Fans of the Grand Theft Auto series will no doubt recognize how this game begins, outside of the immigrant twist; Grand Theft Auto IV starts out like every other game in the series. But unlike every other game in the series, Niko's goal is not to own the most property in the city or get to the top of some gang. The story in Grand Theft Auto IV feels a lot more natural, it's a personal story about this one guy who has to live with the consequences of his actions. There are still a lot of crazy over-the-top missions, but the story is a lot more intimate this time around.
Interestingly enough, the missions in Grand Theft Auto IV haven't changed all that much. Then again, that may be a testament to how good Rockstar Games is at creating interesting missions. If nothing else, the missions serve as a tour guide (an extremely violent tour guide, but still a guide) to the hotspots in Liberty City. In the 30+ hour storyline you'll find yourself running down bad guys in a fictional Times Square, shooting down helicopters next to a fictional Statue of Liberty, strolling through a fictional Coney Island, getting lost in a fictional Central Park and even scaling a fictional Empire State Building. You'll also have a chance to see a lot of seedy apartment complexes and visit a bunch of run-down houses. Needless to say, you're going to see a lot of real estate when you go through the story mode.
You'll also be introduced to a number of really cool characters, including an impossible to understand Rasta drug dealer, a steroid ridden car collector and a woman with the lowest standards possible. And that's just in the first few hours, before the end of the game you'll be dealing with some real big players in Liberty City, all of which are memorable and well acted. This is definitely one of the best Grand Theft Auto stories; it's doing an excellent job of imitating The Wire, which isn't entirely a bad thing.
Like all of the Grand Theft Auto games of the past, GTA IV generally has four or five different missions open to you at any one time. One thing that Rockstar Games has added this time around is the ability to make a choice. While it's not in every mission, from time to time you'll be given the choice of who to kill, or even if you want to kill somebody at all. You'll be given social choices, too. Do you go on your date or save your cousin? All of these things play into the overall sense of actually being involved with this world. There's one choice towards the end of the game that will even determine how the end game plays out for you. There aren't enough of these choices, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for Rockstar Games and Grand Theft Auto.
Oddly enough the biggest gameplay addition doesn't really sound all that impressive on paper. That's because it's nothing more than a cell phone; the little piece of technology that almost all of us have. But here's it's more than just a phone, it's your lifeline to all sorts of personal relationships. It's the way to get a job and get things done. It's the way to keep up with your love life. The phone turns this game from being you against the world to you feeling like you have a close knit group of friends and family. This may sound like something minor, but it really adds a lot to the entire experience.
The phone is about more than just personal conversations. You can also use your cell phone to take pictures, call up cheat codes or get quick and easy side work for a few extra dollars. This is the kind of addition I expect to see in every Grand Theft Auto clone in the future, and maybe a few that you wouldn't consider to be clones.
As expected there's more to this world than just completing missions and advancing the story. Like all Grand Theft Auto games, it's easy to get completely side-tracked by doing everything but the story. Not that this is a bad thing, since almost all of the mini-games are fun. The way you find these mini-games feels a lot more natural, too. For example, you'll be able to bowl at the bowling alley, shoot pool and throw darts at the local pub and get drunk at a club. And that's just the beginning of the mini-games. There are a lot of missions you can do for your friends, including drug running and finding specific cars that people are looking for. What's more, you can also steal a police car and get two different kinds of missions. One of the missions has you going to some enemy stronghold and just killing everybody inside, while the other has you chasing after an escaping criminal and arresting him (well, more like beating him till his pulse stops).
And that's not all. On top of all of those mini-games are a few different non-interactive shows you can attend. The most entertaining of the two is the comedy club, where Ricky Gervais (creator/actor in the original UK version of The Office) and Katt Williams (Norbit, Epic Movie) do an incredibly funny stand-up routine. If you're not in the mood to laugh then why not try the cabaret? There you'll find everything from singing to dancing to magic tricks to a cowboy performing stunts. It's not the best thing Liberty City has to offer, but it's a fun place to take a date.
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