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Grand Theft Auto IV 7-Years Later Review

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Gameplay:

There are several aspects to the gameplay of GTA IV, including small details like having to pay tolls and hot dog vendors, to larger features having to do with combat, driving, and flying. Many of these features work as you would expect, but some I definitely wish would work better. A prime example of this would be how you manage your cars.

To keep a car after you get it, by one means or another, you have to park it in the reserved area in front of one of your safehouses. Once there, it should be safe from despawning, but it is not perfect. I am pretty sure I lost one car I parked in that area, and I know you cannot try to be clever and park three cars in the slot (editor's note: two cars work fine).

How I wish it were better is by giving you an ability to store and call them from some abstract garage, because having to rely on those slots complicates the experience. It means that if you want to retrieve a specific car, you have to remember where you left it and then go get it, possibly using another car. At this point, why not just use the car you currently have and forget about what you stored? For a cop car this can still be useful, because you will not get a wanted level when you enter it. Even then, you may still have to drive across Liberty City, unless you have a cop car at every safehouse. Also, missions have a habit of taking your cars away from you, so it is almost like you are encouraged to just use whatever vehicle you can find, because if it is destroyed or stolen by a mission, you cannot get it back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving, by the way, is pretty fun and enjoyable, although it should be noted that different cars will drive differently, and the terrain will impact their behavior. Also, you are not going to be the only 'bad' driver out there. I have seen the NPCs cause crashes as serious as any I got in and violate as many rules of the road as I have. Fortunately all this will get you is a warning bleep from any nearby police cars, unless you actually run into them. For all but the lightest tap, the police will come after you if you hit their vehicles. You will never see them do the same to an NPC. Fortunately they are not as good at driving as I was, so I escape pursuit.

One thing that I find an odd decision is that if you are caught by the police, they will confiscate all of your weapons, so you will have to repurchase each one. However, if you are killed, the hospital will release you with you various automatic weapons, grenades, and rocket launchers. This puts an odd benefit on dying, which you can probably expect to do a decent amount of. That is not to say the game is that hard, but that you can find yourself unprepared. Basically, as soon as it is available, I recommend you buy body armor, and make sure it is full before any mission. This can be a frustrating to do, because of the few places you can purchase it from, and the one friend who can sell it to you may be too busy to do so. If you die on a mission you will have to go out and purchase new armor, if you want it for a retry, which is, again, somewhat frustrating because you have to get to the person that sells it first.

 

Health is easy enough to regain. All you have to do is eat some food, like a hot dog from a street vendor. You can also sleep, which will advance the clock and save the game for you. This is actually an odd process because of how it interacts with the autosaves. If you loaded in from a save slot, instead of an autosave, the game will ask if you want to save over the previous autosave. I find this odd just because that is kind of the point of autosaves, at least to me it is.

There are various weapons to use, and typically two versions for each type, with the rocket launcher and grenades being exceptions. The choice of weapon represents the only real control you have over your character's effectiveness, besides armor. The game lacks any other RPG elements. Largely the weapons all work well, but the cover system can be quite annoying. It is not very responsive going in and out of cover, and if you try to aim and fire while in cover, you take long enough to stand up that your target may have moved away. Also the camera can misbehave depending on the area you are in, as it tries to compensate for the handedness of Niko. This is a rare occurrence, but when it happens, is frustrating as it can throw off your aim.

All of these issues I have mentioned are not that serious, because, if nothing else, you can easily adapt to them. There is one issue that I did rage-quit over, right at the end of the game, but then I gave it some more attempts, and finally got past it. The issue is helicopters.

I cannot think of any game I have played with a worse helicopter driving experience than GTA IV. It requires WASD, 2468 on the Number Pad, and the mouse, which is kind of a problem as I only have two hands. You use W and S to ascend and descend, with A and D tilting the helicopter, and the Number Pad is for directional movement, which is tricky because these movements can also cause you to lose altitude, so you will have to hold W at the same time. The mouse is for when you will invariably have to adjust the camera because it decides to give you a completely useless side view when you are worried about running into a building and chasing after someone.

The final mission for my playthrough (there are different endings) required I fly a helicopter through the buildings of Liberty City, and with such horrible controls, I tended to quickly slam into something, killing myself, and forcing me to replay a good chunk of the mission. At least this one has a checkpoint in it, unlike almost every other mission, but the point is still just before a large gun fight. After three attempts, I gave up, after having failed because I did not spam-click the space bar fast enough to board the helicopter and resume the chase. I stopped, was completely ready to just leave it uncompleted, knowing it was the final mission, but after a while, decided to get back in and try again. It took another three tries, but I finally made it, hating the helicopter the entire time. (I was also tempted to plug in a controller, but decided it would not be worth the effort to learn those controls just for this one mission.)

According to the in-game stats, it took me 26 hours and four minutes to complete. I actually know it was closer to 27 hours, because when I reloaded from a save at the very end (this would be when I came back after rage-quitting) it lost time. (When I had rage-quit it said I had 26 hours and 27 minutes, so I lost some amount of time and then gained some back from the multiple attempts.) Regardless, that is over 26 hours of content, and I did do every mission shown on the map. There are also some missions you can elect to do by calling people, such as races and dates, but I never really bothered with them. They can definitely add to the experience and playtime, however.

 

 

Overall, the game was a lot of fun, but does have some flaws to its gameplay. Some of these flaws can be quite annoying, like how your cars are stored, but most are avoidable to some extent. The helicopter controls though just make me glad how little the player is forced to fly one.

I am aware of and even own a copy of Episodes from Liberty City, but I am unable to also review that due to a lack of time. (Sorry about that.)




  1. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Introduction
  2. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Graphics
  3. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Story
  4. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Gameplay
  5. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Grand Theft Auto IV Review - Conclusion
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