This review is going to contain spoilers. Character names wont be included, but either way, I want to discuss the ending of the game. You have been warned.
Game of the decade? Defining game of the generation? A masterpiece?
With all the hype and reviews buzzing around GTA 4's release, it was hard to find a source to trust, luckily the game mostly lives up to its hype.
That's not to say it isn't without flaws, there are more then a few instances of "pop up" in the game, and there are a few minor issues with the lock on targeting, and the cover system, and its irritating to fail a mission and have to complete a long boring driving sequence again and again because of a lack of in-mission saves, but, by and large, these are all minor concerns, and were the other aspects of the game any less then stellar, then these flaws would still barely show up.
The game has stripped out an armful of the less popular aspects from San Andreas, and plays like the previous peak of the series Vice City. It's a far more intelligent beast however, and the whole experience feels a lot more realistic than its forerunners, and the better for it. I mean, sure, I sorta miss flying harriers from the desert, or doing crazy stuff like using a jetpack to land on a speeding train, but its a worthy sacrifice for set pieces where you jump across rooftops escaping swat teams. The same can be said of the game world, It's certainly not as big as San Andreas', but as a trade off, the area we have got is far more varied, and incredibly detailed. this is a trend in GTA4, in every area you get less than San Andreas, but everything you do get is of a far higher quality. Cars dent like they should, bullets leave holes in cars, windscreens, even people, and you cant escape the fact it just feels so real.
And that's its main selling point, to me, is that it is in a living breathing city, everything just has an air of authenticity about it, from the people walking down the streets, to the occasional traffic wreck as you pull up to a junction. Everyone in liberty city is living a life, and for better or worse, you have the power to intervene in that, that's a major draw to me, and without a doubt one of the games biggest strengths. You can visit comedy clubs [with some excellent bits of stand up from Ricky Gervais], watch TV, go out to a fast food restaurant, all of the things you would do in real life. Unlike real life for most of us however, you're always free to cut loose and annihilate an entire street with an assault rifle. It IS real.
Its not just the city that is more realistic, the cars handle better too, the steering is heavier, and driving in general is slightly more difficult, but this is good, its more rewarding when you get used to it, and are evading the police with ease.
Past the gameplay, there's a storyline that can only be described as epic, taking you from Niko's arrival in the country, as a nameless goon, to "Niko Bellic" an ex-soldier forced into a life of crime, surrounded by bodies. Niko is by far a more likable character then those that came before, and there's a lot more to his personality. This makes the ending even more bleak when it rolls around at the end of the 30-40 hours gameplay.
"We won man, we won!"
That's the last line of real dialogue in the game, and it didn't ring true, sure, you've finished the game, the bad guys are dead. But the ending proves that there isn't an exit for people like Nico. As a result of his actions, people he cares about have to suffer. It's a tragic ending that finishes an amazing storyline, and you genuinely feel for Nico when he realises revenge won't right the wrongs. At this moment, the journey is complete, and you realise the story of GTA is far more than its usual "Rise to the top" crime story.
I played through both of the endings on offer, and both are equally as tragic.
All in all, I'd give this game a 10/10 and if it doesn't win Game of the Year, I'll eat my own underpants.