Grand Theft Auto IV

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The latest entry in the GTA series is marred by first impressions.  It’s a hard game to love.  Liberty City, aka New York, has a dirty, grimy feel.  The lead character is an Eastern European hoodlum.  Your apartment is an hovel in the worst part of town.  And your working for your cousin, an imbecile, at his third rate taxi cab firm.

There’s very little to like about this game and it pretty much stays this way for the first 4-5 hours of gameplay.  It’s only much, much later that the story open up and the main character, Niko, starts to get interesting.

Before then the game seem intent on a death by a thousand cuts as it tries to force verity in the form of benile mini-games.  The game is underpinned by a “friend” system best ignored – although it’ll will continuously announce its displeasure if you do.

Every NPC you meet is friendship opportunity and you are overly encouraged to take them to play pool, darts, bowling, or to a show, for a drink, to dinner.  If you don’t they’ll phone you and harass you.  The game will reduce their friendship points.

Engaging with it is an hassle.  Drive to friend for no good reason.  Drive to benile activity.  Do silly activity. Drive friend home.  Wonder why you can’t just concentrate on the main game.

Well the reason appears to be that there isn’t much of a main game.  Besides the story taking far too long to get interesting, story missions take on the form of find out where to drive next and do some cover shooting.  Each mission is a case of who too fill with lead next and why with little variety.

And it really doesn’t help that all the cars drive like boats.  For a game with “Auto” in the title the driving is horrendous.  You get used to it but it feels like the heavy handling is designed to encourage as many crashes and unintended police pursuits as possible.

Basically its an enjoyable game – if you stick with it.

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