- Shadow of the Colossus
- Metal Gear Solid Series
- Final Fantasy VI, VII, IX
- The Half Life series
- Portal
- ESIII: Morrowind

Films :
- A Clockwork Orange...
- ...and pretty much anything Stanley Kubrick...
- ...except 'The Shining'.
- Anything by Quentin Tarantino
- Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
- Anything by Monty Python...
- ...Holy Grail takes the top spot though.

PSN ID : jebusofwales