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Grand Theft Auto IV Member Review for the Xbox360

GENRE Action 
PLAYERS 1- 16 
M Contains Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

What do these ratings mean?

Okay, I realize that any review that grants a game the high honor of an A+ is under the scrutiny of every reader.  They think, "Oh, a fanboy.  Great."  Well, you should know that I don't give a s--- whether you think I'm a GTA fanboy or not, but know this: the game is damn near perfect.  I have been a fan of GTA in the past, but none of them even came close to the epic heights of this outing.  I enjoyed playing them, but not one GTA title cracked my top ten until now--GTA IV gets 2nd place, after BioShock--they were fun, but didn't even come close to the heart, story, characters, near-perfect play mechanics, or realism of GTA IV.

My favorite aspect of this game, surprisingly, is the story and characters filling it.  As most people know, the plot revolves around Niko Bellic, a Russian immigrant who came to Liberty City in the hopes of living the American Dream--and things weren't so hot.  Of course, the plot is much deeper than that basic description, filled with twists and turns, friendships and betrayals, and lots of murderous death.  Never in a game have I felt so attached to characters.  In one mission I was tasked to kill one of two people.  They had been best friends in the early nineties until one was set up and sent to prison.  During his time in prison, the other had become rich and successful, and when the jailed one was released, turned his back on him.  You complete only a few missions for both of them, but once the time comes that you must kill one, you feel attached to both and don't know what to do.  You really think and care about the type of relationships Niko has--you know which ones you want him to keep and which ones you don't.  This is the first game where I actually felt seething hatred towards some of the characters.  My personal favorite character is Little Jacob, a jamaican weapons dealer who smokes a TON of marijuana.

Aside from the fantastic story, this game gets almost everything else right as well.  I love the art style.  Even though technically this game doesn't look as good as Gears of War or BioShock, its style makes the city come to life.  What else makes the city come to life is the citizens inhabiting it.  You see people stop to fix their cars, people tossing trash on the sidewalk, stopping at a bench for a cigarette--the little things just make the city real.

I also love the layout.  Some people ***** about it, complaining that the city isn't as big as the San Andreas countryside.  That would be because San Andreas was a country.  It had three small cities, connected by vast, boring stretches of land that you had to take twenty minutes to drive through to get from one section to the next.  This iteration of Liberty city is all city.  Not an inch is wasted on barren valleys.  This succeeds in making the city feel bigger than San Andreas, but also more fun to drive through.  There are memorable sights to see around every corner.  Also if you don't feel like driving, you can hail a taxi, and pay a small fee to get a ride (which is skippable).

The actual play mechanics work like a dream--no more failing targeting system bulls---.  This game plays exactly as intended.  The cover system works like a dream; not quite as smooth as GoW, but who expects it to be?  The AI and cover system make every mission feel like Gears of War in a Kane and Lynch setting (save for the ending missions in the Middle East in Kane and Lynch).  And trust me, that's an awesome feeling.

Again there are a large amount of radio stations (way larger than before) with witty DJs and commercials to remind you that this game hasn't lost its cutting satirical edge.  More interesting are the things your friends/girlfriends can do with eachother.  You can play entire games of pool, darts, or bowling, eat at one of the cities vast amounts of restaraunts, go to a comedy club or cabaret show, or of course, get wasted at a bar or get a lap dance at a strip club.  All are entertaining (but playing drunk is waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy harder than in Saints Row).

I don't know.  I really can't find any faults with this game.  The GR reviewer was way too harsh (framerate issues?  what?).  If you are old enough, you absolutely need to play this game.  Wii-freaks, stop playing Twilight Princess for the 30th time, and get an XBOX 360 or PS3 to play this game.  (just kidding, Twilight Princess is awesome).  But seriously, alongside Bioshock, Halo 3 (debatable), Gears of War and  Twilight Princess, this is one of the few generation defining game of the current gen and you need to play it if you haven't.  I guarantee you'll be affected by it like no experience before.

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