Grand Theft Auto 4

Grand Theft Auto - Undoubtedly one of the most recognized gaming series out there. The hype that built up for the game was huge, ever since it was first announced, but does it live up to it, and could it possibly be the best game of the year, if not all time? Here are my thoughts on the world of GTA4.

You play games as Niko Bellic, an Eastern European that has left his homeland to come to America in the search for 'the American dream,' after receiving letters from his cousin Roman about how great life is there. However Niko soon discovers that this was all but a lie, and it's not long before he becomes entangled in the dark underworld of crime and gang violence.

(Above) Niko Bellic showing off his new attire

Throughout GTA, Niko will interact with all manners of people, both on the street, some of whom will provide side missions for Niko to carry out, and during the course of the main game. From Niko's cousin Roman, the loud fitness nut Brucie, the heavy smoking Jamaican Little Jacob to the Irish McGreary family, Italian mobster Jimmy Pegorino and a whole host of others. All of them through the excellent voice acting, help to create a wonderful story, which even includes, new to the series, a set of choices that you can make throughout the game based on player preference, that will have a significant effect on Niko and those around him.

The gameplay throughout is pretty similiar to previous versions, with elements of third person shooter, and driving game, all done within a vast open area, for you to explore at your own pace. Gone are the increasing of muscle, fat, driving and running skills that were present in San Andreas. Instead we have a new cover system where you can hide behind cars and walls and an improved lock on system both on foot and in car, to enable you to target your enemies, and even take blind shots at them whilst in cover.

(Above) One such chaotic scene you can expect to see often.

Graphically the game is superb. One minute you will be in glorious sunshine, the next a storm will approach and all the people will flock for cover or put up their umbrella's - a lovely touch I felt! Both night and day pass in real time during your time in Liberty City, and watching as the sun sets is such a sight to behold. One thing I did feel was a shame though, where that there were many areas that were just too dark. You are able to brighten them up in the control settings, but even then I sometimes found myself completely lost in the darkness.

In addition to the great voice acting, GTA 4 features the common addition of radio stations that you can listen to whilst driving around Liberty City. These range from rock, dance, punk, jazz and hip-hop all presented by a variety of DJ's and not too mention several talk radio stations. And yes, even Laslow makes a return!!

Overall there is so much to do, from casually driving the Liberty City streets to hanging out with your friends in a game of bowling or darts. Take a powerboat or helicopter ride or find one of 200 (yes 200!!!!) pigeons to destroy hidden ingame. Watch a whole created series of tv shows and adverts, browse the internet, or pay a visit to the comedy club hosting Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams. And I haven't even mentioned the Multiplayer option new to GTA! There's a free-roam option so that you can enjoy all the carnage and excitement with your friends, along with other modes and even a co-op story to play.

Conclusion. I was generally thrilled from the moment I put the disc in the first time and saw Niko arrive in Liberty City to the ending where..... well I won't ruin it for you, but let's just say it's memorable. So game of the year, not for me, but it's very, very close and surely if this GTA is a sign of things to come, then the series will be around for a long, long time!

+ Great free games and story and assortment of characters
+ Excellent new control additions
+ Lovely graphics
+ Very enjoyable online

- Can get very dark in places making it hard to do much
- Having your friends ring you constantly and usually in distant locations is a real pain
- Sometimes too easy to shoot civilians during a shoot-out
- Not as many side questions perhaps as before, such as ambulance/fire missions.