47 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Been there, done that... but there was no T-shirt to buy, 16 May 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars
Ah, Grand Theft Auto... If you enjoyed riding your bike through GTA:San Andreas, swinging your katana or your chainsaw, going on a rampage with your tank, wasting oodles of money on clothes and stuff, flying a plane, investing or bodybuilding... then stick to GTA:San Andreas. Because all of this has been removed from GTA IV. While graphically it is quite a feast (initially at least, it does rather wear off after some time), and the physics engine has been improved (car damage is now much more diverse; but prepare to spend a lot of time watching your car spin out of control, even when driving at a walking pace), interactivity has taken a huge step backwards. After approximately 40% of the game, I realized I had more money than I could ever spend, even though I had maxed out all my ammunitions reserves (there aren't that many weapons, anyway, and only a bat or knife as melee choices). There are only four clothes shops, two of which are identical. And that's a problem. Sure, there are additional side-missions, like taxi-driving or similar. But since all they get you is more money, but no additional places to spend it, they are rather pointless. Watching TV, strip or comedy shows is no replacement, since they repeat themselves quickly. The included minigames (Darts, Pool, Bowling, and a Tetris-clone) are not good enough (Darts is laughably easy, there's no real way to control the strength of your strike in Pool).
In addition to that, a big flaw of earlier games was not adressed: the targeting system. It still happens that, when surrounded by gun wielding enemies trying to cut me down, I found the auto-targeting system locking onto an innocent bystander running away (even though I wasn't even looking at him). It's also annoying that the auto-target stays and locks on enemies even after they've died, so instead of quickly taking out a room of enemies I frequently found myself battling with the lock-on system more than with my opponents themselves.
But there's online multiplayer! That makes up for everything else, doesn't it?
Not really, since it's quite buggy and laggy. During one match of cops'n'crooks, both teams started as cops (making it unplayable), during a deathmatch with bazookas (should be a blast, right?) I found that the projectiles didn't explode on contact with the ground, but rather progressed into the street and exploded about a second later. And it often happens that enemy players and car skip frames, jumping from one place to another like a bad stop-go-animation, a fatal flaw in a game requiring precision shots and driving. And there are (apparently) no safeguards to prevent unbalanced teams, so if you play turf war, you might suddenly find yourself in a minority, which prevents any real sense of fun.
It's a pity things turned out this way. The characters in this installment are a lot better than the previous games, three-dimensional and more likeable, but the story is too episodic and disjointed. And without any means to personalize the experience (through favourite clothes and weapons), and no way to interact with this huge city (apart from driving over and shooting bystanders. Oh yes, and occasionally buying a hot dog!), the long term motivation is a lot less than the initial size of the game would suggest.