Monday, September 22, 2008

More Thoughts on Grand Theft Auto IV

Of course, I love this game. Almost everyone does, and those who wrote about its greatness did so back in April when it came out. As usual, I'm behind the curve, but I do have some thoughts to share about life in Liberty City.

Everything I was hoping for is here - it's just a massive heap of content and things to do, and I can do them at my own pace, pushing the story forward when I feel like it, and messing with the breathtakingly detailed virtual world they've created when I don't feel like going on a mission or playing darts with Roman for the tenth time.

The missions have gotten more challenging without adding any real frustration to the game. If I fail one mission repeatedly, I can put it aside and do something else, and then come back to it in a few days and usually succeed. New weapons like the sniper rifle and new items like the cell phone camera have kept the missions fresh enough to avoid repetition, although a lot of them involve long chases through the streets of the city.

What has me pleasantly surprised about GTA IV is the story and the characters that have all unfolded along the way. Like those Phoenix Wright games, good characters can make a great game a masterpiece, and the writers behind this game have done an excellent job of making me care about a bunch of morally bankrupt sociopaths and their lives.

Nico's in it for the money, but he often shows a bizarre sense of honor along the way that's humorous and interesting. The decisions that the player makes along with Nico really build sympathy for the character, even as he's blasting a shotgun at the police or getting some back-alley fun from a prostitute. I guess I was expecting thuggish sleazery just for the shock value, but the game's creators really have a lot more going on here.

I expect to be playing GTA IV for the rest of the year, at least, and with more content coming for the game via XBox Live, perhaps beyond that. With the impressive schedule of fall videogame releases ahead, though, my time in Liberty City may be limited, but that's okay. I know Nico and the rest will be there waiting for me with more stuff to do than I have time for.

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