GRAND THEFT AUTO IV
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
This isn’t particularly fair. It’s like they’ve told me to review the universe in a text message, or to summarize all of
À la recherche du temps perdu
in five words.
It’s a new
Grand Theft Auto
. Ideally, you need at least three months to see half of what it’s got and then a novel to explain to the uneducated layman why it rules so hard.
obviously has a level structure and missions and all the usual, easily explicable video game crap, but that’s only a tiny part of what makes it tick.
The real meat of
’s greatness has always come from the mucking about. It comes from finding a bit of wall that’s at an angle, then driving a car into it at top speed to see if you can make it land in the river all the way over there. Or on top of that billboard. Or smash it into the small helicopter that circles the city once an hour (which, if you’ve ever pulled it off, you know is the closest sensation video games have ever offered to killing God).
has all of that. The new version of Liberty City—a stylized rehash of New York in lieu of
’s generic anytown—is a ridiculously busy place to be. Even before you first fire a machine gun at a Russian gangster in anger there are weeks of exploring to do.
Stupidly awesome stuff happens all of the time. Pedestrians will stumble into the road, making taxi drivers get out and argue or start a fight. Then the cops arrive to sort it out and you can back over them in your car. People throw their hands out and start to panic when you drive up to them, which makes it that much more satisfying when you plow them down then back over their body a few times just to see what happens.
You’ll be in a constant state of pointing at the screen in dorkish delight at all the neat-o stuff that’s happening just in the background. It’s all totally unnecessary and the poor old developers made it much harder on themselves than it strictly needed to be, but it’s all these little incidents, hoo-haws, and whatnots that make the
world come alive.
Once you stop gawping and dribbling over the city, there’s a game to be played. You are Niko Bellic. Refreshingly, he has nothing to do with the mafia. He’s just some rough dude who got off the boat in America and wants everything in his life to be like an episode of
. Thankfully it isn’t, and you’re dragged into a world of low-rent apartments, taxi jobs, an occasional bank heist to pay the rent, and the ever-popular challenge of finding a nice woman to let you touch her in her area.
It’s everything anybody ever loved about
, only much, much prettier and smoother and with online play and team options for those of you who developed social skills in your formative years, plus the usual dick-bangin’ soundtrack and the sheer joy that comes from just sitting in a car listening to talk radio. On your TV.
It’s the game of the year. Any year. 2009, 2010, even 2011. OK, maybe not 2011.